Saturday, November 13, 2010

Talking Virginia Wine with the Washington Post's Dave McIntyre

Dave McIntyre is one of the most interesting wine voices in wine today. What makes him so attractive to Washington Post readers, is that Dave can talk about French Bordeaux and Claifornia Cabernet Sauvignon with the best of them, but he also loves local wines, and has consistently fed his reader's desires to know more about the local wines of the region, especially Maryland (his home state) and Virginia. That makes his unique among most national newspaper wine writers.

Many wine critics and writers tend to specialize, or at least lean toward the more high stakes games (the big houses in the big regions). But Dave, while he knows, undertsands, and appreciates those, is also fascinated by local wines.
Of course, not everyone wants to hear about east coast wineries (can you say losers?). After a recent jag on Maryland and Virginia wineries, Dave confided on his blog, "My October series about Virginia and Maryland wines received praise from several readers, but also some complaints. One reader accused me of "pandering" to local winemakers and urged me to stick to writing about French wines, which he said provide better value at about 30% less in price. "Why buy inferior wines because they are local?" this reader asked. Of course, I never suggested anyone should buy an inferior wine simply because it is local. I merely said we should no longer assume a wine is inferior simply because it is local."

But the following is why I like Dave McIntyre, which comes from a Washington Post article:

"Why am I jazzed about local wines? Because the best of them are thrilling. Be it a petit verdot from Virginia, a blanc de bois from Texas, a Colorado Gewurztraminer, a Missouri Norton or a pinot blanc from Michigan's Old Mission Peninsula, the best wine is expressive of the place and year it is grown and the ever-improving craft of the winemaker. That's true of no other beverage."

"If you're not willing to splurge - and miss - once in a while, you can sit out this revolution. You'll do just fine drinking French wine, and I will be right there with you most of the time. But I will still be trying to persuade you to try something new."

Consider this post a nod in the positive column for featuring some local wines,
Dave. Bravo!!!

Dave and Lilly are two of the nicest people you will ever meet. They are kind, gracious, and very friendly. Dave is a freelance wine and food writer, and he is also the wine writer for the Washington Post. He also has a wine website called Dave McIntyre's WineLine, you can click through here:

Dave's writing is insightful and fun. Always informative, but never didactic or snobbish, Dave is a joy to read. I had the incredible opportunity to have dinner with Dave, and his lovely wife Lilly, and their adorable daughter, when I was coming back from Virginia. The theme of the dinner was Virginia wine. Unfortunately, I was late to dinner, because I had no idea about I-495 traffic in the region, especially around commute time, which I raced into the teeth of, apparently. It took me almost an hour to get through 11 miles of road. It was excruciating. I was an hour late for dinner. Dave was amused. Later, they both admitted, they never, ever take that road. Ugh! Boy did I need a drink.

I had a trunk full of Virginia wines, but Dave said no, he'd pull up a few from his cellar. And boy was I glad he did.

The first thing Dave poured me was a Veritas Sauvignon Blanc 2009.

Veritas Winery, based in Afton, Virginia, is a family business owned by Andrew and Patricia Hodson, which they opened in June 2002. With the help of their daughter Emily, the winemaker, they have succeeded in consistently producing a range of complex and elegant wines. The winery is located just off I-64 at the foot of the Blue Ridge Mountains.
Emily Pelton

Veritas makes high quality wines. They use almost exclusively vitis vinifera vines with the exception of one French hybrid. Their philosophy is to make wine with the classic, old-style principles of Viticulture and Vinification, at the same time using state of the art technology to capture varietal and regional character. Wine-making is the domain of Andrew and daughter Emily, who are committed to capturing the varietal character of the grapes.

It was amazing! It was bright, crisp, and clean, with a light whiff of melon, some floral notes, and a hint of tangerine. I am not usually a white wine drinker, but this was amazing. I had the wine with two local cheeses Dave and Lilly had served with the wine. A semi-soft rind cheese, and a goat cheese with a hint of ash. I would have drank the whole bottle, except for the fact that we had to move nto the actual meal, which would require different wines.

Together Dave and Lilly had made a smashing dinner. Thick cut pork chops, pan fried to perfection along with beautifully chopped squares of butter nut squash and broiled and seasoned cauliflower. Incredible!

The next wine was a Chester Gap Merlot 2008. A spicy Merlot with lots of lucious raspberry. I nice long lasting finish with lots of fruit, nice acidity, and good mouthfeel. Chester Gap Cellars are at the northern tip of beautiful Rappahannock County, enjoying not only stunning views from the Cellar’s open-air tasting patio but truly great, hand-crafted wines. At over 1,000 feet elevation but conveniently located just off of Route 522, near Front Royal and I-66, the Cellars is a unique winery. Owned by Bernd Jung, the have estate-grown Viognier, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, and other innovative blends. High elevation, an eastern exposure, well-drained rocky soils, nearly frost-free conditions, and cooler summer days and nights all add up to grapes that can ”hang” in the vineyard until optimal ripeness is achieved. Chest Gap Cellars is doing something right.

Next we sampled a Michael Shaps Petit Verdot 2008 Petit Verdot is fast becoming one of Virginia’s rising stars. It seems well suited for the Virginia climate and soil. This was a very dark, aromatic red. And apparently of very small production.There's some floral notes on the nose of this wine, and a hint of vanilla which one assumes comes form the French Oak this wine spent eighteen months in. Michael Shaps makes some excellent wines, and this is one of his best.

Next was the Glenn Manor Hodder Hill 2007 is a blend of 63% Cabernet Sauvignon, 15% Merlot, 15% Petit Verdot and 7 % Cabernet Franc. This was a fascinating wine, filled with dark blackberries, cassis and cedar. A touch of saddle? This was a full-bodied, concentrated, complex deep red, with great acidity, nice tannins. A tremendous wine. Glen Mannor Hodder HIll is located in on the west slope of the Blue Ridge Mountains, around 1,100 feet above sea level. This planting consists of 4.3 acres of 4 to 12 year old vines growing in deep and well drained soils. This is made by winemaker Jeff White. Fabulous!

Anna Rae married Alpheus Lee White and the portion of her parent's farm in Front Royal that Anna Rae inherited is where the vineyards and winery are now established. The Whites have three sons and together own the winery business. It is managed and operated by their youngest son, Jeffrey Raymond White, who developed an interest in and an appreciation for fine wines while working for a nearby Virginia winery. He established our original vineyards in 1995 and envisioned what is today Glen Manor Vineyards. This was a tremendous wine, and just really, really impressive.
Dave talked about Virginia wines, and how the industry there had really exploded, and how the wines had absolutely grown in quality with the region. There are more than 180 of the wineries, but his knowledge of each of them was surprising. And his respect for many of them was impressive.
The evening wore on, and it was a school night. I had kept their 10-year old daughter up, who dined with us. She was incredibly cute, and not impresed at all by our wine talk. Her attitude and funny tid bits about wine reminded me of my sons, who are "so over" wine. I could have spent hours with Dave and Lilly talking about Virginia wines, but, unfortunately it was time to go.

BTW, the dinner proved another point, that Dave's reader had been corrected yet again. The wines tasted absolutely fantastic. Local wine won out this time.