Trump Estate Winery, Albemarle House and Virginia Wine Chat

IMG_5589 Friday afternoon, one week before Christmas, a pot of stew simmering on the stove and a glass of crimson Cabernet Sauvignon smiling at me next to my laptop. The last thing I need to do is write a blog post. Still haven’t finished shopping or writing Christmas cards, but I can’t help reflecting back over another wonderful year living in the Virginia wine country. If you live here or visit Central Virginia,I encourage you to  pause long enough to appreciate the Blue Ridge mountains, the exquisite neon pink, fuchsia and purple sunsets, the rows of vineyards crossing slopes between country estates and the hospitality of our local wineries. So stop… carve out a little time… and enjoy…

Highlights that stand out over the seasons of 2015 were sensory experiences I will not forget. Thank you to Claude Thibaut, winemaker and friend, who graciously helped us showcase the elegance and entertaining value of our clients home  for sale in Northern Albemarle county. It was a sparkling day in January with crystal blue skies, ridges of mountains in the background and fireplaces warming us as Claude poured flutes of Thibaut-Janisson Extra Brut. The home was a house of celebrations and what better way to exemplify it then offering Thibaut-Janisson bubbly for our agents and guests to enjoy during the tour. And yes, the home sold and there is a new owner;  I hope they are toasting in the New Year with TJ Extra Brut!IMG_5515

The second highlight was a quite grand event- the official ribbon cutting at the Albemarle Estate, 98 pastoral acres and the 23,000 square foot, 45 room mansion.  Strategically purchased by Donald Trump at a fantastically low $6,700,000 price after having already secured the Kluge Estate Winery and portions of the vineyards surrounding the property. Thanks to good friend Mark Norman, President of World Wine Marketing and Kerry Woolard, General Manager of all operations at Trump Estate, I was invited and able to see the opulent interior and manicured Italianate gardens of Albemarle House!IMG_5517

In Trump style (pardon the cliché) guests as well as local dignitaries gathered in front of the manor, newscasters in place poised with microphones as the chop-chop-chop sounds of the highly recognizable  private helicopter landed yards away from our seats. Introductions followed including Eric Trump, Donald’s son who has taken leadership of Trump Estate Winery as President and Kerry Woolard, General Manager. Both have impressive credentials and since taking over the foreclosed property have placed the Trump name significantly on the map in Virginia wine country. 

**Another separate blog post devoted to Albemarle Estate will follow soon, extolling the details and beauty of the property, especially as a remarkable fairy tale wedding venue and luxury B & B.**IMG_5540IMG_5542

The third and final highlight for me was a return trip on December 10th to the fully operational Albemarle Estate for a Virginia Wine Chat event hosted and moderated by well known popular wine expert and blogger, Frank Morgan of Drink What You Like and Jonathan Wheeler, Winemaker for Trump Estate Winery. Jonathan has been with the estate since 2006 and it was interesting hearing his explanations and joining in the conversation as questions came from not only the small group of guests, but also participants via Twitter and Ustream using the hashtag #VAWineChat. Virginia Wine Chat is a virtual participation event for busy wine lovers to gather, share and learn in the comfort of their own home (or wherever they may be at the scheduled moment). Started in 2013 by Frank Morgan after realizing the interest and opportunity for social media oenophiles to meet virtually. Make plans to participate next month if you aren’t already involved.

MorganandWheeler
Frank Morgan and Jonathan Wheeler-photo courtesy of Mark Norman

Greeted by the Trump management and hospitality team, we were immediately offered our choice of two wines, a Viognier and a Sparkling Reserve. Bubbles trump every time for me-pun intended.

Appetizers were delicious with my favorite served, mini gluten-free crab cakes! Yummy with the crisp sparkling wine! Strolling through the elegantly appointed rooms accented with tasteful Christmas decorations, we made ourselves at home (oh my gosh!) and settled in to the Library, a combination room including leather tufted sofas, fireplace and billiard table and served by the adjacent bar. Hospitality abounded throughout the evening and we proceeded to the event itself. Note:pinching myself, could get really used to this!IMG_7268

The wines featured were a 2009 Blanc de Blanc, 2009 Sparkling Rose, 2014 Chardonnay  and the pre-release 2014 Meritage. All were very good, the Meritage was a little young and needed more time to develop ( they already know that) but well received. I think we had a consensus that the overall favorite, and by the way, we all asked for a second pour, was the 2009 Blanc de Blanc-effervescent and citrusy with a nice light yeasty influence. IMG_7272

