Bon Vivant: (n) a person having cultivated, refined, and sociable tastes especially with respect to food and drink.

All posts in Virginia Wine

On the Road: Early Mountain and Barboursville Vineyards

Posted in: Behind the Scenes, Bon Vivant, Bubbly, Drink Well, On the Road, Rosé, Seasonal Sips, Tried and Trues, Virginia Wine, Weekend Getaways, Wine Tasting, Winemakers, Wineries and Vineyards

Planning a wine tasting trip Charlottesville, Virginia can be a daunting task- there are a number of outstanding wineries and picking just a few is no easy feat!


On my most recent trip with a group of friends, I took my cue from the most recent #VAwinechat, hosted by Frank Morgan of at Early Mountain Vineyards.  After tasting a selection of their wines I decided I needed to visit in person. Although the winery is a bit of a drive from many of the other Monticello AVA wineries, but the bucolic setting and behind the scenes tour sealed the deal! Other than their own outstanding wines, Early Mountain has one of the loveliest tasting rooms in all of Virginia and serves an Ambassador for other Virginia Wineries with a program called “Best of Virginia.”


The General Manager was kind enough to give my group an exclusive behind the scenes tour of the production facility, where we enjoyed tasting through Thibaut Janison’s bubbly, as well as Early Mountain’s own outstanding rosé. With notes of strawberry, watermelon, white peach and white pepper, the easy drinking rosé cut right through the muggy weather as we made our way through the tank and barrel room.

IMG_2173 While Early Mountain is not situated in the main Monticello wine cluster, it’s well worth a visit just to take in the outstanding facility, views and enjoy some of the best wines from all over the state, which they have thoughtfully organized into flights. It’s a great way to experience wines that aren’t so readily available, such as Ankida Ridge’s Pinot Noir. I walked away with several bottles of the Early Mountain rosé, only to regret not purchasing a full case once back in DC.

After our tour at Early Mountain we made our way to the Library room at nearby Barboursville. If you’re looking for quiet amidst the chaos, this is your best bet! Down a hallway and through the Octogan Barrel room, one enters a key code to the library, an appointment only retreat for winelovers that offers patrons exclusive customer service along wine tastings and glasses of wine from the reserve list. There is also a tempting menu of cheese and charcuterie, which are perfect pairings for the fully customized wine tasting. Guests are given wide range to select either a tasting of 6 wines for $20, tasting pours or full glasses of some of the winery’s more exclusive offerings.

wine flights

I sampled through an outstanding vertical of their acclaimed “Octagon”, mixing and matching the traditional tasting with an additional pour of 2008.


While checking out the terrace overlooking the grapevines, we met grape grower, Fernando Franco, who has been at Barboursville for 16 years.  He spoke of the wine like a proud parent speaks of children, graciously offering tastes of the Nebbiolo ’07 as we chatted.

After lingering and sampling for a few hours, we made our way back to town to enjoy the always reliable  gastropub, “The Local”. On your way out of town, don’t forget to stop for a sack of Bodo’s Bagels and Raising Cane’s fried chicken!


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Thanksgiving Virginia Wine Pairing Guide

Posted in: Bon Vivant, Guest Posts, Helpful Hints, Holidays, Seasonal Sips, Virginia Wine, Wine Concierge, Wine Pairing, Wine Recommendations, Winemakers, Wineries and Vineyards

Virginia wine is making its mark. And if you’re not on board yet, here are 6 outstanding Virginia wines that will change your mind, perfectly suited to complement your Thanksgiving Feast. Get all the details and tasting notes in my guest post on The Hill is Home!

Breaux Vineyards. Fall, 2013

Breaux Vineyards. Fall, 2013

There’s something for everyone- from the bubbly lover to dessert wines- from just a few of Virginia’s esteemed wineries, including Thibaut-Jannison, Breaux Vineyards, RdV, Stone Tower Winery, Tarara Winery and Linden Vineyards.

