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.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Day Three: Salamander Market, Barboursville, Tom's Monticello, Jefferson Vineyards, Trump Vineyards And Onto Charlottesville!

Oh Sunny Day! November 4th 2014
While the weather forecasts were rather gloomy---predicting rain, I was awakened to a bright and gorgeous day. An early start to the day (7:30 AM) allowed us to stop at the Market Salamander where we were treated to a fine breakfast by the market's staff. It was here that I first learned about the Norton grape and how it had been for quite awhile "The" grape of Virginia.
More about the Norton later but I did use this stop to purchase some bottles of Norton wine to bring home.
Market Salamander 
Walter Bichey, the General Manager of Market Salamander told us the story for the usage of the term "Salamander" for the Resort, Market, Farm and Touch. It seems that the "farm" was originally owned by Mr. Bruce Sundlun, who was shot down along with his B17 bomber over Nazi occupied territory during WW2!
He became a part of the resistance who gave him the code name "Salamander". When he returned to the United States, he bought a 200 acre farm which he named as such. He went on to having a successful like in law as well as politics as both an Assistant US Attorney and a two time Governor of Rhode Island.
The present owner, Ms. Johnson, renamed the farm "Salamander" ----a name that stands today to symbolize courage, strength and fortitude.
Barboursville Winery   
One of the highlights of my trip to Virginia was the visiting of this winery and tasting its wines!
The history of the winery goes back to 1814 when then Governor James Barbour began building his estate whose mansion was designed by Thomas Jefferson. The building was finished in 1821 and was dedicated to sustainable agriculture.
In 1976, Gianni Zonin of the famous wine family from Veneto purchased the property and against all advice to grow tobacco, he planted grapes. He saw what others did not see and did what many others failed to do and that is: the growing of quality grapes to make quality wine.
The wines of Barboursville are famous throughout Virginia and have been given accolades by such wine magazines such as Wine Enthusiast. Recently the winery was named among the top 101 wineries in the United States and its wine maker, Luca Paschina, was awarded the Italian Order of Merit for his work in in the field of wine and wine making.
Luca Paschina casually walked towards our group as we stepped out of our travel bus. He was tall, svelte and movie star handsome. He introduced himself in a harmoniously melodic voice that in many ways reminded me of Thomas Bachelder formerly of Le Clos Jordanne fame and now making his own brand of wine. Speaking with authority that only comes with experience and initiative, Luca described the vineyards and the wines. He had the group quite mesmerized.
It was easy to see why Barboursville Vineyards had such a high reputation behind it and why the estate has won so much recognition.  Even famed wine specialist Bartholomew Broadbent, son of the amazing and famous wine consultant/critic Michael Broadbent, dropped in to check on the group. He was as much of a class act as his dad.
We gathered in the dining lounge for a magnificent lunch matched with Barboursville wine. I remember saying to myself, this can't go on or I will not be recognized by the time I get back to Canada. The food was exquisite and wines superb!
As far as the wine was concerned, there was not one that tasted either white or red that I did not like! The wines were well made and individually crafty.
White Wine 
The wines were quite agreeable however two stood out!
Vermentino Reserve: This wine was rated quite high by me. The Italian Vermentino (Cosrsica/Sardinia) does not seem  to be common in many regions which is a shame since it does produce a citrus driven, mineral, light to medium bodied wine certainly has many things going for it.  The example tasted at Barboursville was exceptional and prompted me to purchase!   
Viognier: There is no oak or malolactic fermentation in this wine but that may be a credit to the wine maker since what one gets is citrus, white fruit and concentrated Kiwi or Dragon Fruit. Lovely wine1
I also purchased! Incidentally, the Viognier is the official grape for the State of Virginia.
Chardonnay Reserve: In general, I found that Chardonnay does not have the status here in Virginia that it does in other countries. It is very well made and the example I tasted was full of vanilla, pear, apple flavours with nuances of tropical fruit. The wine was concentrated and certainly one that would develop with time. I think that Chardonnay has become so common a grape that it even when it is so very well made by this wine maker, it does not carry the same clout that it used to. I liked it but did not purchase! Why?  There were other examples that I wanted to share with others and only had so much to spend and-----after all----there are excellent examples of Chardonnay everywhere! Enough said!
