Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Jefferson Vineyards Tasting

After a grueling day at the desk yesterday trying to get caught up from my road trips over the weekend and dealing with payroll and bills, I finally got a break around 4pm when my friend Andy Reagan showed up with his wines in tow. Andy's the winemaker and vineyard manager at Jefferson Vineyards just southeast of Charlottesville, right next to Monticello.

I've known Andy since he was the winemaker at nearby Chrysalis Vineyards and a frequent guest in my dining room, but I haven't seen him since he headed south a few years back to make wines in my hometown, so this was a good time to catch up. He was up in the area meeting with one of his grape growers, a mutual friend of ours and frequent customer at the restaurant. This really is a small world, the food and wine business.

It's always fun for me to taste one on one with the winemaker because we can get into details about how exactly the fruit and juice was handled to make the wine. We got into details about stuck fermentations and canopy management yesterday that you would never get into with a distributor rep. I find the more I know about a wine, the better I can appreciate it and the more I know about the mind of the winemaker, the better I can appreciate his biases and approach to making wines. The thing that I always come away with after having talked with a good winemaker is how creative he or she is at solving problems when the winemaking process doesn't go exactly by the book.

We tasted through the wines, about 10 in all, from Pinot Gris to Meritage, which was badly corked, so I never got to try this vintage, although it has been really solid in vintages past and I expect no different in this vintage, 2006. My overall impression is that the wines are very solid and together, they form a body of work that certainly places Jefferson in the top five wineries in the state.

Two wines stood out for me. The 2007 Pinot Gris stood out with its typical Pinot Gris nose and crisp acid, coupled with the really ripe mid-palate that the 2007 vintage is famous for. On the red side, I really loved the 2007 Petit Verdot (not the reserve wine) for a smooth, easy drinking red coupled with good acidity (not easy to do in such a vintage) and a nice touch of Brett. I grew up drinking southern Rhônes so a little Brett is a good thing in my book for certain wines and this Petit Verdot benefits from it nicely.

Andy, well done and keep up the good work. It's people like you who will help elevate Virginia wines in the eyes of the world.

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