Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Rappahannock Cellars Continues to Excel

So there I was when I saw a Virginia label I was not familiar with. With a large “R” one side, I tried to figure out what it was. The closer I got, the more I realized it said Rappahannock Vineyards. Now I have known about Rappahannock for a long, long time. I have been a fan since 2003 or 2004. I had not seen the newest label change…is that possible? I had reviewed one of their wines as recently as November, 2011, albeit, an older vintage….and a spectacular one at that. I covered their fifth anniversary and their tenth anniversary. Hmmmmmm….time flies.

“It’s humbling for me to look back over the past 20 years of our family’s wine experience and see the fruits of our labor. Our Virginia winery began producing wine over 10 years ago, where we have strived to create not just good wine, but fantastic wine. Our style is largely “old world” (Virginia fruit style is very similar to Bordeaux,) and we believe great wines are made in the vineyard. Vintage-to-Vintage variation is a struggle in Virginia, but it also tends to define the personality of Virginia wine. We in Virginia believe that this variation, coupled with the challenges of grape growing in the mid-Atlantic, forces us to be some of the best viticulturalists and wine makers in the world. We have no choice but to be the best…and we believe we are. Rappahannock Cellars has arguably one of the best, if not the best, wine making teams in Virginia; please see our team member bio’s and learn more about our unique background for more information,” wrote owner John Delmare on his website about his family run business.

There are two important non-family members….the winemaker and the vineyard manager. Jason Burrus is the winemaker. He studied Physical Chemistry at UC Davis and graduated with MS Food Science / Viticulture & Enology at Univ. of California, Davis 2001. He originally hails from St Louis, Missouri. Jason’s career includes 6 years in California where he pursued an MS degree and worked at several wineries in the Napa Valley, Sonoma Mountains, and Central Valley. He followed that with three years in Europe where he made wine in the Mediterranean island of Malta and consulted in the Eastern European country of Moldova. Jason and his wife moved to Virginia in 2006 and he is excited to be part of an up-and-coming region.

Tom Kelly is the Vineyard Manager. Originally from Cleveland, OH, Tom has 20 years in the Eastern wine industry. Tom began his wine career in the late 80’s at a winery in Eastern Pennsylvania as a field laborer. Soon he was supervising labor crews and operating tractors and other vineyard machinery. He later moved to Virginia where he continued his development into vineyard management and cellar operations. From 1993- 1997, he served as Vineyard Manager and Cellar Master at the (now closed) Totier Creek Winery in Charlottesville. He began with Rappahannock Cellars in March of 2004 as Vineyard Manager where he continues to hone his skills and improve grape quality for RC’s award winning wines.

“Grape growing in Virginia is a challenging and ever changing process,” says Tom. “Just when you think you’ve got it figured out, Mother Nature throws you a curveball and you find yourself having to re-adapt, yet again!”

While the whole family pitches in, these two guys are big drivers in Rappahannock’s drive to create great wine. And the wines, which I have liked over the years, have definitely gotten better and better. Rappahanock is one of those wineries that have improved over the years. There’s a lot of times that doesn’t happen in this industry. But the wines have continued to show more and more quality over the years.

Two I recently tasted were….

Viognier 2011 – This was a lovely wine with a big floral nose. A light, aromatic white wine with honeysuckle, tropical fruits, and a hint of oranges and lemons. A big, white wine, with lots of flavor, low acids, and a soft finish. 100% Viognier. 580 cases made.

Cabernet Franc Reserve 2010 This is a big red wine, California style with a whopping 15.4% alcohol, and big fruit up front. Super concentrated, with raspberry, cherry, and a hint of cassis, mixed with spice and a big pop of vanilla. This was a big wine, with lots of fruit, soft acid, and soft tannins. Made primarily from their estate Glenway Vineyard Cabernet Franc. 100% Cabernet Franc. 360 cases made.

Fantastic stuff! With older wines that improve with age, and new wines that continue to push the envelope, Rappahannock continues to excel!

Read my review of their 2000 Viognier at: