Ask Chuck

Location: Whitby, Ontario, Canada

Born in Malta but in Canada since age 5. Has written three books and presently does several columns about wine and food for various magazines.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Washington State Makes Exceptional Wines

Turf Lounge, Bay Street Toronto, August 11th 2015             

“There are presently 870 wineries in the State of Washington,” was the statement made by Chateau Ste-Michelle wine educator Paul Asikanen who was part of a promotional delegation headed by State Wine Association President Steve Warner.      

Ontario, five times the size of Washington, doesn’t come close and Canada with 700 licensed wineries has less. So why is Eastern Washington wine so prolific?

The state has approximately 300 days of sunshine per year with mean summer/winter temps of about 25 degrees Centigrade (78F) and 0 degrees Centigrade (32F) respectively.

The mountains running north/south parallel to the Pacific act as a barrier thus causing a “rain shadow” effect producing semi arid conditions to the east, which vastly reduces the potential for various vine diseases. The cold weather of the winter months also kills many of the pests that plague vineyards. The sandy soil found in this area makes it difficult for the pest Phylloxera to establish itself allowing planting of vines on their own root stocks.

 Finally, day and night “high and lows” can range as high as 20 degrees allowing for the production and preservation of a good acid backbone to the wine. This coupled with some serious research and state-of-the-art technology, results in some very fine wine The Turf Lounge, in Toronto, was the location of a fine Washington wine pairing dinner.

The evening started out with a fine sparkling wine, Michelle Brut, (LCBO # 363341, $16.85) a blend of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris made in the same manner as traditional Champagne. It went well with the Sautéed Shrimp and Junior Burger hors d’oeuvres.

The Double Smoked Salmon First Course and Main Course Heritage Salmon Fillet found a good accompaniment with two wines. The Charles Smith Kung Fu Girl Riesling (LCBO #394759 $18.95) a 100% Riesling that I found great value as a better than average Riesling and Mirth Chardonnay (Vintages #403386, $17.95)  with fresh varietal flavour and clean finish.

The Lamb Loin with eggplant and fennel was a perfect match for the Colombia Crest Grand Estates Merlot (Vintages #263418, $1795). This superb wine had depth and backbone with mounds of developing flavours of black fruit and chocolate. Great Value!

Three red wines also were an excellent match for the above lamb as well as the Risotto with mushrooms and Parmesan. The Milbrandt Vineyards Traditions Cabernet Sauvignon (Vintages #237784, $24.95) was  plump, delicious and decadent with oodles of black fruit and anise.  The Airfield Runway Cabernet (Vintages #408351, $22.25) was well structured and had excellent upfront fruit. Nine Hats Red Wine (Vintages #412221, $39.95) also produced an interesting and savory wine with Cabernet, Petit Verdot, Carmenere and Syrah-- each adding its distinctiveness to a luscious and opulent blend. Again decadency!!!

Finally, a Washington Hills Late Harvest Riesling (LCBO #394767, $18.95) with nectarine, apricot, citrus, honeysuckle flavours enhanced the delicious desert of a Vanilla Panacotta with berry compote and basil.

Wow! My thanks to Washington State Wine and Nantel & Associates for a fine evening.                   


Sunday, June 28, 2015

Blog Special: My Brother Bob: In Memoriam

The following blog is in honour of my brother who passed away while I was filming in Portugal. I will leave this memorial on my blog site for one week in order for interested parties to read it. It will then be deleted and my blog on Portugal will begin!

Robert Charles Byers: December 4th 1935 to June 30th 2009

My earliest recollection of my brother goes back to when I was about three or four years of age. I remember accompanying him to various places but the most vivid was one evening near our then home in Zabbar, Malta. It was carnival time and I recollect a costume that I wore with a cape. My brother was dressed like a Roman soldier and had a toy sword. He took me out celebrating and waved the sword around so devilishly that a young girl who saw us approach went screaming into the alley way that I figure was near her home.
I also remember him trying to teach me about fire crackers. He and a friend lit one and gave it to me forgetting to tell me to throw the darn thing and it blew up in my hand somewhat stinging my fingers. We then went out into a nearby field to collect the left over blasting caps used during those days.
The relationship with my brother remained quite the same as both of us aged. It seemed like I was a perpetual "tag along" since he took me everywhere. If it wasn't a ride "side saddle" on the handlebars of his bike, it was on a date with one of his girl friends. I think that I single hand idly ruined his love life!
As he got older the rides on the bike turned into going to the show or to a cottage or just for a ride to a beach. No matter what we did and where we went, we had fun-----actually it was more than fun, it was a relationship which knew no conflict. We never had a fight or a bad word. Not that Bob didn't have a temper. He seldom used it (lucky for all!!!). He was mild mannered, soft spoken and kind. His long marathon singing sessions (many of which took place in the bath room) were legendary to the family and possibly to the neighbours who heard. And of course, there was this relationship with Elvis. Bob loved Elvis---his songs and his persona! He actually imitated Elvis's singing very well.
Our relationship was not of the "putting up because we're related" type that one would imagine brotherly relationships to be. While family was important, it wasn't the fact that we were brothers that kept us "together". We genuinely like each other. We were different yet similar. We shared our interest in travel, gardening and wine but approached things in a completely different way. That's what was important and made us grow towards rather than away from each other.
The sharing of our experiences whether it was a trip, a plant or a glass of wine became a focal point of discussion. The fact that the other was "around" made life just a bit more interesting. We didn't have to see each other to feel each other's presence. Sometimes weeks would pass before we "connected".
When Bob first contracted Esophageal Cancer, we found that the roles we had become accustomed were reversed. Bob became more anxious for awhile and needed to get out of the house. The operation he had to remove the tumors was "successful" but he needed time to recuperate.
He started going with me on trips to wineries etc. This time it was he who was the tag along and I who did the entertaining. It was fun and I began to look forward to his companyduring these trips. We used our time in the car as major discussion sessions where we could air concerns, discuss politics or just our gardening catch up. It was great. Bob would also fill me in on his plans, trips and tasks. It happened about once per month unless he had gardening to do.
Then came the fateful day that Bob learned of his "recent" terminal illness. To say he was not frightened would be a lie but I saw a stength in him that echoed way past his anxiety. He fought a struggle that was almost super human. Where I would have given up, he fought on. He fought the great fight---inspiring all around him!
There are many things that will bother me about Bob not being around. The main one will be that I will never be able to share my experiences with him again---at least not in this life. I will not see that smiling face or watch him as he, in his shorts (and nothing much else) wheels his plants to the various plots in his garden. The other thing that bothers me is the massive vulnerability I feel. Death is so permanent. It can and eventually will affect me and all those around me. Fragile life can end in an instant.
Bob's death gives rise to a need for answers. We want to blame someone or something for the seeming lack of justice of it all. But we are left with the one fact that we already know! Bob is gone and there are no real reasons why. Maybe we should seek to understand the questions posed rather than to know the answers.
We must have faith that the purpose and reason are out there. In some way it may have been in my final goodbye to him.
"Bob, I just want you to know that you were the best brother that any could have! I've always wanted to be like you and love you! I will always cherish our time together and hope that other brothers have the great relationship we had. You have been an inspiration to me and will always be part of me! We will meet each other again! Good bye and I love you!"If there is a God in Heaven I know that my brother is with him now where he continues to tend his garden and watch over us! I raise a glass to my brother------until next time, Bob!

