A Winery Visit – Effingham Manor (VA)

I recently had the opportunity to visit a beautiful winery before it opened!  The opening of Effingham Manor Winery (14325 Trotters Ridge Place, Nokesville VA 20181) in Prince William County, Virginia had been delayed by a group of local residents but with the  ABC license expected at any moment (see NOTE below), I was invited by owner/vintner Chris Pearmund to stop by and take some photos of the beautiful property.

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The beautiful sign directs you onto their driveway.  From there, as you can see in the photo above, you’ll find the tasting room to the left, the manor house ahead, and the old slave quarters off to the right. There’s so much to take in as you walk around the property.   The history of the site and the connections to the area are long and storied… well worth taking the time to visit.  Ask about their connections to the founding of the city of Alexandria, Va or the cedar tree, growing on their property, that dates back to the days just after the Lewis and Clark expedition. There’s so much to see and learn, even without tasting any of their award-winning wines!

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The tasting room is large, beautiful, and well appointed. The patio is decorated with white lights and picnic tables to encourage visitors who choose to bring friends and spend the afternoon.  The tasting space is clean and open, allowing for guests to cluster by the fireplace or learn about the wines at the back bar with purchases available for immediate consumption.  As is stated on the back wall: “Wine is constant proof that God loves us and loves to see us happy.” ~Benjamin Franklin.

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On the other side of the manor house is a stunning view: the first cement pool in Virginia, now stocked with a dizzying array of koi.  Take your time visiting this spot as the colors of koi are gorgeous and the pond is set in such a serene location.

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Beside the Koi pond, you’ll see the plantation’s old slave quarters.  This building has some incredible pieces of history that will delight those who have a moment to learn about life in the 1700’s.  Even the floor mat by the front door is educational.

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Walking the grounds of Effingham Manor is both eye catching and breath taking in it’s beauty.  The flowers have been planted thoughtfully, the shrubs are left slightly wild-looking, and there are many places for photo opportunities to capture your time here.  This is a place that honors its’ heritage and encourages you to plan multiple visits… you can’t possibly learn it all at once.

My friend and fellow blogger, Julie Fanning, has written the fabulous details about “all things Effingham Manor on her own blog, so I have included that link.  Please take a moment to read her post… there’s so much more to learn about this incredible destination.

If you are looking for a winery just outside of DC to visit, I highly suggest taking the time to spend an afternoon (or two) at Effingham Manor.  I believe that you’ll be glad you did!

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NOTE:  At the beginning of this post, I mentioned that they were awaiting their ABC license approval?  I was at Pearmund Cellars when owner Chris Pearmund received his final copy of the license, allowing them to open for business as of Saturday, September 16, 2017.  Since much of Effingham’s wine had been stored at Pearmund Cellars, Chris asked if anyone wanted to make the first official purchase… pulling out a dollar, I became their first official customer!  To say I was thrilled is an understatement – I had a serious fan-girl moment when I was given the bottle of Effingham sparkling wine with signatures from both owner Chris Pearmund (left) and wine maker Ashton Lough(right in this photo).  What a fun experience!

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I got to help work a VWA event!

Yesterday, my friend Lynne and I were  privileged to attend a VWA (Virginia Wineries Association) Governor’s Cup Seminar at Chateau Morrisette in Floyd, VA.  This seminar is, from what I understand, organized as a way for wine industry people around the state to experience and learn about the wines that won high honors in the Governor’s Cup competition.  There are a number of these seminars that are organized by the VWA… what a fabulous experience for someone who loves wine as much as I do!

ChateauMorrisette VWA event

Chateau Morrisette was the host for this specific event on April 23, 2013.  Sally, the vivacious woman who runs their events and festivals, couldn’t have been more hospitable or gracious.  Since we had a few unforeseeable snafus, we could have all been on edge and anxious about the event, but having someone so capable and generous with the resources of her facility made things flow effortlessly.

