Archive for November, 2011
One of the toughest calls we've had to make concerns the types of grapes we’re going to grow. I know what I like – well, to be honest, I like a lot of things when it comes to wine. Almost everything actually. But I especially love Bordeaux-style blends, wines made with some combination of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cab Franc, Petit Verdot and maybe some Malbec, as well as blends from the Southern Rhone (Grenache, Syrah and Mourvedre, and perhaps a bit of Cinsault). And I haven't even started on the single-grape varietals that I love, which are too numerous to mention (but I’ll give it a shot anyhow): each of the above-named Bordeaux and Rhone grapes on their own, plus Pinot Noir, Nebbiolo (especially Barolo), Sangiovese, Chardonnay, Viognier, Sauvignon Blanc, and – okay, okay, it’s time to stop.
You see the problem. If the world were a perfect place, I’d just pick the grapes I love the most, and we’d have some wonderful blends and some lovely single-grape varietals.
But of course, the world isn’t perfect, and you have to work with what you have. So, our first limitation is the fact that we have a small plot of land that forces us to narrow our selections down to three or four grapes. That’s fine, though. This is a hobby, not our vocation. (Ah, but if only. As I said, though, the world is not a perfect place.)
More important is the terroir, the mix of soil, climate, elevation, aspect and everything else that determines how a Merlot grown here, on my property, will be different from a Merlot grown on the right bank of the
Gironde River or in Napa or even in the King Family Vineyard a few miles away in Crozet. And it’s not just a question of why our Merlot will be different from Merlots grown elsewhere. It’s also a question of whether Merlot can be grown successfully on our property at all. We're not so sure about Merlot.
The fact is, Virginia isn’t the easiest place in the world to grow grapes. Unlike the wine valleys in California or eastern Washington state, we are dealing with humid summer days and lots of rain, and we can’t count on the kinds of long sunny days that you get in, say, Sonoma County. Our property is about 760 feet above sea level, below the thermocline that provide optimal temperatures for grapes and protection from late Spring frosts or early freezes.
So, where does that leave us? I’ve sampled a lot of different Virginia wines in a lot of different Continue Reading–>