Sunday, March 15, 2015

November 8, Day Seven: Richmond, Colonial Williamsburg, Williamsburg Winery, Dinner With Patrick Duffeler, AM Departure.

Omni Morning In Richmond Virginia
A wonderful and exciting night turned into a marvelous sleep and superb wake up at the Omni Hotel in Richmond. The hotel was full of  "Grande Scale" full of interesting shopping and event diversions which were hard to pass up as I made my way to the dining area to have a buffet breakfast.
I was impressed with the waiting staff whose courteousness was appreciated. At the buffet, I entered into a conversation with a lovely and gregarious server who announced  that she was still going to college and her goal was to be a journalist. The discussion lasted only a matter of minutes but her passion seemed inspiring and I told her so.
The rest of the group slowly showed up and before we knew it, check out time as upon us. This went quite smoothly as all did during the trip and soon we were all off on a small tour of the city.The tour was not an extensive one but we did go by the Museum of the Confederacy and stopped to go up the many steps of the gorgeous State Capitol building. Then it suddenly dawned on us that one of our tribe was missing! Angela was not with us!
Backtracking we made it back to the hotel to find a good humoured Angela waiting for us. How could this happen on such a beautiful day we all asked ourselves.
Soon we were all bound for Williamsburg.
As the bus pushed on ahead to Williamsburg I couldn't get over the sheer beauty that was Virginia. Compound that with the enormous history, culture, cuisine and of course people then you had a heaven on earth. I made up my mind that I must come back and film at some point.
I also figured on how lucky I was to have such great travel mates and to have traveled so far and wide. My friends now included a wide group such as Stelios from Cyprus plus all those I came in contact with there, a wide variety of new acquaintances in Italy and of course now, the group from the Circle of Wine Writers and the wonderful people we met along our way. Then of course was Devan our driver who provided comfort, intellectual discussion and comical relief along the way.
My thoughts finished as the bus approached our destination: Colonial Williamsburg!
Colonial Williamsburg
Colonial Williamsburg is like no other historical exhibit that I ever attended. It is a fully functioning community that is in its own space time continuum. It is a living document that preserves the work and ideals of such patriots as George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Peyton Randolph and George Thompson to name a few.
The restoration and eventual preservation was the brainchild of a Reverend Dr. Goodwin in 1926 who, with the backing of J.D. Rockefeller. Initially a modest start, the restoration mushroomed to include about 85 percent of the original area with preservation of over 80 original buildings and the creation of public facilities.
The period setting is the 18th Century when Williamsburg was the capital of Virginia and a political, educational and cultural centre of the colonies (the capital was later moved to Richmond).
When I walked past the gates of Colonial Williamsburg, I sensed as if I was walking through a time capsule entrance. The 21st Century was left far behind and the 18th Century appeared. I could actually imagine hearing the tune of the old "Twilight Zone" series playing in my mind.
I looked back and saw modern vehicles parked on modern streets with all the modernity one was used to. Ahead was horses pulling red, green and orange wagons. Women in long gown like dresses and men wearing period clothing with some sporting a musket on their shoulders.
The signs pointed to the Black Smith Shop, Weaver, Dress Maker as well as the Court House which still held mock trials and the Capitol Building with its magnificent clock tower. The  mile long Duke of Gloucester Street featured many of the old restored houses and exhibits.
In addition to the buildings and periodic clothing was the verbal exhibits where political parlay and ideas were discussed and argued much like that of the eighteenth century. I felt the frustration of a wife who had not heard from her husband and feared him dead and the anger of a very heated street debate between two opposing political views. One was indeed became part of the exhibit.
This community (and it was a community) had all the vitality, movement, drama and excitement  of days so long gone but yet so present. I loved it.
Soon we were off to The Williamsburg Winery and Wedmore Place!   
Williamsburg Winery History    
The Williamsburg Winery location is steeped in a history that goes back to the 17th Century and a 300 acre farm known as the Wessex Hundred. This was a delegation of parcels of land that could support one hundred families. Each farmer was obligated by a law known as the Twelfth Act of 1619 whereby he would plant at least ten grape vines for the purpose of making wine on his property.
The area is known for it famous historical names such as the famous (or maybe infamous) Jean Lafayette as well as the final battle of the American Revolution known as "Yorktown"!
The winery proper was initiated in 1983 when Patrick and Peggy Duffeler purchased the land. They released their first wine in 1988. Since them they have continued to expand planting new vines and  developing  new wines.
Williamsburg Winery
5800 Wessex Hundred 
Williamsburg, VA 757.229.0999 
The Williamsburg Winery consists of a number of attrations. Of course there is the winery proper and those magnificent vineyards. Also located on the property is Wedmore Place, an experpience that combines lavishly luxurious lodgings with the very best in dining.
Located at Wedmore Place is  the Cafe Provencal, a marvelous dining spot with the spotlight on elegant and inspired French Cuisine and  the Gabriel Archer Tavern which describes itself as "farm to fork dining experience that is both delicious and nourishing.
I can certainly attest to the fine dining qualities of both and the expertise of Chef Ika Saken who cooked a marvelous meal for the Circle of Wine Writers.
Patrick Duffeler Jr., tall, athletic and charming was the perfect host as we tasted the perfect entrees with their matching wine.
Viognier 2013
Nose: Subtle oak, citrus, apple, peach, pineapple
Palate: pebble, apple, citrus, nut, pleasant tropical medley finish
Act 12 of 1619 Chardonnay
Nose: vanilla oak, butter.cream, citrus, melon, delicious apple
Palate: tropical fruit, nuts, some herbal, vanilla, vanilla/oak/nut finish
Vidal Blanc 2013
Nose: peach, apple, banana, citrus, mandarin, apricot
Palate: citrus/lemon, herbal, nuts, nice finish with lightness and pleasant acidity.
Petit Verdot 2012
Nose: Pleasant mushroom/barn, earth, toast bumble berry mixture, vanilla
Palate: Well integrated and balanced, nice body. oak, ripe plum, fig, honey spice with mixed fruit and nice mocha finish.
Govenor's White 2013  (Vidal Blanc, Traminette, Petit Manseng, Viognier)
Nose: floral, citrus, Nectarine
Palate: mid-sweet, tropical fruit, pleasant fruit finish
Trianon 2012 (Cabernet Franc, Merlot and Petit Verdot)
Nose: Dark fruit, berry mix, smoke and spice
Palate: Medium to full body, elegant with berry fruit and vanilla. Nice long finish.
Gabriel Archer Reserve 2012 (Merlot, Petit Verdot, Cabernet Franc, Malbec)
Nose; mushroom, earth, smoke, cherry, raspberry and currant flavours
Palate: Medium to full in body, nice integrity and balance, oak and coffee/chocolate, long finish
Adiago 2012    (Petit Verdot/Malbec 50%)
Nose: earth, mushroom, leather, dry leaves, red fruit/berries, vanilla     
Palate: full body, caramel, toffee, chocolate, vanilla spice, round tannins, lengthy finish.
 After the tasting, the wine writers were treated to a dinner that can only be described as amazingly decadent but so very great! Here is the menu! 
Wine Writers 
Saturday, November 8, 2014 
F I R S T C O U R S E 
Seared Chesapeake Bay Scallops, 
Passion Fruit Vinaigrette, 
Topped with Shaved Coconut 
2013 Wessex Hundred Viognier 
S E C O N D C O U R S E 
Oysters Au Gratin 
Chardonnay and Shallot Creme Sauce 
2011 Acte XII Chardonnay 
T H I R D C O U R S E 
Duet of Pheasant  
Pan-seared Pheasant Breast and Stewed Thigh of Pheasant, 
With Porcini and Black Truffle Sauce,  
Sweet Potato and Spinach 
2012 Trianon 
F O U R T H C O U R S E 
Braised Lamb Shoulder Tagine, 
Manchego Polenta  
2010 Adagio 
D E S S E R T 
Trio of Confections 
Miniature Chocolate Lava Cake, 
Blancmange with Basil Infusion, 
Red Fruit Salad in Tarragon-Anise Syrup 2012 Late Harvest Vidal Blanc
What does one do after such a fine display of hosting and totally amazing food? Well, after the luscious dinner and wine tasting we basically elected to visit our rooms at Wedmore Place. Luxury plus is the name here with rooms fully equipped with wood burning fireplaces and so very comfortable beds. It was November however and the pool was out of the question.
Some of us decided to meet for a quick night cap and discussion and lovely Angela bought me a brandy. What an absolutely lovely person she was.
Night came quick and knowing that tomorrow was to be a very busy day, we all decided to check out beds early.
November 9th Day 8 and Departure From Virginia      
The old saying "All good things must come to an end!" certainly applied to our final trip from Williamsburg to Washington where we stopped briefly to have one more lunch together then go our separate ways after being dropped off at the Dulles Airport.
Thank You Members of the CWW and Virginia Wine 
Rebecca Murphy was heading my way so she so wonderfully led me through a series of short cuts at the airport which saved me much time and anguish since as we all know that I dislike airports. She was and always will be so lovely inside and out!  
Devan, our driver, did an amazing job at keeping us organized and on the go. His sense of humour and good will certainly made the trip more enjoyable.
Vivienne Franks and  Lindsay Oram were delightful companions on this tour and their knowledge was so enviable. Angela Reddin--who was my first contact with the CWW proved to be as gracious a person as I had perceived. Her elegance and grace as well as intelligent humour---not to mention her wine knowledge made my trip so much fun. 
Then there was Tanya Mann, my Russian friend from the UK whose passion for wine was so overwhelming and whose personality so infectious. Tanya had a directness and sincerity that was so refreshing plus she was also much fun!
Mick Rock and Steven Morris thought me so very much about photography but their talent shines in every picture that they produce. They were so amazing and I so envious since I will never come to understand let alone take the pictures that they produce.
Lisa Shara Hall's knowledge and direction was so much appreciated. This wonderful lady will always be in my memory.
Of course who would forget my pal and new friend Mr. Richard Leahy who inspired me with his book "Beyond Jefferson's Vines" and his guidance. Finally there were our hosts: Amy, Christi and Susan who made this trip what it was---a success.
Thank you all for widening my scope and presenting me with new faith in wine and new visions in wine country. This proves to me again that: Wine is History! Wine is Geography! Wine is Science! Wine is Culture! Most of all----Wine is People!
End of Virginia Tour                        