Red Wine     
While the whites are excellent, here is where Barboursville shines brightly. The reds are amazing in concentration, power, elegance and complexity.  I certainly would have bought much more  but only could take so many back to Canada with me!
The Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and like were so very well made but I opted to seriously try some grape varieties that I did not expect to see in Virginia.
Barbera: I found this wine refreshing and red berry flavours with an accent on the cherry. While I am not a fan of the Barbera grape, this wine would certainly make my list for a light entree to a Risotto dinner.
Nebbiolo Reserve:The moment I placed the glass to my nose I said "Wow!". A wine for at least ten to 20 years of aging potential. Dense, concentrated with crushed and aging leaves, dark fruit, smoke/tobacco, violets and a complexity that had your senses being purged and revamped almost on a continuous level. This wine would bring me back for more! I absolutely love it!
Sangiovese: I did not find this wine in the same class as the Nebbiolo but it was well made and a delicious representation of the grape variety. I learned that it was blended with up to 25% of Cabernet/Merlot and/or Petit Verdot. This gave the wine a bit more body and elegance I would think.
Petit Verdot: Certainly a wine for aging (up to 20 years) with an assertive manner about it, it lets you know that it is around. Dark fruit dominate with anise with an ever so tiny hint of chocolate (unless someone was brewing coffee etc. in the building). Big tannins assured of future development but the wine was approachable at present to those who like bold young wines.
Cabernet Franc Reserve: A wine made for the terroir of Virginia and in my opinion from what I have tasted from other wineries, the true grape of Virginia. This wine was full of levels of ripe cherry/raspberry fruit with a pinch of fig and plum to round out the nose with a similar level of flavour on the palate with a bit of chocolate thrown in.  It was inviting for a younger wine but quite pleasing as the flavours melded onto the palate. While it also could live for at least another ten years it was highly drinkable now and should not be just wasted on sipping. This is a food wine!
Octagon: This type of  wine is the reason why wine lovers spend a fortune to visit wineries. Totally amazing and made only in premium years. This wine has it all. It is a blend of  Merlot majority, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot and Cabernet Sauvignon,  The wine is a cornucopia of flavours and nuances with a ripe dark and red fruit, plum, chocolate, fig on both nose and palate. Mouth feel is full and inviting. Full bodied with a finish that never goes away for quite some time. I loved it and wish I had brought home more!
Thomas Jefferson's Monticello
Thomas Jefferson has always been one of my heroes! The man was bigger than life and reflected all that was/is good about the United States. It's not because he was the principal author of the Declaration of Independence. It's not that he was one of the Founding Fathers of the United States.It's not that he was President or held many of the most important positions in the U.S. Government. No! These facts just attracted me to him. What I liked most and what drew me so much to admire him was that he never stopped learning and his interest in life made him what he still is to this day-----an inspiration to any who aspire to learn, create and initiate.
This tall (for his day and age) six foot two man cast an image over his country that lasts to this day.
He was born in Charlottesville, Virginia in April of 1743 (which made him an Aries and very apropos for his celestial sign).  The man was inquisitive and strong willed.
Jefferson was a scholar par excellence who spoke five languages and studied many others. He had a renowned  interest in the sciences and his interest in architectural design remains known to this day.
He also loved wine and was so fascinated by it that he went to great lengths to establish it in Virginia.
He was not entirely successful as it seems that for all the vines he planted, he never had a single harvest----or so they say but it was he who wrote, inspired and encourage about anything that had to do with wine.
You can imagine my delight on the knowledge that I was going to visit his home and see his vineyard and go down to his wine cellar. What an amazing chance to at least meet this man via his own surroundings!
Inheriting the rather large property from his father, Jefferson built a home in 1768 but set forth to remodel it in 1794. Designed the home according to designs he learned about in Europe during his tenure as a United States Minister (Ambassador) to France. He subsequently redesigned his home using many of his won inventions that still can be viewed in working order at Monticello to this day!
Monticello is a unique piece of Americana that I would not have missed seeing for the world.