If you haven’t finished shopping like me, check out the “Gift Shop” at Trump Winery for some last minute Christmas or New Years ideas. Hint to my husband, hope he reads the blog…

Cheers to the end of 2015, an excellent vintage in my opinion =)

IMG_7276

 

 

 

Holiday Fun at the Vineyards

unnamed-4
Thibaut Janisson My Favorite Gift

Food, Family, Celebrations, Shopping! It’s the holidays and the pressure is on to entertain, so why not make life easy? Here are some ideas of upcoming events at our local Virginia wineries. Beginning with Black Friday ( I prefer Green Friday if you’re hung up on the sales aspect of the season)  at Grace Estate Winery and enjoy the ambience and views in Western Albemarle from the new tasting room. From November 27th-29th and take advantage of the 20-30% discount on three different wines. unnamed

ENTERTAINMENT 

Tired of leftovers? Take your friends for a nice country drive on  Friday Nov 27th 6-9pm where the Beatles cover band Abbey Road Unplugged will be at Glass House Winery,  and Two Brothers food truck will be servin up their fantastic southwestern style eats, so come hungry, too.  You can still bring a picnic if you like, but the food truck is fantastic, just so you know. No cover, no outside alcohol, no reservations.Buy some delicious gourmet wine infused chocolates while you’re there!  Tastings served throughout (noon-5:30).

 BARREL TASTING

Head to Keswick Vineyards and spend some time getting up close and personal with Keswick Vineyards 2015 vintage with Winemaker Stephen Barnard as you get to experience a barrel tasting of this very promising vintage!

Taste exceptional wines including  Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Chardonnay and Viognier as they develop and mature in the barrel. There will be 8 sessions, Saturday, November 21st, Sunday, November 22nd, Saturday, November 28th, and Sunday, November 29th from 10-1pm and from 2-5pm each day. You will also have the opportunity to purchase “futures” of these wines at a discount during the barrel tastings!

SHOPPING and SANTA

On November 28th and 29th “Deck the Halls” at Early Mountain Vineyards To celebrate the holiday season,  from 11:00am to 5:00pm.  On Saturday, Two Wishes  (if you haven’t heard them you’ve really been missing out!), and on Sunday, The Olivarez Trio with our friend Jeff Cheers, will be providing holiday music throughout the event. Enjoy horse-drawn carriage rides, photos with Santa, cookie decorating and shopping for gifts from a wide variety of local artists and artisans .We went last year, it was lots of fun and ran into friends out with their visiting families. unnamed-3 

COCKTAILS and CANAPES at Pippin Hill Farm  

Celebrate the holiday season on December 9th 6-9 p.m.  with Pippin Hill’s Executive Chef Bill Scatena! Learn to entertain with small festive bites great for your next holiday party! Tickets will also include a cocktail demo that will explain how to mix flavors to create the perfect holiday drink!

Masked Ball for Shop1

MASKS and BUBBLES!

On New Years Eve Veritas will be hosting their annual Masked Ball, an elegant event featuring wine and hors d’oeuvres followed by a five-course winemaker’s dinner at 8 p.m. in Saddleback Hall. There will be dancing until midnight, when the masks come off and the champagne flows! Breakfast follows at 12:30 a.m. So bring your mask and your dancing shoes to have great food, wine, and fun to bring in the New Year 2016. Tickets are $175/person.

For any of these events, please plan ahead, call now for reservations at the links provided.

Cheers to You and your Families as we ring out 2015 and celebrate the New Year 2016, Clink!

Everyday is a Good day for Virginia Bubbly

Virginia_Sparkling_WineWhile the Champagne region of France claims the name, other countries including the United States of America are establishing their own reputation using traditional Chardonnay grapes as well as Pinot Noir to make sparkling wine. The average bottle of Champagne contains enough carbon dioxide to potentially produce 49 million bubbles, some say even more. Watching the bubbles shoot upward is quite mesmerizing,  recalling childhood memories of bubble lights on Christmas trees.  This has sparked a new tradition in our family of opening gifts with a chilled bottle of Champagne or a Brut Rosé from Soter in the Willamette Valley of Oregon (very welcome gift from my sister).