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

November 7th: PART TWO: Delfosse Vineyards, Ankida Ridge and Onward to Richmand Virginia's Omni Hotel

Delfosse Vineyards and Winery
500 Delfosse Winery Lane
Faber, Virginia  22948
The thing that struck me about this winery is once again the sheer beauty of the setting. Built in 2000 this winery is surrounded by hills that make up the Blue Ridge system. The owners have produced gorgeous terraced vineyards which in a way reminded me in a small way of those in the Douro area of Portugal. The surrounding forest makes for excellent and relatively easy hiking trails and a log cabin which is over 100 years old and fully remodeled, overlooks the lake and surrounding countryside including the vineyards.
While the scenery is great, the wines are expressive and very well made and reveal a strong French influence. I wonder why since the former Owner and President of Delfosse was Claude Delfosse who sadly passed away in 2013. However the tradition is kept alive by his  wife Genevieve Delfosse.
Sauvignon Blanc 2013
On the nose: herbal grass, citrus, floral, some yellow berry notes and slight vanilla
Palate: hitrus, pebbles and flint with nice acidity
Chardonnauy 2013
On the nose: apple, pear and citrus with some slight vanilla and bread
Palare: citrus, apple, walnut, pecan nuts, vanilla and crisp acid finish
Chardonnay 2012
On the nose: butter, vanilla oak, toast, apple pie crust, roasted almonds
Palate: butter with a hint of Butterscotch, nut flavours, apple pie. vanilla oak, balanced acid/sugar and pleasant finish that keeps evolving in mouth. Burgundy.

Reserve D'Oriane 2012    Blend of 34% Petit Manseng, 22% Viognier, 22% Chardonnay and 22% Sauvignon Blanc 
On the nose:  herbal grass, citrus lemon, floral white blossoms
Palate: herbal, citrus mix, note of some tropical fruit such as pineapple, rich flavour and medium body with citrus finish.
Rose 2013 Blend of Merlot 80%, Malbec 20%
On the nose: floral with strawberry/raspberry
Palate: cherry and red fruit, medium body with crisp and fresh finish.
Cuvee Laurent 2013  Blend Chambourcin 66%,  Cabernet Franc 34%
On the nose: ripe red and dark fruit, floral violet
Palate: ripe red fruit, jam, oaky smoke, fresh finish
Cabernet Franc 2013 
On the nose: strawberry, cherry, anise, vanilla oak
Palate: forward tannin, pepper spice, vanilla oak and persistent finish
Merlot 2008
On the nose: oak and dark fruit
Palate: dark fruit, concentrated, long finish
Malbec  2013 (my notes were not available and am quoting from the pamphlet nots)
Nose: black cherry, lavender, earth, blackberry, sweet toast, complex
Taste: dark fruit, tar, licorice, toast. Tannins are pleasant but add structure and balance to the fruit.
Hint of leather and spice.
Petit Verdot 2012
On the nose: blackberry, floral notes and vanilla oak/smoke
Palate: ripe dark fruit, vanilla oak, pleasant and lengthy finish
Meritage 2012 Petit Verdot 40%, Cabernet Franc, 20%, Merlot 20%, Malbec 20%
On the nose: Forest, earth, cherry, raspberry, vanilla oak, leather, smoke
Palate: Full bodied, black fruit, pepper spice, coffee, chocolate, tobacco, long finish
Meritage 2013 
On the nose: black berry, black cherry, plum, hint of chocolate
Palate: dark fruit, medium plus to full body, coffee, smoke, long finish
Petit Manseng 2013 (White Port)
On the nose: apricot, peach, nut, citrus, oak, vanilla honey butter
Palate: full and round, luscious almond, peach, pear, butterscotch and honey/vanilla tones and lovely sweet finish
This was an excellent tasting with excellent wines. The Delfosse Family have done well in such a short time and it was hard to bid them adieu but we had a very special dinner waiting for us high on a mountain hill and we had to leave.
Ankida Ridge Vineyards
State Route 632,
Amherst, Virginia 24521
The word "Ankida" is an ancient Sumerian term meaning:"Where heaven and earth join". There are three "parts" to the name: "An" means "Sky". "Ki" means "Earth" and "Da" means "Union" (as per De Lafayette Encyclopedia).  It aptly applies to this unique winery which left the "Wow" in my "Wower" along with my jaw agape for several hours after I laid eyes on the breath taking view of this winery atop of a mountain.
Here at a striking elevation of 1800 feet on the eastern slope of the Blue Ridge Mountain the two acre vineyard of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay as well as the superbly beautiful tasting room offer an amazing example as to what determination, good counsel, hard work and foresight can do when a vision is encountered!
The vision of course is the production of some of the finest Burgundy style wine this side of ----er-----Burgundy!!!
It must not have been easy to plant a vineyard on the steep slope high up on a mountain but consultant Lucie Morton who is one of the icon viticulture consultants in Virginia, was consulted and gave them great advice not only on the growing Burgundy style wine high up on the mountain slopes but also how to avoid certain diseases such as various types of molds and fungus. Being one of the foremost experts on vines and wine making in the country, Lucy has aided many a winery and continues to make advances in viticulture management and vine disease.      