Visit to Monticello   
We were met by Gabrielle Rause, Director of Gardens and Grounds for the estate. He briefly discussed Monticello's history and toured us around the grounds which included a vineyard. Not far from our discussion, excavations regarding its historical buildings were still being performed by historical students.The outside of the building was as interesting and well restored as the inside. Gardens dedicated to historical plants as well as a "Jefferson Garden" consisting of identical species of vegetables that were grown by Jefferson himself.  This garden was located  not far from the vineyard .
One thing that I found fascinating was the Octagon Room. Jefferson designed an Octagonal Globe that he place above a room by the same name. The Alcove Bed in the room had a closet over head culminating to form an Octagon. I now understood the relationship between Barboursville Vineyard's epic wine called Octagon and the Octagon shape in this building. Jefferson was Governor James Barbour's good friend and had designed his mansion for him. The other thing that impressed me was the wine cellar which showed wines stacked up as they had been years prior. 
Monticello was a grand experience and while the commercial atmosphere that  surrounded the estate in general, it is understandable that  the money to keep this place looking as grand as it di when he first built is must come from some place. While there were many school children viewing it, I wondered if they really appreciated what had transpired and the legacy that this great man left to History, Geography, Science and  Culture and-------all that is involved with Wine!
Jefferson and Wine
 From reading the information pamphlets issued by Monticello, one could see that Jefferson's tastes in wine were changeable but one has to keep in mind that he was on a lifelong journey of discovery and he never lost his wonder with the world and especially wine of which there were and still are many types of. As a great friend of mine would say when asked the question which wine is the best---his reply would be, "The wine you like best on the particular day that you drink it!"
Jefferson did manage to do some amazing things with wine. First he began somewhat of a revolution against the usual drink of the day which was Port. His experiences throughout Europe especially France introduced a different level of wine that was not as appreciated in the Americas. Another observation made by Justin Sarafin at Monticello in 2011 was that Jefferson had in his writings listed the top chateau of Bordeaux in almost direct parallel to the 1855 Classification of Bordeaux Wines which still stands to this day. He did it some 80 years prior.
Jefferson was indeed a "man for all seasons" and a man so ahead of his time -----in some ways ahead of this time period. The only sad thing is that a man such as he was limited by mortality!
We left Monticello much more enlightened and inspired! I will return some day!
Jefferson Vineyards
We left with Thomas Jefferson and began our visit with Jefferson Vineyards with him. Jefferson Vineyards is located on the same land that Thomas Jefferson owned. He was/is so interconnected with the history of Virginia's wine that he left his stamp almost everywhere. In this case, an Italian viticulturist by the name of Filippo Mazzei was given a parcel of land by Jefferson after he visited Monticello. He not only took up to building a home, living on and planting vines on that land but he also became involved in the politics of the time which meant of course----the Revolution.
Although Mazzei's original building is no longer there, the homestead and land was purchased by Shirley and Stanly Woodward rebuilding a home and repatriating the land which became a favourite visiting place of important politicians  and guests.
In the early 1980's, Gabriele Rause (now of Monticello above) was hired to plant a vineyard. The vineyard has remained in the same family's charge and is now managed by third generation Alexia and Attila Woodward. They continue to improve and make further additions to the property and vineyard.
White Wine
Pinot Gris: Citrus, apple and Lychee on nose and palate
Chardonnay:  White fruit with wood/vanilla on nose and palate
Red Wine    
Vin Rouge: Cherry/raspberry/cranberry on nose and palate.
Cabernt  Franc: Nost of cherry, raspberry with similar palace  of cherry,, anise spice.
Petit Verdot: Coffee, Black fruit on nose and palate with wood nuances throughout.
Meritage: Wet leaves, earth, cedar, some dark fruit and herbal spice on nose  with dark fruit, liquorice spice on palate.
Not Tasted 
Vin Blanc--a blend of Traminette and Petit Manseng    
After we tasted the wines at Jefferson Vineyards we were off to Trump Winery
Trump Winery 
At 1300 acres with over 200 of these planted with grape vines, Trump Winery is the largest in Virginia. The winery initially owned by Patricia Kluge and known as the Kluge Estate was purchased by Donald  Trump in 2012 with his son, Eric, as its President. Eric and I have never met but his reputation as a business person and a meticulous organizer reminded me of the saying "Like Father Like Son!" Mr. Trump also surrounded himself with very capable people.
