Friday, February 27, 2009

a little more wine for now

Following our trip to Barboursville and little time warp in Grand Junction, we continued on to Keswick Vineyards. Unfortunately, I can't recommend Keswick. Their wines weren't necessarily bad so much as underwhelming. A couple of red flags popped up during the tasting, too.

First was the limited number of wines. It's not necessarily bad to focus a wineries output, but since every other winery in the state does Cab Franc and Viognier and half of them do a faux ice wine with Vidal Blanc, I'd hope a winery pushing bottles at prices between $20 and $40 would try to do them a little better or with some distinguishing features. Keswick did not. Red flag number two came when I saw that they were decanting their top pour — a meritage-style — into carafes before pouring. The explanation that the wine was young and we needed the full experience of it suggested they weren't ready to sell it. The final red flag came when the pourer pulled out a bottle of "gourmet" chocolate sauce and Nilla wafers. The chocolate sauce was made with the same wine as the blend (another red flag) and they were very proud of its quality. Word to the wise: it's chocolate sauce. Nothing special. Just chocolate sauce. And any time a winery needs a specialty food item served with Nilla wafers, it suggests their wines may not be up to speed yet.

To wit, this throws Keswick into another category of Virginia Wineries. In this category fall the wineries that sell themselves on the beauty of their location and produce serviceable-but-undistinguished wines. No bottles were purchased here.

After this stop, we decided to sandwich one more C'ville area winery in before heading back to Richmond. The debate was between Kluge and Jefferson. We opted for Jefferson for proximity and decided to save Kluge for another time. The decision proved to be a good one.

Jefferson Vineyards has been around since 1981, but word on the street was that their quality had fallen off in recent years. Our pourer (anyone who has a better term for this please let me know in the comments) was knowledgeable and attentive. She talked about food and what she used the wine for in cooking and pairings. And the wine? Overall, very good. There was a sweet white — oh-so-popular with the habitu├ęs of wine tours around these regions — that we didn't care for, but overall the varietals were quite good. We went back to a couple and settled on a bottle of Petit Verdot.

For our last stop of the day, we chose Grayhaven. With its backwoods location, in Louisa County, it's off the beaten path and is a little different experience than the rest. They're proud of their wines and do a good job of making visitors feel at home — including being willing to stay open an extra hour and a half for conversation and tasting. As for the quality of the wine, I'd call it mixed. There are a couple of sweeter blends that are their nod to the tastes every Virginia winery seems required to support. They had a Cab Franc that moved more to the character of a Claret rather than a traditional Cab Franc. I thought it was drinkable while L found it barely palatable. Their Touriga and Chambourcin, however, were quite good and worth buying.

As Virginia wineries go, they represent the smaller, family-run operations that dot the state producing occasionally stunning, sometimes mediocre, and periodically bad wines. As far as such wineries go, however, I'd put Grayhaven near the top.