It takes a tractor pulling a wagon to take the group of wine lovers from the base building up the incline past the multitude of rocks and trees to the tasting room and vineyard. There one gets a glimpse of the prepared table setting for the upcoming dinner as well as look outside on the balcony/verandah where the breath taking view of the Blue Ridge Mountains can be appreciated.
We had arrived rather late in the day and the night was fast approaching even as our special meal was being prepared. I went outside on the verandah balcony and stared at the glowing redness of the sky amidst the distant mountains as they slowly reached up to snag the sun---covering it with their shadow. The small but potent vineyard was quietly preparing for sleep amidst its arboreal neighbours. Meanwhile our group of wine lovers was being seated for the feast to come.
An Ankida Dinner
Seared Rockfish/Pumpkin/Sage 
Wine: Ankida Ridge Chardonnay 2012
First Course
Oysters: Raw Mignonette/Rockefeller/Flash Fried
Wine: Rockgarden Vert 2013
Second Course
Grilled Pear/Argula/ Manchego/Mushroom Strudel
Champagne Lime Dressing
Wine: Ankida Ridge Chardonnay 2013
Third Course
Braised Pork Belly, Pork Loin/ Sweet Potato-Kale Hash/Ham Glace
Wine: Ankida Ridge Pinot Noir 2010/2012
Cranberry Cake/Chocolate Truffles
Wine: Rockgarden Vin Doux

The Wines
First let me say that the dinner was amazing and so perfectly presented. Of course I had the honour of being seated across from Lucie Morton and the discussion that ensued was a major treat in itself. I remember being on a wine judging panel in Brazil with Jim Lapsey from the U of Davis California. I learned a great deal from that encounter and had the same advantage being within close talking distance with Lucie. Such a great person and so, so very interesting. Very amiable also!
The wines were an excellent match to the dishes presented.
Chardonnay 2012
On the nose: Burgundy like, apple, pear, melon, citus, vanilla
Palate: Delicate light to medium body, citrus, vanilla
Rockgarden Vert (Blend of Vidal, Pinot Noir)
On the nose: Green apple, pear, citrus, fiz
Palate: Effervescent, apple, citrus, pebbles, light body.
Chardonnay 2013
On the nose: Ripe pear, apple with walnut/vanilla/butter nuances, citrus lemon
Palatre: Medium body, slight oak, apple, pear, citrus lemon with citrus/mineral finish.
Pinot Noir 2010
On the nose: Rich Cherry, hints of mushroom, strawberry, black currant, some barn yard spice
Palate; Full bodied, cherry, strawberry, vanilla with long finish
Pinot Noir 2012
On the nose: Cherry, strawberry, raspberry with wood scents
Palate; Medium to full, black cherry, raspberry, black pepper and nice lengthy finish
Rockgarden Vin Doux (Chambourcin)
On the nose: Port like, black fruit
Palate: Sweet, ripe black fruit, nuts
The wines were excellent and complemented the meal so very well.
Soon we were getting ready to leave but not before taking one last look at the now dark scene just outside the tasting/dinner room. It was dark but the outline of the Blue Ridge Mountains was there and looked so very mysterious yet inviting.
Within the hour we had said our good byes to our wonderful Ankida Ridge hosts and we were off to the Omni Hotel in Richmond.
Registration was quite quick and soon I was in my room overlooking the city lights of Richmond Virginia. I was not tired and opened up a bottle of Octagon from Barboursville. As I sipped on the wine I imagined the beautiful, gorgeous and welcoming experiences that awaited me and Richmond had to offer!I was certain of one thing-----I would not be disappointed!
End of Day Six  


Friday, February 6, 2015

Day 6: November 7th, 2014 PART ONE: Breakfast At Rodes Farm, Flying Fox Winery, Devil's Backbone Brewing Company

Another Morning At Rodes Farm
I was up and packed quite early. In spite of the fact that I came to this part of the World anticipating the lack of the equine species and finding out to the contrary, I fell in love with the farm and the serenity that felt there. Of course there was Barbara Funke's cheerful disposition and very capable hands at making one feel so comfortable and that morning was no exception.
I strolled toward the Manor House where I knew that coffee would be brewing and paid my last respects to that huge new friend of mine that towered above the house.
"I would love to see this tree in full bloom," I said to myself as I stepped up the several steps toward the front door. The brewing smell of coffee was hypnotic as it drew me towards the kitchen.
For anyone who knows me, coffee is MY beverage. I live on coffee. If I can't sleep, coffee will lull me to sleep better than any lullaby. Coffee is my one true friend---my mate and my love! So----when I say that I want a coffee---there is no interpretation to be made. I WANT MY COFFEE!
There the pot was and slowly but surely the rest of the gang came down for a cup but not until I had at least three cups. Am I addicted to it? Yep! My only true addiction! Never to give up!
After breakfast our driver and main strength, Devan was there getting the bags ready for the next trip. However he had to do one thing and that was to climb a tree. It seems he had this thing about climbing trees and needed a picture taken of him doing so. I of course obliged.
Without Devan the trip would not have been the same. He was always obliging, courteous and that smiling face endeared all of us to him. He was also smart and his political savvy was impressive. The night before, we were sitting down in the Manor House living room and talked social politics and other issues. He made sense and I encouraged him to further put his ideas onto paper and maybe even run for public office. Hope he does---I think that he will make a difference.
Soon it was time to say good-bye to the Farm and Barbara. I also said good-bye to the towering Magnolia that looked down on me for the past three days.
Flying Fox Vineyard
27 Chapel Hollow Road
Afton, Virginia 22920
What happens when two physicians who love wine get together----a vineyard of course! Flying Fox which name, by the way, is taken from the weather-vane located on the main building, It is in the form of a fox in "full run" but appears to be flying on top of the building.
Lynn Davis is a former heart development researcher and Dean for Special Scholars at the University of Virginia while Rich Evans was involved with Emergency Medicine.
They loved (and still love) their vineyard but it was not sustainable on its own. While initially not wanting to make wine, they found that they could secure an income by doing so. Thus wine is made at Flying Fox.
They grow all their red varieties such as Merlot, Petit Verdot and Cabernet Franc while their Viognier and Pinot Gris is produced by Lynn's sister in the Shenandoah Valley. The winery boutique is small but inviting. The decor such as the main counter is antique in a dark motif. While tiny, the decor is tasteful and fits the idea of a small but very classy premises where clientele can feel both at home and enjoyably informed at the same time.
Both Rich and Lynn are fine educators so everyone is in good hands the minute they step into the doorway.
White and Rose: (Tasted at November 6th Reception at Veritas Vineyards)
Flying Fox Viognier  2013
On the nose: floral, apple, pear, apricot 
Palate: citrus, white fruit, light to medium body