Kerry Woolard, General Manager of the property was on hand to meet us and described the workings of this ultra modern and impressive estate.
It became apparent very quickly that Kerry was no slouch to wine. She was/is a Level 2  WSET certified with distinction and well known for her columns, and involvement with the wine boards and associations of Virginia.
Kerry gave us a tour of the 50,000 square foot facility then then along with winemaker Jonathon Wheeler, tutored us to  a massive sparkling wine tasting that blew my mind.
Sparkling Wine
If Trump Winery were in Champagne, it would be renowned as a Champagne House since all the sparkling wine made at Trump was made via the Traditional Method or as some still call it, Methode Champenoise. Of course very generally that is the method used where a secondary fermentation takes place in the same bottle that it is sold in. Somehow the name Sparkling Wine House (since Virginia is not Champagne) does not "cut" it-----especially with such classic wine as produced by Trump.
Trump Sparkling Wine comes in an assortment of styles.
We tasted the Blanc de Blancs, Blanc de Noir, Sparkling Reserve, Sparkling Rose. I leaned to the Blanc de Noir with its "toastiness" and aromas of anise and pear with a touch of citrus slightly more than the other favourite called Sparkling Reserve.with its. multitude of flavours consisting of Caramel toffee, white fruit, cinnamon apple and honey. The latter wine was made from 100 % Chardonnay and kept in contact with the yeast for five years. The Blanc de Noir by contrast is only left on the yeast for two years but the Blanc de Blanc and Rose Sparkling (which also was amazing with citrus, cherry and strawberry flavours) were in contact with the yeast for three years!
We had the crux of the Sparkling tasting on the patio adjacent to the boutique and dining lounge. The night was mild and the atmosphere---electric. We were then asked to be seated for dinner.
Dinner at the Trumps
Ist Course
Seasonal Vegetable Salad with Housemade Tofu, Black Cocoa and Garden Herbs
Wine: Meritage 2012 (Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Petit Verdot)
Before the Meritage was served I asked for a glass of the Sauvignon Blanc 2013  to compare to the experience.  The Sauvignon Blanc, I thought, went very well with the salad--- its herbal characteristics melded well with those of the garden herbs and the concentration made up for the slight challenge of the Cocoa---in fact the tropical fruit exhibited (pineapple, mango, some banana) complemented it. 
The Meritage with its red/black fruit/berries, some coffee/cocoa and herbal qualities proved to be excellent also as a companion to this dish.
2nd Course
Roasted Terres Major with Braised Maitake Mushrooms, Roasted Broccoli, Farro and Melted Onions
Wine World Reserve 2012 (Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Petit Verdot)
While the percentage of the varieties in this wine were roughly the same, this wine showed more concentration than the Meritage above. It was more powerful and certainly complemented the meal it was matched with. The herbal qualities certainly complemented the vegetable entrees and the wine itself with dark fruit, currants and forward tannin was superb with the "Shoulder Steak".
3rd Course 
Dark Chocolate Creamuex with Fennel Red Wine Sauce, Puffed Rice and Pear
2009 Sparkline Rose (Chardonnay, Pinot Noir)
The Sparkling Rose's fruit and creaminess certainly went well with the anise like flavour of the fennel matched with the pear fruit and creamy mouthfeel of the puffed rice. The wine "cut" through the cream and exhibited its fruit value. The added flavours of cherry and strawberry contributed to the organoleptic enjoyment of the dessert and the millions of tiny bubbles made the experience so very enjoyable.
The evening ended with some coffee and I thought it was one of those most enjoyable and memorable experiences. To add another delight to the whole evening, a parting gift of Trump "Zippered" Sweaters came in my size----X Large. I have used it many times since!
We soon bed our adieu to those at Trump and our driver  Devon, soon had us on our way to Charlottesville, where we registered at the Holiday Inn for a much relaxing and needed sleep.
End of Day Three