Jay Youmans of The Capital Wine School  was the host and did an amazing job of explaining the background of the competition, the particulars of these events, and even stepping in to discuss his own findings on each wine if there was no one there to represent a specific winery or vineyard.  I had the pleasure of listening to him discuss the 2012 Governor’s Cup wines a few months ago and learning about this new case of stellar wines was again a treat.  He is the consummate professional but has a great sense of humor… if you ever have a chance to take a class from him at his wine school in Bethesda, I would highly recommend the experience.

The challenge for Lynne and me came when we found out that the Executive Director of the VWA wasn’t going to be able to make it to the event… she had a flat tire and couldn’t possibly make the four hour drive in time for the Seminar’s 1PM start. Once we knew that she was okay and got all the informational emails about setting up the event, we set off for Chateau Morrisette.  Thankfully, we were already in the area (with two cases of the Governor’s Cup wines), having taken the opportunity to drive out and visit another winery on our way, so we were able to head over to the winery early to start setting up.

These seminars are pretty amazing.  Each place setting has twelve wine glasses set, one for a taste of each of the twelve wines in the Governor’s Case.  Since the other glitch resulted in our needing to use the winery’s glasses, Lynne set about placing Chateau Morrisette’s glasses on each individual’s placemats (1-6, then 7-12) while I opened the wines that we brought with us.  The concerted effort of Sally (pulled into service to find the 348 needed glasses for the 24 registered attendees + her 5 staff members), Lynne (getting mats, glasses, water bottles, spit buckets, and napkins for each place setting), Jay (setting up all his AV equipment and quality-testing/smelling each wine to make sure nothing was corked or undrinkable), and myself (opening bottles and then pouring the individual tastes of wine with Jay’s help), we were able to help host a relaxed, enjoyable, and informative afternoon for all who attended.

I had a wonderful time at this VWA Governor’s Cup Seminar and am so glad I was able to attend.  If you ever have the opportunity to attend one of these events, please take the time to do so.  It is educational and fun – well worth the time to learn more about the amazing wines that part of each year’s Governor’s Cup Case of wines.  For more information on the Virginia Governor’s Cup Wine Competition, check out: Governor’s Cup 2013

Here are the wines we tasted, in order of offering:

2008 Trump Winery – Sparkling Rose

2009 Pollak Vineyards – Cabernet Franc Reserve

2009 Lovingston Winery – Josies Knoll Estate Reserve

2010 King Family Vineyards – Meritage

2010 RdV Vineyards – Rendezvous

2010 Philip Carter Winery – Cleve

2010 Rappahannock Cellars – Meritage

2010 Sunset Hills Vineyard – Mosaic

2010 Potomac Point – Richland Reserve Heritage

2010 Cooper Vineyards – Petit Verdot Reserve

2010 RdV Vineyards – Lost Mountain

2009 Barboursville Vineyard – Octagon 12th edition (Governor’s Cup Winner)

If you have a chance to visit one of these fine wineries or taste any of these tremendous wines, I would heartily suggest you do so… they’re outstanding!

Wine and Food pairing event

On November 10th, I participated in a wine and food pairing event at Sur La Table at the Stony Point/Richmond store… if you weren’t able to attend, for one reason or another, you really missed out on an amazing selection of food and wines.  There’s something so much fun about how the taste of a food changes when you add a specific wine… and this class did a wonderful job of showcasing that for all who attended.

My best friend, Lynne Just, is the resident chef at the Richmond Sur La Table and approached me about specifically pairing some of our James River Cellars for a cooking class.  It took some time to get everything organized, but I was really excited when the final menu came together.   Lynne came up with an appetizer, a salad, a hearty main dish, and a decadent dessert… and I got to help pair the wines we’d use.  I planned to attend the event, representing James River Cellars Winery, so I could explain our wines, but I also got to participate and do some of the cooking.  It was a BLAST!

The evening’s menu was as follows:  Blue Cheese Crostini with Applewood Bacon and Rad Red Wine-Reduction…. Roasted Beet Salad with Toasted Pecans, Goat Cheese and Merlot Vinaigrette… Au Poivre Ribeye with Merlot Sauce and Roasted Garlic Potatoes… Chocolate and Chambourcin Bread Pudding with a Caramel and Chambourcin sauce.  YUM!!

