Saturday, April 16, 2011

The Winery a La Grange Cabernet Franc 2008 - An East Coast Parker Fruit Bomb - Tremendous!

I recently bought a bottle of La Grange Cabernet Franc 2008 while I was last down in Virginia.

Very rich in history and very rich in wine, the new Winery at La Grange opened September 2006 as Prince William County's only established winery. The red brick three and a half story La Grange manor house built in the 1790s has survived numerous owners and finally has come to rest with an unique group of investors brought together by Chris Pearmund. While the 5,500 Cabernet Sauvignon vines grow silently, the manor house is completely refurbished, new Winery building is ready and wine is aging.

The Winery at La Grange's current inventory of 5,500 cases of wine include: Pinot Gris, Chardonnay, Viognier, Rosé of Merlot, Cuvee Blanc, Norton, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Meritage, Tannat, Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon and a Port styled wine called Snort.

Chris Pearmund is the Winemaker and Managing Partner. Chris Pearmund has been in the wine industry of Virginia for over 23 years. He began his career in the restaurant industry as chef for several restaurants in California, England, and ultimately in the northern Virginia area. He has opened eleven (11) wineries over this period and has helped establish numerous vineyards across the mid-Atlantic states.

Chris graduated to wine steward and manager for several northern Virginia area restaurants and, in 1985, became manager and buyer for a small gourmet wine shop called the Black Walnut in Middleburg, VA. In 1990, Chris began working at a 5,000 case production winery, and was winemaker from 1991 through 1996. During those years, he helped start and manage the first winery mobile bottle line on the East Coast and worked for over 40 wineries in 10 states assembling, final filtering, and bottling wine.

From 1996 to 1998, Chris was a wine buyer and store manager for Total Beverage, a 25,000 square foot wine specialty store. He was also in charge of the wine training classes for all of its stores. This extensive experience provided Chris with a solid foundation for his role as a consultant for The Country Vintner, a fine wine distributor, until 2003. He has consulted with many wineries and vineyards and is currently Managing Partner at both Pearmund Cellars and the Winery at La Grange.

Chris was elected President of the Virginia Vineyards Association in 1996, a post he held until 2000, and he is a former (and the first) chairman of the Virginia Wine and Food Society and former board member of the Virginia Wineries Association. Chris regularly speaks at wine and vineyard seminars and conferences and has published The Grape Press, a quarterly professional vineyard trade publication, for 5 years.

Chris is a nationally certified wine judge by the American Wine Society, has taught the Higher Certificate Education course for the Wine & Spirit Education Trust, Masters of Wine program in London, and has organized and taught courses for both amateurs and professionals in wine appreciation.

OK, so when I read about the wine before we opened it, we knew Chris had cut his teeth in the competitive world of wine in a number of ways. He obviously knows the wine business. Now the tick was to see if he knew how to make wine.

A group of us opened the bottle. The wine a deep, deep maroon red, with a nice hue on the edges. The inside of the glass smelled like stewed red berries. It was dark and deep with whiffs of dark raspberry and plum and blackberry. There was also a hint of cocoa or mocha. On the palate it was all dark fruit, big dark fruit, almost like a California wine. I was shocked by the lushness that was confrotning me. I haven;t had a Cabernet Franc this full bodied before. The fruit was intoxicating. Compounding the big fruit up front, was a relatively low acid, low tannin wine. An eact coast Parker Fruit Bomb. It was especially shocking since it was a Cabernet Franc.

This is not a pot shot. It's the closest thing I've ever tasted of a wine that was made on the east coast, from east coast fruit, that tasted like a Parkerized wine. It was fascinating as it was delicious! One of the tasters said, "I could drink the whole bottle myself, right now." And I have to say, I was right there with him. It was 13.5% alcohol, so it didn;t have the high alcohol of some California wines.

This was such a shocking taste, that I had to wait 24 hours before posting just so I could really think about how I felt about this. This amused the hell out of me. I've really been embracing Pinot Noir, Gamay Noir, and a number of Burgundy- and Rhone-ish-styled wines lately, enjoying the high acidity and lighter styles, and then this mac truck of a wine comes rumbling through -and I simply fell in love with it. It was like saying you were tired of reading about Jennifer Anniston, and then she walks into the room, and you drool all over her (I wish).

This is an achievement. I can't lie. This is a wonderful, wonderful wine, and a real shock - a pleasant one.