Tuesday, June 14, 2011

CWTA in Virginia - Clifton Wine Shop and Tasting Room and Paradise Springs Winery

As the name indicates (California Wine Tasting Adventures), this wine web site/blog was started as a means to share my travels through the California wine countries.

My desire is to share my exploration of California wine regions from as far north as Mendocino to as far south as Temecula and Escondido near San Diego. Thus far, I have been wine tasting the most well known regions of Napa and Sonoma but also in eastern slopes of the Sierra Foothills and Amador County as well as down the western coast through Santa Cruz, Monterey, Paso Robles, and Santa Barbara.

Although I also plan to venture far north in the future to do some wine country travels in Oregon and Washington, the purpose has always been to focus on my home state of California.

But recently I had the opportunity to the Eastern Coast to travel the countryside of Virginia. While there I had the opportunity to stop in at a couple wineries and visit a tasting room in the quaint town of Clifton in Southwest Fairfax County, Virginia. The historic buildings, quaint shops, narrow streets, and active railroad track running through the center of town, all add to the ambiance of the town.

The countryside and architecture of the area is absolutely beautiful, very colonial with sprawling lawns, dense forests and narrow winding roads. My stay there would have been absolutely spectacular if it wasn’t for one thing – the weather! It was 100 degrees with 93% humidity when I landed while back home in the San Francisco Bay area with a comfortable 75 degrees with relative humidity.

According to the official Virginia Wine Country web site (http://www.virginiawine.org/) the two varietals that are making a name for themselves in this region are Viognier and Cabernet Franc, so I made it a point to pay special attention to these when available.

Paradise Springs Winery -  Clifton, Virginia

Currently, the only winery in Clifton is Paradise Springs Winery – the closest winery to Washington D.C. and the gateway to Virginia’s wine country.

Seated on 36 acres bordering Hemlock Regional Park, originally the property was part of a one-thousand acre land grant from Lord Fairfax in 1716 to the current owner’s direct ancestors and has been passed down through the generations since and several hundred acres still remain in the family today. 

The original log cabin on the property that once served as the tasting room is estimated to have been built between 1800 and 1825 as there is no record of the exact date. In 1955 the property undertook a major renovation led by Howard Richter, a protégé of the great Frank Lloyd Wright. In 1956 a red barn that sat just off Main Street in downtown Fairfax, was relocated to the property.

More than 20 years ago, Jane and her Aunt, the late Esther Kincheloe Podolnick, envisioned turning the property into a winery. Then in 2007 with the recent renaissance of the Virginia wine industry, the dream was turned into reality as Jane’s eldest son, Kirk Wiles, along with acclaimed winegrower and vintner, Chris Pearmund, founded Paradise Springs Winery as a family business and their first vintage was released that fall, a Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon. 

In April 2008, the first vineyard was planted on the west end of the property and since then the estate Cabernet Franc has since seen exceptional growth due to the rich fertile soils within the Occoquan Watershed.

After exploring the grounds, snapping shots of the buildings, the vineyard and the deer in the field I ventured into the nice, cool tasting room to escape the heat and humidity as well as taste their impressive list of wines.

I tasted three white wines, a rosé and two reds. Unfortunately their 2009 Viognier was sold out and their 2010 Viognier was not yet available.

The first white wine was the 2009 Sommet Blanc. This is a very unique proprietary blend (38% Vidal Blanc, 21% Traminette, 17% Viognier, 14% Chardonnay , 10% Reisling) as I had never heard of, let alone tasted, a Traminette. It is a cross of the French American Hybrid Joannes Seyve 23.416 and the German Vitis viniferia cultivar Gewürztraminer made by Herb C. Barrett (1965) at the University of Illinois, Urbana/Champaign.

Reflecting the Viognier and Reisling influence, this well balanced wine has on the nose floral and tropical aromas with pineapple, green melon rind notes. This wine is off-dry white on the palate, crisp with pleasing acidity and a prolonged clean finish. This wine sells for $24.49.