The wines that were used that evening were all from James River Cellars Winery.  We showcased Chardonel (a hybrid grape of Chardonnay and Seyval Blanc, created at Cornell in 1953) as we began cooking.  Our Rad Red (a dry blend of Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Petit Verdot) was used in the reduction for the crostini appetizer.  Merlot (which sports our Monitor vs. CSS Virginia Civil War label) was used in the vinaigrette for the salad as well as the sauce for the steaks.  In true chocolate-lovers’ fashion, our Chambourcin was used in both the bread pudding’s genache and flavored the caramel sauce that was poured over at the end.  It was an incredible meal that allowed everyone to enjoy both the wines AND the food.

We’re already making plans to repeat this sort of event in the spring, so keep an eye out for advertising about this class.  We’ll share the information on both the Sur La Table site (where you would sign up and pay for the class) as well as on the James River Cellars website, Facebook page, and twitter account.   A lighter menu is in the works… maybe a fish dish for the main event?  We’ll have to see what will work best, but one thing’s for sure… we’ll have a fabulous time!  Hope you can join us…

Helpful wine terms

I ran across a great listing of descriptive wine terms that I thought would be nice to pass along to those of you who follow my blog.  I’ve had a number of people who ask about how not to look like a neophyte when visiting a winery and I think this listing would be extremely helpful.  Please feel free to use this link, which will open in a separate tab (http://www.dummies.com/how-to/content/useful-terms-for-describing wine.html?cid=RSS_DUMMIES2_CONTENT) or allow me to share the information, piece by piece, with you.  The article was written by Ed McCarthy and Mary Ewing-Mulligan but I’m going to add my own commentary as we go.

There are many specific terms that people use to describe wine.  These words are helpful as they evoke tastes, smells, and memories that meant to give you an idea of what you have tasted or are about to taste.  Don’t be afraid to use these words… but don’t feel that you have to use these descriptors exclusively.  Knowing their meanings can help you understand when someone more” technically knowledgeable” describes a wine to you.  Knowing what you like and what appeals to you will help you choose a wine that you will most enjoy.
  • Aroma or bouquet:The smell of a wine — bouquet applies particularly to the aroma of older winesTake a moment to smell the wine.  Hold the glass just under your nose and inhale deeply for a moment.  Your wine guide (a term I like to describe the person walking you through your tasting at a winery) can give you some specific scents that should be prominent.  Many varietals have unique characteristics and you’ll begin to pick up on these with time.
  • Body:The apparent weight of a wine in your mouth (light, medium, or full)With your first sip, hold the wine in your mouth for a moment to discern it’s texture.  It sounds like a weird thing to do, but you don’t need a great deal of knowledge to tell if a wine seems thin, well-balanced, or heavy before you swallow.  It’s still a personal thing… a wine that feels thin or light to you can seem to have more depth to someone else.  Don’t stress over how a wine feels to you.  It’s not wrong, it’s personal.
  • Crisp:A wine with refreshing acidityIn my experience, this term typically refers to a white wine.   If I am looking for a wine that reminds me of a Granny Smith apple, this is the technical term I want to see used in its description.  It’s not going to smell like flowers… it’s not going to have a great deal of sweetness… This is the wine for someone who wants to taste the fruit but not the sweetness in their beverage.
  • Dry:Not sweetI really like this description of “dry” and “Residual Sugar” included in this article (http://www.drvino.com/2008/11/18/winespeak-the-opposite-of-sweet-is-dry/) and find that it’s helpful to note that a wine that’s considered “dry” can taste fairly sweet.  When you visit James River Cellars Winery (www.jamesrivercellars.com) for a wine tasting,  you’ll find that the first five white wines are all considered “dry” but they vary greatly in the impression of sweetness.   Find what amount of sweetness appeals best to you and you’ll be much happier with your wine purchases.
  • Finish:The impression a wine leaves as you swallow itAgain, linger a moment as you swallow a sip of wine to see if the end matches the beginning, in your opinion.  Ultimately, that’s where the most important deciding factor lies… with YOUR opinion.
  • Flavor intensity:How strong or weak a wine’s flavors areThere are times when you want a strong flavored wine to accompany food… and there are times when you want something that comes across a little softer.   The aroma and color of the wine can give you an indicator of how intense the flavor will be, but be sure to always taste the wine.  You might be surprised, especially when sipping wines made by an especially talented winemaker or vintner.
  • Fruity:A wine whose aromas and flavors suggest fruit; doesn’t imply sweetnessThis is a difficult term around which to wrap my head… I’d always thought “fruity” meant “sweet”.  When tasting your wine, search out flavors of specific fruits… green apple, pear, peach, grapefruit, cherry… these can be found in varying degrees in so many wines that it’s worth taking the time to search your memory bank as you sip, smell, and savor.
  • Oaky:A wine that has oak flavors (smoky, toasty)Smoky and toasty flavors in a wine can be a wonderful thing… but if you’re not a fan, it’s going to quickly turn you off from tasting.  James River Cellars offers two different Chardonnays… one fermented in oak and one fermented in stainless steel.  Tasting these two wines, back-to-back, can be one of the most effective ways to showcase how oak can affect this specific grape.
  • Soft:A wine that has a smooth rather than crisp mouthfeelSoft is a descriptor that is another very individualized one, especially when it comes to wine.  What might feel “soft” to me, could be something entirely different to you.
  • Tannic: A red wine that is firm and leaves the mouth feeling dry