Flying Fox Pinot Gris 2013
On the nose:citrus, apple/pear, mineral
Palate: Light body, citrus/apple notes, light, crisp finish
Flying Fox Rose 2013
On the nose: strawberry, melon, nuts
Palate: Medium body, light strawberry/cherry flavour, pleasant crisp, fresh finish.
Flying Fox Cabernet Franc 2012
On the nose: light vanilla oak, ripe cherry/raspberry, pepper  and herbal spice
Palate: Medium body, black/red cherry, touch of oak and black pepper
Flying Fox Cabernet Franc 2010
On the nose: Light oak, dark fruit such as cherry and plum, some smoke/leather
Palate: Light vanilla, plum and black cherry with herbal spice  
Flying Fox Trio 2009 Merlot 42%, Cabernet Franc 42%, Petit Verdot 16%
On the nose: dark cherry, moderate vanilla oak, smoke, leather, cassis 
Palate: Medium to medium plus body, velvet mouth feel, dark fruit with lingering finish

Flying Fox Trio  2007 Merlot 50%, Cabernet Franc 25%, Petit Verdot 25%  
On the nose: smoke, leather, earth, mushroom,tobacco, red/dark fruit/berries
Palate: elegant, smooth with ripe fruit,earth, figs
Flying Fox  2009 Petit Verdot
On the nose: Ripe aromas of black fruit,, oak,  smoke, tobacco with touch of chocolate
Palate: Medium to full body, black cherry and raspberry with interesting raspberry finish.
Flying Fox 2007 Petit Verdot
On the nose: Somewhat floral, ripe red fruit, vanilla, leather. tobacco
Palate: Medium body, red cherry, raspberry with softer tannins, fair finish with anise notes.
The following wine was tasted with the meal via Wild Wolf Brewery
Flying Fox  Non vintage Table Red A blend of Cabernet Franc, Merlot 
On the nose: Bright cherry/raspberry/wild berry flavours
Palate: Mid sweet, medium body, fresh cherry/raspberry/wild berry flavours, vanilla with a pleasant finish.
Flying Fox was small in size but big on wine. While they have no plans to expand, it would be nice to see this winery get even more recognition.
Devil's Backbone Brewing Company
200 Mosby's Run
Roseland, Virginia 22967
Devil's Backbone was established in 2008 by outdoors man Steve Crandall.  In 2012 "The Outpost" which is a 15,000 square foot facility was built. The company is known for its large variety of beer and excellent food with a restaurant that is open for lunch and dinner seven days per week.
The brewery is also known for its many events throughout the year including sport outings, conservation dedications and other community contributions.
Devil's Backbone staff are also known for their knowledge about the beer that is made and the process used in making it. A nice garden with a view of the Blue Ridge M's completes a rather nice picture of this brewery.
Lunch with Matching Beer
First Course
Amuse Bouche, Pickled Shrimp & Grape
Brew: Pilot Brau
On the Nose: tropical Fruit/citrus
Palate: Hop/herbal with light body
Second Course
Wild Mushroom Tart
Brew: Vienna Lager
On the nose: Toast, caramel, bread
Palate:malty sweet, delicate, refreshing
Third Course
Braised Pork Belly with Pear Lager Sauce, Swiss Chard & Sweet Potato Gratin/Roasted Vegetables
Brew: Stuarts Draft
On the nose: smoke, herbal, toffee, malt
Palate: cream, toffee, bitter sweet, toast
Fourth Course
Poached Pear in Beer Syrup with Vanilla Ice Cream
Brew: Schwartz Bier

On the nose: Toast, malt, coffee, chocolate, fruity
Palate: Light, almost sweet, chocolate, malt with toasty fruit
Final Course
Basler Lakerly Cookies
Brew: Chengou Weizenbock
On the nose: strong, cloves, bubblegum, banana, herbal spice
Palate: powerful, tropical fruit, herbal spice, toasted bread, 

Possible corresponding wines:
First Course: Sauvignon Blanc
Second Course: Pinot Noir
Third Course: Cabernet Franc or Sauvignon
Fourth Course: Sparkling Cabernet Icewine OR cold glass of Muscat
Fifth Course: Riesling or Gewurztraminer

To Be Continued next blog    


Monday, February 2, 2015

Day Five: November 6th, 2014: Morning at Rodes Farm, Cardinal Point Winery, Afton Mountain, Bold Rock Cidery, Veritas Reception, Wild Wolf Brewery