My second white wine was the 2009 Petit Manseng. This is a rare grape that originates from the Southwestern portions of France, in southern Aquitaine near the Pyrenees, and to a lesser extent, the island of Corsica. It is also known throughout Europe as Escriberou and Ichiriota Zuria Tipia in Spain. This was the first time I had tried this varietal so I wasn’t sure what to expect. This medium bodied wine is bone dry with a light touch of honey, fruity, citrus nose followed by a hint of cinnamon, white flowers, and peaches. This wine sells for $25.

My third wine was the 2010 Chardonnay which is aged in 1st and 2nd year French oak for 9 months Sur Lie. This wine is a great balance middle of the road for both those who like the crisp stainless steel Chards and the more oak influenced Chards. It is a fruit forward full-bodied, wine with layers canned pears and crisp green apples followed by a long, silky finish of butter and toasted marshmallow.  I have no doubt that wine could easily be mistaken for California Chardonnay. This wine sells for $29.

My next wine was the 2010 Nana’s Rosé. A light peach in color, I found this wine to be a little odd. It has notes of sandalwood and leather which I didn’t care for they seemed to dominate the fruit characteristics of the wine. But once I got past that, there was notes of strawberry and dried cherries on the nose and palate. I suppose many others might prefer this wine, but it wasn’t my style of rosé. This wine sells for $23.

My first red was the 2009 Cabernet Franc Estate. Fresh red stone fruit, red plum, slight wood smoke, a hint of green pepper, black pepper, with vanilla in the finish. This wine sells for $25.

My second red and final wine was the 2009 Meritage (30% Cabernet Franc, 28% Merlot, 16% Cabernet Sauvignon, 15% Petit Verdot, 11% Malbec). A full bodied wine, fairly complex with a balanced tannin structure. Black currant, cherry and anise with a hint of vanilla. This wine sells for $32.

Overall, I’d say I was impressed with the quality of the wine as it exceeded my expectations of the region. If I were to score them I’d say they were all within the 85-89 point range. But I found the prices to be a bit high as I know back home I can find many higher quality wines for about the same price. BUT, what is definitely worth taking home are the Sommet Blanc and the Petit Manseng because you’re NOT going to find wines like these in California.

For more information about this winery, visit them or check out their web site:

Paradise Springs Winery
13219 Yates Ford Road
Clifton, VA 201124
(703) 830-WINE

Clifton - The Wine Shop and Tasting Room

My next stop for the day was a little wine shop in town where their motto is “Taste The Good Life!”

I had a great time talking about wine with the owner Julie Thompson and two servers, Lucinda and Danny. An impressive little wine shop, especially for such a small town, as guests can belly up to the tasting bar to sample the day’s line up of local, national and international wines. 

Although I was primarily interested in tasting Virginia wines I also sampled an Italian wine.

Castell Del Remei, Blanc Planel ($13.99). An imported wine Italian with a blend of Sauvignon and Macero. On the nose it is very floral and on palate I picked up lemon zest, citrus, a chalky minerality, with a crisp prolonged finish. A fantastic wine for only $14!

We then went into the 2010 Veritas Monticello Viognier. A fruit forward wine with tropical, fresh banana, nectarine and peach skins notes on the nose. On the palate I also picked up a hint of salted butter. Slightly creamy for a Viognier and not quite as crisp as I would prefer, but over all a nice wine for about $25.

2009 Veritas Monticello Merlot ($17.99). This is a huge fruit bomb with loads of cherry up front with silky milk chocolate on the back end, hedonistic and candy like but finishes with an exaggerated and lingering vanilla extract. I’ve tasted plenty of California Merlots just like this, if they would back off on the oak this wine would be a lot more balanced.

Unfortunately I did not have time to visit the Veritas winery. For more information, check out their web site at: http://www.veritaswines.com/

If you are in the town of Clifton, definitely drop in and check out the wine shop and tell them you heard about them on CWTA!

Clifton Wine Shop and Tasting Room
7145 C. Main St.
Clifton, VA 20124