Soter_Brut_Rose_Willamette_Valley

Thibaut_Janisson_Cuvee d'Etat

Virginia has now placed itself on the sparkling wine map courtesy of Claude Thibaut and his Thibaut Janisson sparkling wines. Originally from Champagne, Claude has traversed the globe popping coks, perfecting his dosage and selecting only the best grapes and juice for his wines. He brought his expertise in the “methode champenoise” to  Kendall-Jackson, Jordan and Iron Horse wineries in California as well as Champagne Veuve Devaux, Bar sur seine, France and Yarra Bank, Victoria Australia, where his wines were voted “Best of the Best” in the 1995 Australia and New Zealand Wine Guide. He partners with Manuel Janisson of Janisson et Fils, a well know family of Champagne makers in Verzenay, France. Claude originally was enticed to Charlottesville by Patricia Kluge of Kluge Estate Winery and is  now owned and operated by Donald and Eric Trump. I am particularly fond of Claude’s latest T-J Extra Brut!

We were recently gifted with a bottle of Barboursville Cuvee 1814 Brut wine which was excellent. Side note: after pouring the wine there seemed to be very few bubbles and within a short period of time an explosion of bubbles occurred. The wine was well received by all! I look forward to serving it again.

Following traditional holidays like Christmas, New Year’s Eve and Valentine’s Day, Champagne drinking may hit a slump but any time is good for serving sparkling wine. It’s like the slogan, Orange Juice, It’s Not Just for Breakfast Anymore! Watch these three wineries (Trump definitely included) as well as other Virginia wineries for  future vintages!

2 Degrees of Separation in the Wine Industry

Bubbles at TastingsMarch 31st was a week set aside for family, friends and wine.

Bill Curtis & Gabrielle Rausse enjoying Thibaut Janisson at Tastings
Bill Curtis & Gabrielle Rausse enjoying Thibaut Janisson at Tastings

I had planned to show my semi ex-patriot sister (living part time between Provence and the U.K.) a bit of our world, more specifically, the New World Virginia wine country. Who says you have to have vines that are hundreds of years old to grow delicious grapes and produce great wines?

That week, we hit Tastings without her (she flew in a day too late), went to Veritas, rode horseback through the vineyards in the snow, bought wine at Feast and Tastings,  met with winemakers Claude Thibaut of Thibaut-Janisson,  Emily Pelton and Elliott Watkins of Veritas, lunched at Early Mountain Vineyards and experienced many fabulous wines.

Unfortunately, one of the  events she would have really enjoyed was the pairings of small courses at Tastings in the historic section of downtown Charlottesville.  Hosted by Bill Curtis  for the Wine Club of Charlottesville, the guests of honor that night were Claude Thibaut and his partner Manuel Janisson, both hailing from the Champagne region and most recently notable in the U.S. for their sparkling wine featured at the first state dinner  for  President Obama. The wines offered that night were sparklings from the Thibaut-Janisson partnership, Fizz, Blanc de Chardonnay Brut, and their latest release and limited production, TJ Xtra Brut, followed by three  Janisson et Fils champagnes: Francois de Rozay, Tradition, Grand Cru and the dessert finale, the Grand Cru Brut Rose. Claude  shared about the TJ Xtra Brut, 100% Chardonnay grapes aged 1/3 in oak as compared to 10% in their Blanc de Chardonnay. Only 100 cases were produced and we were privileged to get early access to this delightful slightly oaky, drier sparkling wine. Manuel discussed his method of Champagne making next and as each wine was poured, guest were given the opportunity to remark. The Janisson et Fils Champagnes were well received and fellow winemaker Gabrielle Rausse quietly sat at the next table enjoying the fare.

DSC03590

 

After a wonderful horseback tour of Veritas, we returned to meet Claude in his “Cave” where bottles were being labeled and crated for shipping to a surprise destination (I know but I can’t tell) super cool! The shape of Claude’s bottles are distinctive and we love the new Xtra Brut T-J bottle. It does make storage more difficult as the bottles don’t fit into a typical crate.

Terrie & Claude
Terrie & Claude
T-J in Action
T-J in Action

In the end, we really enjoyed the wines, new friendships, tour of  Veritas and good times in Virginia.  I packed a bottle of the Xtra Brut to open in Texas on the last day we spent with Terrie, symbolic of celebrating great times together! T-J Xtra Brut was recently described by Dave McIntyre of the Washington Post as ” A new can’t miss Virginia sparkler that most people will miss”.   I’m glad we didn’t miss it!

