Virginia Wines - Printable Version

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- mrdutton - 09-17-2000

Yesterday I went to the Virginia Beach Neptune Festival wine tasting.

Let me tell you there was a lot of drek there. Fruity-tooty stuff made from apples, peaches, raspberries, etc. There was one sparkling apple cider represented that was "okay". The rest of the above I just let my wife taste. She liked some of the apple based "wines".

I tasted overoaked wines and several closed wines - no fruit, no balance and lots of tannin. Forget the overoaked stuff, but some of the closed wines might have been okay were they allowed to open up.

There were three that stood out, at least on my palate.

In no particular order:

Chrysalis Vineyards in Middleburg, VA. Website:

I sampled their Viogner. It was very good. Relatively low alcohol at 12% (compared to cali versions as high as 14.5%). Up front fruit balanced with nice crisp acidity. A decent finish. Definitely not over-oaked, this Viognier was styled after the French Viogniers I like so much and not after the over-oaked, high alcohol stuff from California.

Here are their notes on the wine: 1999 Chrysalis Vineyards Viognier. Our award winning flagship wine! Honored with a Silver Medal in this year's prestigious Governor's Cup competition, and recognized as the superlative Viognier at the Third Annual Rhone Rangers Tasting in San Francisco, California, this extraordinary Northern Rhone varietal offers wonderful citrus and pear aromas, while retaining the classic dry quality of Viognier. The promise of these fragrances explodes on the palate and finishes with long and polished flavors. Aged to perfection in French oak barrels and presented in our distinctive bottles, this Viognier represents the epitome of Chrysalis Vineyards' commitment to excellence in every aspect of the winemaking process.

Horton Cellars Winery, Gordonsville, VA. Website:

I sampled their Stonecastle Bin 2000 Red Wine (NV) and their 1997 Vintage Port - the first Port made in Virginia since prohibition - Silky smooth blend of Norton, Touriga Nacional & Tinta Cao. Limited Release - Only 550 cases made.

The port was good. Not fantastic mind you, but it was good enought that I'd allow it to grace my table. My guest was quite enamoured by it. It sold for $20.00. Neither of us bought any.

What really caught my palate was their Stonecastle Bin 2000. They called it "monster red", but it was anything but monstrous. A non-vintage blend of 32% Mourvedre, 27% Carignan, 25% Syrah, 5% Tinto Cao, 5% Touriga Nacional, 3% Tannat, 1% Cabernet Franc, 1% Malbec and 1% Nebbilo.

You'd think they just saved all the left-over stuff and blended it together for the sake of being able to bottle something - NOT TRUE. This wine was delicious. A medium bodied wine with soft tannins, it was full of fruit and peppery spices with a very smooth, lingering finish. I thought this wine would have been a very good contender against some of the products from the Rhone Rangers out west.

Here are their notes: This is a soft, ripe, leathery, peppery and berry scented wine with an earthiness that is very popular with Rhone wine drinkers. This is a complex and long lived wine that is also ready to drink now. The Carignan donates raspberry flavors, the Mourvedre, a spicy earthiness, the Syrah, deep plum and cherry flavors and aromas, the Touriga Nacional, coffee and pepper, and finally the remaining blend gives depth and complexity. This wine is perfectly matched with any hearty meal including wild game and spicy stews.

We liked this one so much that we not only bought some to take home we consumed a bottle at the wine festival (after we'd finished our tasting rounds of all the vineyards). At $12.00 a bottle it was not a steal, but I considered it worth the price. (I am a great fan of Cline Cote d'Oakley which sells in this area for $9.98 a bottle.)

The third wine of note was from Burnley Vineyards in Barboursville, VA. Website:

I sampled their 1999 Zinfandel. At $17.00 a bottle it was certainly not a "steal", but it is comparable to the price range from which I usually select my Zinfandels (10.00 to 20.00).

The wine is 100% Zinfandel and is unfiltered. The wine tasted fairly big and qualified as a two tongue lapper (-; !! Which surprised me because it has a relatively low alcohol content at 10.5%

The winery says: A robust red wine made from 100% Zinfandel grapes. You can taste the spicyness and the fruitiness of the Zinfandel, especially since the wine is unfiltered. This wine is young, but will age for at lease five years. Bottle Price: 15.00 Case Price: $162.00

I also sampled their Chambourcin red which was a blend. It was good and I almost bought some. However I held back, because I already have a decent supply of Beaujolais at the house. This wine was very "beaujolais-like". I am certain that is why I liked it.

The winery says: This is a blended wine of three different grape varieties. The varieties are Chambourcin, Marechal Foch, Cabernet Franc. Rivanna Red is Beaujolais style. It is dry but very fruity. It is best served with meat, spicey chicken or pasta.
Bottle Price: $9.00 Case Price: $97.20

And that pretty much sums up my Virignia wine experience for the day, Saturday, September 16, 2000.

- Bucko - 09-17-2000

I have liked Horton's Viognier over the years. I have tried any of their other wines.


- Scoop - 09-19-2000

A 10.5% Zin? Hmmmmm.

Thanks for the rundown. Did you see the The New York Times feature last Wednesday on Virginia wines (by R.W. Apple)? Pretty positive on VA wines. Jefferson's vision finally fulfilled!?



- mrdutton - 09-19-2000

Yeah, I kinda did a double-take there also. I thought at first that maybe they'd mis-labeled the bottle. So, I asked.

They confirmed - 10.5% Zin - Red no less.

I just downloaded the article from the New York Times. Very interesting. The article even mentioned one of the vineyards I liked, Horton.

I sampled some of the wines from Barboursville. (I do not recall them offering their Cab Reserve mentioned in the article, if they did it was all gone by the time I got to thier booth.) What I tasted from their offerings didn't really do anything for me.

[This message has been edited by mrdutton (edited 09-19-2000).]