November 6th, 2014: Morning At Rodes Farm
I was up early that morning. The weatherman was wrong yet again. After a rather stormy night where the expected rain did come, the clouds cleared and the rays of the sun came out. I had promised one of the other writers that I would meet her at Mark Addy which was about one kilometre away to go for a walk.
As I left the Guest Cottage I noticed once again the huge Magnolia which height looked even more impressive than the night before. It was about twenty feet away from the house!
"If that tree would ever fall onto the Manor House," I remarked to myself, "There would be no Manor House left!"    
The air was fresh as started down the path. A gentle but cool morning breeze brushed my face and the sound was silence. Far to my right the silhouette of the Blue Ridge Mountains looked mysterious. Shrouded in an enveloping mist, they presented an eerie sight--in the silence of the morning.
In the distance I could see the stirrings of the day. Two horses moved towards each other then immediately lifted their head toward me as I approached their paddock. A dog at the end of a long driveway guarded it jealously and uttered a faint but threatening growl as I walked by and a lone vehicle came up behind me---passing me and thus disturbing my meditating trance as I walked quietly down the road.
As the Sun's rays made their mark, lighting up the shadows, I saw the Mark Addy Inn in the distance.
Outside, photographer Mick Rock, part of our Circle of Wine Writers tour, was out trying to capture images in his camera. I respected this professional and knew that anything he did would be not less than perfect. I have seen his work. I was right!
I met my walking partner and off we went---heading back to Rodes Farm to do a bit of exploring.
We walked to the farm stables where the horses had just been taken out to pasture. I laughed as I thought of my last words to my daughter. No way horses! Here I was calling these magnificent examples of Hunters over to me.
We then turned our attention to walking over to the foot of the closest hill. The warming Sun filtered is rays through the trees which were orange and gold in preparation for their coming slumber and the grass was still green. The splendidly painted houses in their whites and reds stood out against---- yet were a part of-----the greens, yellows and oranges of this season called Autumn---- like an Impressionist's painting depicting serenity and harmony in the country. There was happiness, silence and peace at that moment.
We then went to the Manor House where our lovely and gracious host, Barbara Funke, made a superb breakfast for us in preparation for our trip to wine country. The sausage patties were terrific as were the pan cakes.
One thing that I have to mention about Barbara, our hostess, prior to us leaving Lovingston Winery, I had clumsily caught my camera strap on a glass of red wine which spilled onto the table and also all over my jeans. When I arrived at the Manor, our hostess (Barbara)  took and cleaned them. When I arrived that evening I came to the Guest House to find my jeans neatly folded on the bed and ready for use. i can assure anyone who goes there that they will fall in love with this gracious and wonderful woman who brighten up even the gloomiest of days and makes a bright day even brighter.
Cardinal Point Vineyard and Winery
9423 Batesville Road
Afton, Virginia 22920 
Cardinal point is a family run business (as are many in this area) that has its "roots" in Germany. The owners Paul and Ruth Gorman were living in the Nahe area via the United States Army. Upon retiring in 1985, Paul planted a four acre vineyard with Riesling and Cabernet Sauvignon. Their three children took on responsibilities with daughter Sarah looking after the business end; son John doing the designing and son Tim taking on the viticulture and winemaking duties. The place has flourished to the size of 15 aces of prime vineyard land.
Cardinal Point Green 2013 50% Petit Manseng/50% Chardonnay

Grapes are co-fermented. Aged in Stainless Steel.
On the nose: apple citrus, crisp
Palate: as above with nice acidity crispness
Cardinal Point A6   2012    Blend of BF/BAged Viognier and SF/Aged Chardonnay.
On the nose: apricot/peach/citrus
Palate: Fruit forward, medium body, long finish  
Cardinal Point Quatro2013 Blend of  Riesling 51%, Gewurztraminer 33% , Traminette 10%,Viognier 6%
On the noste: apple,pear, peach, nectarine   
Palate:Medium body, nice acidity, notes of apple/pear with pleasant finish.
Cardinal Point India Pale Chardonnay (Hopped Chardonnay) 2013
Chardonnay made with American Cascade and New Zealand Nelson Sauvin hops.
On the nose: citrus, herbal spice, tropical notes
Palate: Light to medium body, tangy, citrus lemon, crisp acidity/citrus on finish ab
Cardinal Point Rockfish Red  2013 Cabernet Franc
On the nose: vanilla, ripe cherry/raspberry
Palate: light to medium, ripe red fruit, slight oak spice on finish
Cardinal Point Clay Hill 2012 Cabernet Franc
On the nose: black cherry, plum, vanilla, pepper spice
Palate: Full bodied, dark fruit,some chocolate, vanilla. Nice finish---long!
Cardinal Point Union  2012 Petit Verdot 72%, Cabernet Franc 17%, 11% Tannat
On the nose:  Powerful, dark fruit and berries, vanilla/oak, leather, tobacco
Palate: dark cherry and blackberry, plum, cocoa, mocha, tobacco
 The Cardinal Point were certainly interesting wines---some of which were made in unusual ways but it worked. Next we were off to Afton Mountain Vineyard where we stayed for lunch.
 Afton Mountain Vineyard
234 Vineyard Lane 
Afton, Virginia 22920
