08 August, 2011

#wbc11 Still Before...

Jenni McCloud is a evil temptress. More about that later...

Grandale Farms Dining Room
After a fun and filling dinner at Grandale Farms restaurant, a real and historic farm house where food was sourced locally and many Virginia wines were offered, I hit a wall. Reviewing the wine list, the wine I wanted to try but didn't quite make it to, was the Chrysalis Norton Locksley Reserve. Luckily, the very next day, breakfast of champions was a banana on the bus and then on to tasting through the wines at Chrysalis Vineyards.

Perhaps because of the sketchy breakfast (I blame the Hilton Garden Inn, as my stay there was so restful, it was like a coma and I slept through my feeding time), so driving up to the tasting room, and looking at the shiny black cows, all I could think about was dairy. But once I rolled up to the tasting area with tour leader Pat Hess at the helm, entertaining and informative stories paired as well with the wine as I imagine the wine will companion food.

I tried:
'07 Tannat, Chrysalis Vineyards, Virginia : Described as a "cigar wine", this had a lot going on in the aroma with a curl of smoke and leather. The flavors were black fruit hit with spice and mocha vanilla. It had great tannins. I generally love the Tannats I have tried for mouth puckering tannins and dust, but this expression had , in addition, a well-mannered structure that made it very appealing.

'10 Mariposa, Chrysalis Vineyards, Virginia: Lovely color. Interesting blend (lost to my bad penmanship) with lilting aromas of cherries.

'10 Albarino, Chrysalis Vineyards, Virginia: Partial as I am to most Albarinos, this was a nice one with hints of pineapple and lovely balance. 

'10 Sarah's Patio White, Chrysalis Vineyards, Virginia: Yummy porch etc. wine. Blend of Vidal Blanc and Traminette, Slight sweetness balanced with acidity. Refreshing. Sarah is a ghost, or rather a 16 year old whose headstone was discovered on the estate.

'10 Sarah's Patio Red, Chrysalis Vineyards, Virginia: 100% Rose of Norton My first swish of the Real American Grape!® Intoxicating aromas and flavors of tart cherries. At 2.8 residual sugar, it is semi sweet and meant to be serve well chilled. The sweetness and cherry profile made me want to go out and build a cheese plate around it as this would make a good match for some interesting cheeses.

'10 Barrel Select Norton, Chrysalis Vineyards, Virginia: 100% Norton made whole cluster fermented (like a Beaujolais), then barrel aged in 100% new Virginia oak. 

'07 Norton Estate Bottled, Chrysalis Vineyards, Virginia Yum! The wine was very dark with intoxicating aromas of black fruit and berries and nice tannic structure.  I liked it very much. Cultivation of this variety takes patience and passion and the folks at Chrysalis have both.

'08 Norton Locksley Reserve, Chrysalis Vineyards, Virginia:  my favorite.  75% Norton, 12.5% PV and 12.5% Nebbiolo this wine is intriguing with lots of dust, pepper, cocoa and black fruits.  It had a lovely finish and seemed like it would be very companionable with food.  

Petit Manseng
While Chrysalis produces a number of interesting European varieties, the real story here is Norton.  ( And the Norton's story can be found in Todd Kliman's interesting book, The Wild Vine )At one time, the Norton grape, a hybrid developed by a Dr. Daniel Norton, whose own story casts him as the Heathcliff of viticulture, was the US's leading grape.  It made its way from Virginia to Missouri and then, under the aegis of David Horton (with whom we would visit on the WBC Touring Day), back again.  But at Chrysalis, Jennifer Mc Cloud grows more Norton than anyone else in the world.  The Norton has the hardiness of the native grapes without any of the "foxiness", a term used to described a musky character to the point of flaw, found in wines made from native grapes.  Still, Norton vines require years to mature before the fruit becomes usable, and they need to be carefully cultivated, trellised, and harvested.  All this makes the achievement of the Chrysalis team more impressive.  In the book, The Wild Vine , I read about blind tasting the Norton with European wines and I am looking forward to baiting some Wine Snark friends. 

In a world where lots of people seem to want to "Six -drops- of -essence- of- terror,-Five- drops- of- sinister- sauce"-up a reasonable facsimile of what sells, Chrysalis invests to draw out unique expressions of their local terroir.  Which makes for soulful, distinctive wines. 

And in the future, they will use the Devon Milking cows and heritage chickens to leverage more expressions of the terroir in the form of cheese and hopefully ice creams too! 

So okay, wine and potentially all kinds of luscious dairy, too. how can I call Jenni Mc Cloud an evil temptress?  As a parting gift she shared with us a dram of Petit Manseng dessert wine.  A wine whose production is fiendishly difficult and thus whose supply is constrained at best.  It is also a wine served on  the level of heaven where the wedding guests from Cana get their glasses filled.  Silky, sweet but structured so as not be cloying.  With interesting hints of candied loquat and other exotic flavors.  So delish!  And you can't buy it...

Me with Pat Hess
Unless you are A VIP wine club member.  Okay,  so maybe more brilliant marketer than evil temptress.  Definitely a great winery leader.  I thoroughly enjoyed my visit to Chrysalis and when I finish up all the wine I bought, I will seriously consider the VIP all access pass.  Many thanks to Pat Hess, Jenni and everyone at Chrysalis who made our visit so fun!

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