06 September, 2011

Sparkling Viognier? - A WBC11 discovery from Horton Vineyards

At Horton Vineyards, one of the most interesting things I tried was their Sparkling Viognier.  Dennis Horton, himself a Virginia wine pioneer, selected viognier as a variety of grape that would do well in Virgina due to its thicker skin and tolerance for heat.  Deciding to use methode champenoise to create an original and unique wine adds a lot of time and cost to bringing the wine to market, but it also creates a tasty and sparkly expression of the Virginia terroir. 
 During the demo, it occurred to me how complicated the process is.  In methode champenoise,  first you have to decide on the blend , in this case, viognier and chardonnay.  Grapes are pressed and juice is treated as normal for a still wine.  It is then dosed up with a "secret sauce" to get the second fermentation going and left in the bottle, capped with a crown cap.  You can just see the riddling racks in the corner there.
  Basically, the bottles are set neck down in the wooden slots so that they can be turned bottle by bottle a few degrees a day.  This encourages the dead yeasts, sediments, etc to settle in the neck of the bottle

We were treated to a dramatic demo of disgorgement where the neck of the bottle was dipped into liquid nitrogen and then the frozen plug released to shoot out. [No photos of that part of the process as of course I was putting the "chicken" into BrixChicks and scrambling for my safety goggles] .Additional wine is added back in as the wine is topped off and then a real cork, with its very needed wire cage, is put in to let the bottle to finish the aging process.

  And then (finally) the sparkling viognier is ready to go to market. 

Horton also makes an Rkatsiteli, a Georgian grape variety, which was also new to me.  As well as a selection of red wines and fruit wines and even a chocolate wine.  I found the wines very attractively priced for as interesting as they were.  The team at Horton made our visit there a pleasure and the folks from the Orange County (VA) could not have been nicer.  Horton Vineyards is a great place to visit if you find yourself in the neighborhood.  They are open 7 days a week for tasting:

Horton Vineyards
6399 Spotswood Trail
United States

Telephone: 800-829-4633
On the right, Rkatsiteli

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