Travelling with TJ
Travelling with TJ

Random: So where are the two degrees of separation? This is my mathematical formula:  I know Claude,  Claude comes from the same town in France and knows Bruno Paillard, champagne maker and his daughter, Marie Caroline Bakke-Paillard (from Claude’s days in California wine making). My sister stays part time and interns with Marie Caroline’s husband, Evan Bakke, at their winery in Le Barroux, Clos de Trias, where they produce 100% biodynamic, organic wines. We had scheduled for her to visit Claude so she could see where he makes his sparkling wines using space at Veritas in Afton, Va. While visiting Veritas, we realized that my sister, Terrie, ( ala Francais, Tehrreee’) is in the same school that the assistant winemaker, Elliott Watkins attended in the U.K., Plumpton College. So, basically, I take Claude, Marie Caroline, Bruno, Evan, Elliott and Terrie (6), divide by  (3) countries US, UK and and France and get 2 degrees of separation. Very random: Oh well, at the least, there are two great winemakers creating wine in the methode-champenoise in Virginia, two sisters that love each other and wine, two winemakers in the same space  using two different methods of winemaking under two completely different labels.

 

Pairing Oysters and Virginia Wines, A Winning Combination

Great minds drink alike!

My husband and I recently had the pleasure of being invited to a mid-week patio dinner party. Hosted by Bill and Joyce Sykes, to christen their new stone patio and inspired by the quadrifecta (a term coined by Bill) of fabulous food, wine, friends and weather. We were accompanied by our camera buff and fellow oenophile friend, Paulette Musselman and joined by the Sykes’ award winning architect Fred Oesch, new friends Henry & Laverne Chandler and Two J’s Smokehouse’s, Joshua and Megan Ball.  The common denominator was a fondness for excellent wine, bubbly, and support of the Wildlife Center of Virginia…oh, yes…and dining al fresco!

The wine that received a startling reaction was  Chatham Vineyards Church Creek Chardonnay causing a simultaneous applause for best choice to kick off the evening. I’ve written about this wine before, having enjoyed it at least four different times at Early Mountain Vineyards. Apparently each of us had experienced this wine separately and unanimously found this Chardonnay to be the exception to most Chardonnays, having been fermented in steel tanks and  resulting in a slightly creamy but crisp refreshing wine. Described as below by Chatham Vineyards:

100% Dijon clone 95/96 Chardonnay fermented and aged in stainless steel. With delicate hints of pear and green melon, crisp acidity and mineral elements, this unoaked Chardonnay, at a sensible 12.5% alcohol, recalls Burgundy more than Napa. This is a pure expression of the varietal and Eastern Shore terroir.

Excellent with oysters, clams, and seafood pairings. (Agreed!!)

The highlight on the menu was the magnum of Janisson & Fils Champagne brought back from a recent trip to France by the Sykes. I believe we all were a little greedy about refills 🙂 We missed Claude Thibaut and wife Pamela Margaux at the party but savored the Thibaut-Janisson sparkling Cuvee’ d’ Etat Blanc de Blanc. Heavenly!

We’ve reached that “delicious” time of year in Virginia for pulling on a warm sweater, early leaf changes, football and fire pits. Why not grill some seafood and toast Autumn with a Virginia wine?

Sip & Shop-Mixing Pleasure with Pleasure

A fashion evening with a recipe for success in any ladies book!  Thursday evening  Early Mountain Vineyards introduced the winery to fashionistas from Northern Virginia all the way down to Central Virginia.  The attraction was an event called Sip and Shop featuring designs from Urban Chic,  Splendalla Personal Shopping services, complementary appetizers from Early Mountain and Thibault-Janisson Blanc de Chardonnay!  Scene stealer: the prosecco poured over wild hibiscus flowers served in champagne flutes, as beautiful as it was delicious!  Capitalizing on the interest of wedding planners, fashion consultants and fashion bloggers, I foresee potential bridal fashion shows here or perhaps even a guys’ night with tuxedos and cigars on the patio accompanied by a robust red or smokey port? Just my thoughts….

Besides the lovely apparel including denim from 7 For All Mankind, Citizens For Humanity and J Brand in addition to the dressier items (a taupe lace overlay dress that I reeeeally wanted) it was just fun shopping and reconnecting with friends. Bonus, meeting other lady bloggers.  I met Dana Holler of Cville Fashion for the second time in a week, (other encounter at Cville SheBlogs ) and her good friend, Jeannine of Small and Chic Home having a good time as well.

Fashion bloggers Dana and Jeannine

Eric Kelley was on site photographing for EMV’s soon to be launched new website. Love to see his photos! Thanks to Peter, Eric, Wendy, Michelle, Heather and Margaret for the attention to everyone’s comfort and enjoyment!