    This is the term you’ll use when a red wine leaves you with a pucker feeling in the back of your throat and a dry feeling throughout your mouth.  If you like this residual feeling when drinking a red wine, you’ll want something with strong tannins… if you’re not a fan, you want something that is described as either soft or smooth.

Use these terms as “jumping off points” when it comes to discussing wine with others and use them with confidence.  No one is wrong when describing how a wine feels or tastes to you and no one can tell you how to feel with regards to a wine.  This is one of my favorite points about wine tasting.  The idea is for you to enjoy yourself when drinking wine…. and to drink more wine.

Cheers!

Tips for Visiting a Winery

So you’ve got some free time coming up and would like to visit a winery? That’s terrific! Wineries love having guests stop by for wine tasting. It’s a great way to get a feel for the winery, in general, and see if you like their wines. A discount wine merchant might have great prices on your favorite wine, but (in my humble opinion) there’s nothing like visiting that winery to give you a true appreciation of everything it has to offer.

I don’t know of any winery that will have all their wines available at a distributor… the idea is to get you to try a wine and enjoy it enough to want to come in for a wine tasting. It’s not any sort of “Bait and Switch”… it’s simply a way for wineries to expose their wines to the public. Wineries still have the wines you enjoyed through a distributor, but there are so many others that it allows you to hone in and find that wine that “sings” for you… makes you smile from first sniff to last drop.

When you make the decision to visit a winery, do a little research before you arrive if you’re able. Check out their Hours of Operation… check out their Tasting Cost… make sure you have driving directions to the winery programmed into your phone or GPS… and make sure you have their phone number in case you get lost. If you’re visiting a Virginia Winery, there are many helpful apps I’ve found, but none more helpful than Virginia Wine In My Pocket (I know… Shameless plug, but I use this app ALL the time!). It’s the best $3.99 you’ll ever spend on an iPhone or Droid app (again, IMHO). Look it up… if you don’t like it, feel free to leave a comment and tell me why.

The day of your winery visit, don’t wear perfume or cologne. This may seem like a silly comment, but the scent you wear could very well affect the way the wine tastes to you. It can also effect the way the wine tastes to others, so please consider refraining from splashing that cologne or spritzing that favorite scent. Remember, your favorite scent may change and if you’d linked it to a wine at your tasting, the taste of the wine could seem “off” the next time you partake…

Bring water and bread, especially if you’re planning to visit more than one winery that day. Water will help keep you cool and hydrated and the bread will help to soak up the alcohol that you’re drinking so you don’t feel quite so intoxicated, especially if you’re going from winery to winery. It’s not going to make you any less drunk, so don’t use this suggestion as your way to keep wine from affecting you.

