Chelydra serpentina

May 31, 2011 § Leave a comment

Our resident snapping turtle keeps an eye on shoot thinning

Reflections of a Double Vertical

May 24, 2011 § 1 Comment

   We hosted a vertical tasting at Sunset Hills this past weekend, tasting three years of our Reserve Cabernet Franc (’06, ’07, ’08) and three years of our late harvest Nettare (’08, ’09, ’10).  I was excited for this event, not only because it gives our customers an opportunity to taste some interesting wines, but because the differences in the wines facilitates discussion of each individual growing season, and how different wines can age in different ways.  It’s one thing to talk about it, but it’s another thing to have the opportunity to taste it.

 The Cabernet Francs are all wonderfully different wines, despite coming from the same vineyard block and being vinted in (more or less) similar manners.   The late harvest wines (one from Petit Manseng, and two from Vidal Blanc, which we will continue to utilize for our Nettare) are still too fresh to show any age in color or flavor, but are nonetheless still very unique to each other.  Most (or nearly all) of the participants in this tasting admitted to me that they rarely drink wines with such high R.S. (a shame, a dreadful shame).  It was fun for me, then, to illustrate the intricacies of these wines, and explain how, in my opinion, there are no wines or foods in the world that can create the haunting aromatics and lushness of certain aged late harvest wines.  For me, late harvest white wines make some of the best beverages in the universe.

       2006 – 2010 have all been considerably different growing seasons for Virginia – all of them have been ‘good’ years, but in ways that provide us with diverse styles of wine, both red and white.  One of the most educational aspects of a vertical tasting in any winegrowing region with such unpredictable weather patterns is tasting the wine while discussing the growing season, and explaining what certain temperature, precipitation, and seasonal oddities can do to the growth of wine grapes, the balance of the grape chemistry, and thus the finished product itself.

  I love that we make wine in Virginia, where the vintages have always wavered between extremes, because it places more emphasis on the time that the wine was made, as well as the place, and I think these differences, and our mental connection between the wine we are drinking now and the year in which it was made, add to the experience.

Capacitance of Spring

May 16, 2011 § Leave a comment

Cab Franc bending in the general direction of Anjou, I believe

 It has been a vigorous spring, and we’re having fun just trying to keep up with all the new growth (as well as laying new drain tiles, bottling our 2009 reds, amending the soil of a new vineyard (more Viognier!), establishing our community garden, experimenting with cover crops, retrofitting some trellising, and working our way through the blending trials of the 2010 reds). 

Cab Franc reaching for the second wire

 Rainfall has been high, meaning things grow quickly, and we get the potential for some heavy vegetative growth in the vineyards if we don’t make continuous efforts to regulate growth, spacing, and potential yield.  Through a few different pruning techniques (heavier pruning on Cab Franc and Cab Sauv; lighter pruning on Viognier; vine-to-vine decisions on much of our Petit Manseng and Albarino) we’ve seen vines in better balance and therefore requiring less passes on our part, and hopefully less hedging in the summer.

Video Focusing on Our 2010 Viognier

May 3, 2011 § Leave a comment

Virginia Wine Lover Magazine 2010 Viognier Video – This link will send you to a video I made (twice, due to technical difficulties) with Virginia Wine Lover Magazine, which focuses on our Viognier.

Now that the weather’s nice, I’ve been eating a lot of lighter, salad-based dinners, and with those dinners I’ve been trying a lot of Virginia Viognier. Recently I’ve really enjoyed Keswick Vineyards’ 2009 Viognier, Jefferson Vineyards’ 2009 Viognier, and Veritas Vineyards’ 2010 Viognier.

Shoot and inflorescence development

May 2, 2011 § Leave a comment

A Cabernet Franc shoot clearly concerned about the next rain

“Project Green Thumb”

May 2, 2011 § Leave a comment

Last year (2010), I had grand aspirations of planting a vegetable garden at the bottom portion of our vineyard #2, where a combination of water moving through the vineyard, as well as water created by our pond, made it much too wet to grow quality wine grapes.  We pulled out a half-acre of Petit Verdot, and I hated to see the land being used for nothing more than mowing, so I planted a short row of lettuce, cherry tomatoes, and collard greens.  Everything did wonderfully, and I ended up pleading with people to take home the vegetables, because, of course, I had so many and they all came at once.  Who knew nobody likes collard greens?

So this year we’re really going for it.  We’re planting a 30 ft x 60 ft, and a 10 ft by 70 ft, garden with more or less every vegetable you can name.  Peas, beans, lettuce, kale, onions, peanuts,  peppers, tomatoes, eggplants, kale, collards, broccoli, squash, cucumber, watermelon, cabbage, cantaloupe, et cetera, et cetera.  The entire produce aisle, right next to our third leaf Merlot.  The soil has been prepared, we’ve put in trellising for peas, beans, and tomatoes – the land is just pleading to be planted.

Pepper and tomato seedlings hardening off

 We’re inviting our employees and customers to help out in the garden, if they’d like (because certainly I’m not doing all the work).  I know a lot of our Estate Club members, and regulars, live closer to D.C. and don’t have much (or any) land where they can plant flowers or vegetables.  We’ve got plenty, and so we thought we’d share what we have, as well as the bounty (all the collards you can eat!) in exchange for a few hours of planting or weeding or watering here and there.  Plus, there’s always a glass of wine waiting at the end of the gardening day.

If you guys would like to be a part of this, our plan is to open the garden to volunteers on Tuesdays and Sundays, all day, whatever time works best.  We have a number of people lined up to help, but I am hopeful that we can get more, because the more people we get involved, the bigger we can grow the garden, which means more veggies!   If you think you would like to volunteer, or would like more information, feel free to contact me at

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