Located in another area where the view is stupendous, Afton Mountain Vineyards were first planted in 1978 on the side of Afton Mountain. Here at approximately 1000 feet above sea level, the vines are protected from frost, too much rain and the vines are dried/protected by the air current breezes which makes sure that pests like mildew do not occur.Afton Mountain Vineyards are one of the oldest vineyards in Virginia.  Tony and Elizabeth Smith are the owners of this lovely vineyard and winery. I asked Elizabeth about the history of the vineyard and here is what she said.
"The first owner of our property was David Mefford. He planted the first vines in 1978 and the property was called "Bacchanal Vineyards". He had health issues and did not commercially produce wine.  2nd owners were the Corpora family from the late 80's til 2009.  They named the property Afton Mountain Vineyards; opened the tasting room and released the first vintage in 1990.  Our 2014 wines when released will be our 25th vintage.
Tony and I are originally from nearby Charlottesville. We had property in proximity to other local Cville vineyards and were interested in planting grapes on our properties.  We took courses in viticulture and enology through our local community college and realized that our properties were not suited to growing the grapes that we were interested in. 
That started our search for the best vineyard site in the area; a consultant brought us to Afton and said it was where we wanted to be. Though we intended to start slowly by planting our own vines and growing into winemaking and a tasting room, one look at this beautiful property and we were sold. So we went from slowly easing in on a 5 year plan, to buying an existing and ongoing business and jumping in headfirst! We're now heading into our 7th vintage, we've purchase an additional 30 acres and doubled our acres under vine since our acquisition. We're proud of what we've accomplished and are looking forward to continuing to support Virginia's growing reputation for quality wine."
Afton Mountain Chardonnay 2013
On the nose: apple, tropical fruit, grapefruit citrus, butter, toast, vanilla
Palate: Medium body, tropical fruit/citrus, vanilla oak, cream, toast, nice finish
Afton Mountain Pinot Noir 2013
On the nose: Red fruit, melon, earth
Palate: Medium body, nice acidity, strawberry, cherry, melon with cherry finish
Afton Mountain Cabernet Franc 2013
On the nose: dark berries, plum, mint and a hint of chocolate
Palate: Medium body, dark berries, plum, black cherry finish
Afton Mountain Bacco 2012 Sangiovese 40%, Merlot 30%, Cabernet Sauvignon 15%, Petit Verdot 15%
On the nose: Floral rose, red fruit,vanilla, pepper
Palate; Medium body, well balanced acidity, red fruit and a hint vanilla oak with a sharp cherry finish
Afton Mountain Petit Verdot 2012
On the nose: Rich, bold, dark berries/fruit, dark chocolate
Palate: Full bodied, rich, ripe dark fruit, strong and powerful finish----needs more time! Very dark wine!
After the tasting we had a prepared lunch at Afton and then we were on our way to the next destination. 
Bold Rock Hard Cider
1020 Rockfish Valley
HWY (Rt. 151)
Nellysford, Virginia 22958
The Beginning 
According to the website, it started with two men; one a Virginian who liked open spaces and the other a seasoned New Zealand cider maker who had become an acclaimed expert consultant in the cider making of many countries. Virginian John Washburn called New Zealander Brian Shanks and proposed an idea of making top quality cider in Virginia.They met. They Talked. They Partnered!
The rest is history as Bold Rock is the largest winery in Virginia.
The Ciders  
Bold Rock Virginia Apple 
On the nose: apple
Palate; Effervescent, crisp, acidic, apple taste, acid finish.
Bold Rock Virginia Draft
On the nose; Mixed apple flavours, floral, spice
Palate: Smooth, mellow, sweet, ripe apple cinnamon spice, rich and sweet lingering finish.
Bold Rock Vat No. 1
On the nose: apple honey, mixed apple flavours, rich. sweet spice
Palate: Full bodied, effervescent. rich, complex flavours, nice mid sweetness, lingering taste.
Bold Rock Vintage Dry
On the nose:  apple spice and flavour, dry fruit
Palate: Dry, smooth, full bodied, apple with some citrus undertones, lingering dry apple finish
Bold Rock Pear Cider
On the nose: Floral, pear notes with apple undertones, vanilla
Palate: Pleasant body, sweet, apple-pear flavours, lingering fruit finish.
While I do not usually deal in ciders, I found this visit quite informative and interesting.
Our next visit was back to Veritas Winery for a general reception of a few wineries.
Veritas Reception 
Veritas Winery
Back we went to a reception at Veritas where several wineries had gathered to display their wares.Among them were: Democracy, Flying Fox, Veritas, Delfosse, Afton, Mountain Cove, Cardinal Point.
Again we tasted some exceptional wines but soon were on our way to the last winery and dinner for the day!
Wild Wolf Brewimg
2461 Rockfish Valley Hwy
Nellysford, Virginia
At Wild Wolf Brewing we were welcomed to not only a superb meal but also some of the most interesting animal displays and pictures anywhere. I think that the Circle of Wine Writers were very taken by all this since they took massive amounts of pictures of the displayed animals and birds. In addition the other visual offerings are many, ranging from the Biergarten, pond and Gazebo to a working water wheel, outdoor dining pavilion and wrap around porch ----- all within or around the main building which is a century old school house.
There was still one more treat that I remember well and that was the matching beverages for the meal were both Wild Wolf Beer and wine from various estates. Never had this before and it was marvelous. Here is the menu! 

