Friday, November 19, 2010

Linden Claret 2008 and Pollack Merlot 2008

So, while I was down in Virginia, one night I had to dine alone. Ah well, it's one of the hardships of traveling for business by yourself. While I was in Charlotte, I went to the old historical district, wherein they have a lovely downtown, outdoor mall, complete with cobblestones, etc. In the mall there are many nice restaurants, but I was only there for one - Siips Wine and Champagne Bar.

The bar was lovely inside, but more importantly, you could order a wide number of wines by the glass, in both 3oz and 6oz pours. And they had some Virginia wines on the list! I had some exquisite bruschetta, a plate of escargot, and a main course of braised porkchops.

As it turned out I had a number of wines from which to choose, which was fun. But in the end, I chose the final two wines I tasted based on the winemakers themselves - Jim Law and David Pollack. Law is known as a fastidious winemaker and a touch of a curmudgeon. Pollack is an experienced California winemaker, who with his wife, chose Virginia as his newest project.


Linden Vineyards is located in Northern Virginia, in Warren County, in the town of Linden.
The winery sits on a high mountain ridge surrounded by vineyards. They grow grapes at four different sites on the Blue Ridge. They are located on the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia only one hour from Washington D.C., but it seems like a million miles. They specialize in small lots of single vineyard Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc and red Bordeaux blends. Jim Law, winemaker and owner says, "We are respectful of the unique character and personality of each of our vineyard sites. " Law is a fastidious winemaker who keeps and publishes copious notes, and one also gets the hint he might be a bit of a wine-wise curmudgeon. Regardless, his attention to detail results in some incredible wines.
The Linden Claret 2008 is a blend of 38% Merlot, 31% Cabernet Sauvignon, 19% Cabernet Franc, and 12% Petit Verdot. 80% of the grapes come from Hardscrabble Vineyard in Farquier County, 10% from Avenius Vineyard in Warren County, and 10% from Boisseau Vineyard in Warren County. The wine was aged in older French, American, and Hungarian oak. They made 522 cases.
The wine was an elegant, medium-bodied Bordeaux blend. It had lots of big red flavors up front like cherry, cassis, with hints of mocha and espresso. The wine has great acidity, deep fruit, nice tannins, and is extremely well balanced, and smooth. It was an excellent accompaniment to the meal.

The next wine I had was a Pollack Vineyards Merlot 2008. Unlike Linden, Pollack is relatively new. Pollak Vineyards is a small family-owned winery founded in 2003 with the purchase of a 98-acre farm just west of Charlottesville, Virginia. Today they have 26 acres of French vinifera planted with the intent of making estate grown wine that has the finesse and balance of the traditional French varietals. Margo and David Pollack opened their doors to the public in 2008. Their wines have been an immediate success with critics and consumers.

David is the winemaker. For David, this venture drew upon his experience in the late 1970s with vineyards along the Russian River in Sonoma and then his establishment of one of the first wineries in the now famous Carneros region of the Napa Valley. In Virginia, the Pollaks saw the potential to create great wines from well-sited and meticulously maintained vineyards. They sought the experience of other vintners and growers to seek an ideal site and then applied the best agricultural and winemaking practices.

The 2008 Merlot comes from the original 10 acre block and the Smuggler vineyard. The grapes were harvested mid-September 2008, and were cold soaked before fermentation in micro lots and subjected to extended maceration, which results in the deep color and extraction of flavor and tannins. Cooperage was 45% new French oak and 55% used to neutral for 14 months.
This medium-bodied, garnet colored wine delivers dark cherry and chocolate that come through as promised. But there are also hints of dark raspberries and a touch of dark plums, and a whiff of vanilla and some spices on the pallet. Great acidity. Nice tannins. A well balanced and fabulous wine.
These were two gorgeous wines, with great fruit up front and beautiful finishes. Incredible reds.