Along that vein, the remaining portion of this post is devoted to photography, the pictures speak for themselves…

Enjoying our Red, White and Blue Flight

Thibaut-Janisson The Spirit of Virginia

Thibaut_Janisson_Sparkling_WineTo most Virginia wine lovers, French ex-patriot, Claude Thibaut is well-known for his strides in placing Charlottesville on the map for sparkling wine.  After earning his winemaking degree from the University of Reims and following a 25 year career crossing the continents from Europe to Australia to California, he’s come almost full circle around the globe. Claude was recruited by the Kluge Estate Winery in 2003 as a consultant specifically for their sparkling wine endeavours.  Later,  in 2007, Claude entered into a business partnership with his friend, Manuel Janisson of  Janisson et Fils Champagne (from his early days in the Champagne region of France).

Janisson_et_FilsEmploying the “methode champenoise”- a double fermentation process that creates the bubbles found in Champagne and sparkling wines, Thibaut-Janisson is now producing sparkling wine served at White House State dinners. Claude has way surpassed his days at Kluge and is garnering rave views from Food and Wine Magazine, the Washington Post and quoting Dave McIntyre: “The T-J (a nice abbreviation given the implied reference to Thomas Jefferson and his love of wines) has become a darling of the Washington restaurant scene, because it is both local and top quality. ”

Bill Sykes, who has worked for the importer, Margaux and Company, joins Claude periodically to help during the bottling processes. Side note- Pamela Margaux, importer, also happens to  be Claude Thibaut’s wife! Bill invited me last week  to peek in on the disgorgement process at Veritas Winery where Claude leases space for his rapidly expanding  venture. Locally, Claude also teaches classes about making of sparkling wines at Piedmont Virginia Community College.  In order to really appreciate a bottle of champagne style wine in might be fun to take these classes and learn more about what and how long it takes to turn out a really good  “bubbly”. I wish I had taken the class prior to observing the assembly line of transferring the bottles after “riddling” and then “disgorging” but I received a very nice introduction to the process beginning with a glass of sparkling wine. The first step after rotating the bottles is removing the caps that are used in the first stages of fermentation. These caps look like generic beer bottle caps and not very romantic looking compared to the final wire twisted champagne cork one usually associates with sparkling wines.

Bill and Claude explained further the process of freezing the lees and then popping out the frozen yeasty mass in the neck of the bottle.                                                                                                                The bottle than moves on to dosage where a small amount of wine or liquor is added to offset the inherent dryness of the wine. At this point, the  dryness or sweetness is determined by the winemaker. The following table explains the adjectives you see on the label.

Level of Dryness
Amount of residual sugar per litre
Extra Brut
0.6%
Brut
1.5%
Extra Dry
1.2 –                       2.0%
Sec
1.7 –                       3.5%
Demi-Sec
3.3 5.0%
Doux
5% +

Bill_Sykes

After the dosage step, the bottle is handed off to be corked and wired. Bill is working at the helm of the corking machine above. Finally, the bottle is washed and shaken about 5 times and then is allowed to rest for about 2 months or so…and then we have, voila, sparkling wine!

Last weekend we were spoiled rotten at Bill and Joyce Sykes lovely home with a divine dinner and paired with Thibaut Janisson sparkling wine. What a treat!Cuvee_D'Etat_Dogwoods

At the top of T-J line is the Cuvée D’état Blanc De Blancs 2008, my personal favorite, extra brut and recently featured  at the Persian New Year Celebration at The Beard House in New York City!

Fizz is a smooth, low-acid pour that works well with food and is easy to sip. Unlike -ultra-carbonated Champagne, Fizz is an effervescent, Crémant-style wine with a slightly sweeter taste than a brut. With its contemporary label and at approximately $25 a bottle is a nice addition for Easter Brunch. I saw a recipe for an asparagus, fontina fritatta that would pair nicely. It also mixes well for Mimosas!

The bottle you’ll find most often served is the Blanc de Chardonnay,  made of 100% Chardonnay from the Monticello Appellation, has vibrant aromas of ripe apples and pear; the taste is balanced, crisp and refreshing.

Final tasting note: You can’t go wrong by complementing your dining experience with a TJ sparkling wine, don’t save it for special celebrations, enjoy the fruits of the Virginia terroir and share it with friends often. Clink!

Special thanks to Bill and Joce Sykes, Paulette Musselman and Claude Thibaut for a special evening.