BRING YOUR ID. It doesn’t matter how old you are; ABC (Alcoholic Beverage Controls) requires (in my own paraphrasing) that you have your ID with you if you are going to consume alcohol. Not all wineries will ask or require that you have your ID on your person, but come prepared. This law was driven home to me when I attended a company holiday party a few years ago at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts and was NOT allowed to drink because I’d neglected to bring my driver’s license. If a winery requires everyone show their ID, then it’s helpful if you come prepared.

Once you get to the winery, turn OFF your cell phone and pay attention to the person who is guiding your wine tasting. In most cases, you will be learning a great deal about the wines at each winery. Take advantage of this attention and ASK QUESTIONS about the wines. The only stupid question is the one you didn’t ask….

Take your time to taste each wine but be mindful of your surroundings. If you arrive at a winery in the middle of a rush and have a large group of people behind you, please be considerate of their time (as others were when you arrived) and pay attention during your wine tasting. Everyone wants to have time to savor each wine at a wine tasting and those pouring your wines want you to enjoy your visit as much as possible. If you’ve finished your wine tasting, but haven’t decided what you want to purchase or drink, be considerate and take a step back so that others can take your place at the bar and enjoy their own wine tasting experience. It’s The Golden Rule.. do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

Do tell others about your experience at wineries. Word of mouth is so important to small businesses and if you’ve had a great experience at a winery, let everyone know about it! Facebook, Twitter, Yelp, and (yes, again) Virginia Wine in my Pocket are terrific avenues for sharing your experience. Additionally, if you didn’t enjoy your tasting at a winery, consider sending them a private message and let them know how they can do a better job at reaching their customers. Whether good or bad, YOUR opinion matters in this industry and you should always feel that you have an avenue for voicing concerns and raising issues if a visit doesn’t go as you expected. Maybe the winery was overwhelmed by visitors and events that day… maybe the volunteer doing your tasting wasn’t yet comfortable with the volume of wines they were describing… maybe it was pouring outside and stuffy in the tasting room, or too crowded, or too cold. Whatever the case, share your opinions. It might change how things are done or handled in the future.

ENJOY YOURSELF! Ultimately, you’re at the winery because you want to try the wines they offer. Have a good time, chat with the people who are pouring your wines, and relax. It’s not rocket science… it’s WINE!

A little about me…

I’ve been contemplating a wine blog for awhile now… working at a winery can do that for a person… so I might as well jump into the pool and start sharing the recipes and information that I’ve gained over the past few years. To prelude this, I should share my story, in case it might seem a bit familiar to some.

I started going on wine tastings and tours in 2010, when my best friend gave me a tasting/tour/lunch for my birthday. It was one of the most fun things we could have done at that time and I was hooked. Hearing about the grapes, seeing how and where they were made into wine, and then actually sipping wines that tasted good to me gave me insight into something I hadn’t realized I was missing. This was an activity that I could enjoy doing any time…. I didn’t have to wait for a season to start or for a game to begin or for another person’s schedule to open up. I could learn and enjoy wine anytime I wanted… what a concept.

Since then, I have visited many, many wineries both in Virginia and in other states. I began spending more time at a local winery (James River Cellars winery) and subsequently was hired to work there. I’ve included a link to my favorite local winery on this blog so please feel free to check it out if you have a moment. I have branched out from my normal cooking and have begun adding wine into all sorts of recipes (which is primarily why this blog began). I have attended a few festivals and had the opportunity to continue learning more about wine.

I plan to post recipes and helpful hints here…. maybe something will click for you and let you expand your own thoughts about wine.

It’s been a fun year… from the bottom of a wine bottle. Join me, won’t you?