Taste makers around the country are singing the Commonwealth’s praises, most recently at the Virginia Wine Summit.  Food And Wine Magazine Editor, Ray Isle, was recently the keynote speaker, where he praised both the gorgeous scenery and outstanding wines right in DC’s backyard.

Have you tried Virginia wine yet?  If not, consider one of my Thanksgiving pairing recommendations or contact me for a custom excursion into DC’s wine country.  I promise you won’t be disappointed!

For more wine pairing guidance this Thanksgiving check out my recommendations here!


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25 years, 21 wines at Tarara

Posted in: Bon Vivant, Drink Well, Virginia Wine, Wine Reviews, Wineries and Vineyards

I recently attended a celebration of Tarara Vineyard‘s 25th anniversary, moderated by winemaker, Jordan Harris.

wine tasting

After a Leesburg lunch with Just the Bottle, we made our way to the winery to join something of a motley crew of Virginia wine bloggers and press.

There, we enjoyed a glass of their Boneyard Bubbly before exploring 5 flights of wine, including verticals and selections from the library.  We sipped and chatted 25 years worth of wine-making in the tank room before taking in the last of 2014’s  summer concert series on the late summer evening.

Despite the bevvy of Riedel crystal glassware and artisanal cheeses, the event was anything but pretentious.  Harris set the tone early on with his assertion that a “winemaker is the most overplayed profession in America.”

I don’t know that I agree with him on that, but the evening offered a rare opportunity to lob questions at a winemaker in a small group setting.

Chardonnay flight

Chardonnay flight

As Virginia comes into its own as a respected wine producing state, it faces a serious marketing dilemma.  Attempts to pigeon hole the diverse terroir have led people to make associations with the Loire Valley in France, asserting “Viognier THE Virginia Grape”, “Cab Franc THE Virginia red grape.”

One of the most popular discussions among Virginia wine makers and consumers lately has been that there doesn’t need to be a state anything and to let Virginia be Virgina. While marketing has its place, I’m a much bigger fan of letting the wines and terroir speak for themselves.

When Harris joined Tarara in 2007, the winery made some major changes.  There was a distinct lack of focus that they decided to tackle head on.

“You’re only as strong as your weakest link,” said Harris.  In this case- that meant wine.  And so they got to work. He axed the top three sellers and replaced equipment. Harris is only willing to produce and do what he enjoys- with one major exception: Cab Franc.

If he were to have a Facebook relationship status with THE Virginia red grape, it would most certainly read, “It’s complicated,” but Tarara can’t seem to keep it on the shelves.  Relationship status aside, Harris produces some outstanding Cab Francs (although we seem to have opposite preferences when it comes to vintages!)

Cab Franc is known as having some of the greatest variability between vintages of any variety. “I just don’t trust it,” said Harris.

Cab Franc flight

Cab Franc flight

The 2012- to my palette- was outstanding.  Well-balanced, earthy, with just a touch of funk and pepper I love to taste in Cab Francs. “Hedonistic,” was Harris’ assessment of the vintage, but I don’t expect Cab Francs to exhibit exceptional restraint. This wine was no shrinking violet, and that’s just how I like it!

Other stand outs from the tasting include the Tranquility Red 2010, a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Tannat.  This wine showed incredible finesse.  Slow to open up, I liken it to the introvert at the party that proves worth getting to know.  The longer you gave it, the more it gave back with ripe dark fruit and earthy balance.  This wine speaks quietly, but profoundly, if you care to listen.

The 2010 Syrah was another treat.  No longer available for sale, this $100 gem (gasp!  A $100 bottle from Virginia!?) was elegant with spicy ripe fruit, espresso, licorice and exquisite balance.  This was an elegant wine with some serious staying power that will only get better with age.

With winemaker, Jordan Harris.

With winemaker, Jordan Harris.

Thanks to the entire Tarara team and winemaker, Jordan Harris, for sharing some of your gems on this special evening- we may not agree on our favorite vintages, but it’s always refreshing to meet a winemaker willing to spill the secrets (and the juice!) behind one of Virginia’s most established wineries!

Tasting Room Hours of Operation
Monday – Thursday 11:00 am – 5:00 pm
Friday – Sunday 11:00 am – 6:00 pm

For a special occasion, consider booking the private room for a reserve tasting!



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Charlottesville Food and Winery Getaway

Posted in: Bon Vivant, Drink Well, Guest Posts, Restaurant Reviews, Virginia Wine, Weekend Getaways, Wineries and Vineyards

I recently guest blogged over at Virginia Wine in my Pocket’s new “Go!” feature about my restaurant and winery picks for a quick Charlottesville, VA getaway.  If you’re planning a weekend getaway this fall, check out my recommendations here!

Taking in the view at Trump Winery with a glass of blanc de blanc

Taking in the view at Trump Winery with a glass of blanc de blanc

I’ve included 2 stand out wineries including Pippin Hill, Trump, a great local company that offers private vans so you can sip safely, and some amazing restaurant options!

Head on over to VAWIMP  GO! for more details, and enjoy some eye candy below!

Grape vines at Pippin Hill Winery


Cheese and Charcuterie at Pippin Hill Winery


Cheese and Charcuterie at Pippin Hill Winery

The view of the vineyards at Trump Winery

Are you planning any weekend getaways this fall?  What are some of your favorite Charlottesville wineries and restaurants?


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Drinking Green

Posted in: Green Wine Practices, Helpful Hints, Upcoming Events, Virginia Wine, Wine Facts, Wine Health, Wine vocabulary, Wineries and Vineyards

This week Washington DC is hosting the The Green Festival. The wine industry is currently undergoing it’s own “greening” process, and clients are making more and more informed decisions when purchasing wine.

But what does “drinking green” look like? (And no, I’m not talking about kale smoothies!) It can be a complicated process and there are many ways to go about it!

Although vintners make countless choices in their efforts towards sustainability and environmental harmony, there are a few main categories that have a major impact on how green your wine choices are.

Cab Franc during harvest

1. Organic Wines:

This one can be a bit misleading, because the meaning of organic wine varies from country to country. The certification process also varies, and can be prohibitively expensive for smaller wineries.  Many wineries that grow their grapes organically are not certified for this reason. Often, the bottle will give you an indication of whether the vineyard employs organic practices.

Often, “Old World” (European) wines use fewer and less harsh pesticides than their “New World” counterparts.  This is largely due to their environmental laws prohibiting the use of certain harmful chemicals, as well as the wine making tradition of generations working with the land before the advent of chemicals and machinery.

2. Sustainable Wines

Sustainable wine practices include the planting of beneficial plants and wildflowers, use of bio-diesel fuel, water conservation practices, cork recycling programs, or the elimination of machinery.  Hand-picking grapes and plowing by horse are just a few sustainable practices winemakers employ to reduce their environmental footprint. Economic viability and impact on the community- such as fair trade practices- are also often taken into account with sustainable wine making. These practices are often used in conjunction with organic or biodynamic practices.

2. Biodynamic Wines

Biodynamic wine making is similar to organic farming practices in that both take place without chemicals. However, biodynamic farming takes a broader approach, viewing the vineyard as an ecosystem, and incorporating astrological influences and lunar cycles.  Biodynamic wines also avoid cellar manipulations such as adjusting yeast or acidity.

4. Drink Local

I was recently at an environmental fundraiser that paid careful attention to providing vegan meal options and flying in hi-profile environmental advocates.  However, when I visited the bar I was shocked to see them serving non-sustainable, non-organic, non-biodynamic from the other side of the globe?!

I love foreign wine, but the cost and energy of transporting wine is not without its own environmental impact.  Although it’s difficult to grow grapes organically in Virginia, many wineries, such as this one are making incredible strides towards reducing their environmental footprint.  Drinking local not only helps the local economy, it helps the environment!

Do you try to drink “green”?


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