 From The Garden: 
Turnip the Beets Mixed Greens; 
Grilled lemon vinaigrette, pumpkin spent grain croutons, fresh parmesan 
Wild Wolf Brewing Company Kick IT/ Afton Mountain Estate Reserve Chardonnay 
From The Farm : 
Indian Summer Risotto; 
11/5 Harvest Vegetables, garden broth 
Wild Wolf Brewing Company Howling Pumpkin/ Cardinal Point A6 
From the Field: 
Pan-Roasted Rack of Lamb Served Family Style; 
Turnip the Beets charred red pepper, Twin Spring Farms kohlrabi, Peppercress 
Wild Wolf Brewing Company Wee Heavy/ Flying Fox Table Red 
From The Dairy: 
Caramont Goat’s Milk Esmontonian; Critzer Everberries, homegrown habaneros, Local Raw Honey Drizzle 
Wild Wolf Brewing Company Primal Instinct/ Veritas Sauvignon Blanc 
From The Hearth: 
Classic Cinnamon roll, vanilla currant icing, Trager Brothers Coffee “Secret Stash” syrup 
Wild Wolf Brewing Company Dry Stout/ Trager Brothers Coffee Ethiopian Blend        

Wild Wolf Kick It
On the nose: citrus, honey, bread
Palate: Good head, full body, cream,citrus/hops, honey mead, refreshing finish  
Wild Wolf Howling Pumpkin
On the nose: pumpkin, toast, caramel, mushroom. earth, nutmeg 
Palate: Robust, pumpkin pie, sweet molasses, honey, nutmeg, spice finish
Wild Wolf Wee Heavy
On the nose: Peat, toast, smoke----Islay Scotch!
Palatre: Smoky peat, caramel/toffee, burnt toast, nice fizz finish, Islay scotch notes.
Wild Wolf Primal Instinct
On the nose; Citrus, banana, mango, pine nut
Palate: Robust, bitter, citrus, pine nut, bitter finish
Wild Wolf Dry Stout
On the nose: Mocha, cocoa, coffee
Palate: caramel/toffee, toast, smoke, bread, chocolate, bitter but smooth
Corresponding Wine      
Afton Mountain Estate Chardonnay
Cardinal Point A6
Flying Fox Table Red
Veritas  Sauvignon Blanc
The above wine reviews can be found within the respective winery descriptions.
Trager Brothers Ethiopian Coffee
Strong, full bodied floral  
The dinner was amazing and the experience terrific. Shortly after the sumptuous meal and lovely beer and wine we were on our way to Rodes Farm for one more night's stay.
End of Day Five