Sunday, August 7, 2011

Chrysalis Vineyards, Loudoun County, VA #DCsWineCountry

This was our third Vineyard/Winery visit of the WBC11 Pre-conference tour of Loudoun County.

A blend of 60% individuality, 10% experimentation and 30% deep respect for history. This is one way that I could sum up
Chrysalis Vineyards in Middleburg, VA; but the easier path to take would just be to say "I am now a card carrying member of the cult of Jenni".

Jennifer McCloud is the the charismatic,
focused owner/operator of Chrysalis Vineyards at Locksley, a historic 209 acre Middleburg, Virginia Estate and the adjoining Cali Farms the home of the Locksley Estate Farmstead Cheese Company. Hers is a working empire devoted to wine, food and our cultural history. Chrysalis is the world's largest grower of the Norton Grape, an American varietal that once dominated wine production 19th century United States. Jenni is keeping it alive and well, together with iconic Winemaker/Vineyard Manager, Alan Kinne, they are creating easy to drink, nuanced New World wine both classic and experimental. What else would you expect from a vineyard that grows and experiments with over 20 grape varieties, including: Norton, Petit Manseng, Rubiana, Tannat and Albariño - all in the pursuit of creating great American wine.
After I split my capris wide open taking this picture (note to self, the diet starts tomorrow), we tasted 13 of their offerings that morning (I spent the rest of the day touring vineyards in bike shorts):
We split into 2 groups; I was in the Red Barrel Room with my writer friends and we had Kat as our educator. Kat was the perfect hostess, smiling at us, enthusiastically sharing pairing ideas and joking all along (after all, it was 10am, and I was standing there in torn capris). She not only told us the stories behind each bottle, but she shared with us her honest enthusiasm for wine.

Chrysalis Chardonnay `10 $17.00 This is a wine that could win over the ABC people (I am one) as Kat our educator said, "many people are ABC 'Anything but Chardonnay'". Tank fermented, with no oak, this
wine had a strong minerality, much more like a French chardonnay than California. It is a nice middle of the road white wine.
Chrysalis Barrel Reserve Chardonnay `10 $24.00 This was their oaked Chardonnay. It spent all of its life in a combination of French and Hungarian Oak. I needed breakfast with this wine. Maybe a quiche? Maybe a Spinach and Cheese Croissant? At 10 am, I was not ready for a rich oaky Chardonnay.

Chrysalis Viognier `10 $29.00 This was the third Virginia Viognier that I had tasted, and I suddenly understood the subtle differences in terroir that so many Virginia wine people rave about. Even though we had not left Loudoun County, the Viognier was totally different between Tarara, Breaux and Chrysalis. This 24 hour horizontal tasting of three `10 vintage was a fascinating exploration in a single varietal. I liked all three, but for three distinct reasons. Tarara, with vineyards growing on relatively flat elevations next to the Potomac River, seemed to be in a classic European style, elegant, a bit concentrated/lush. Breaux, framed by the Blue Ridge Mountains, with farmland/slightly hilly terrain was more open, fruit forward, a touch of oak, with a hint of sweetness in the finish. My epiphany was with this Chrysalis Viognier, also grown on farmland,
in the foothills of the Northern Blue Ridge & Bull Run Mountains makes a totally different wine, open and fruity, with hints of vanilla, yet the strength of minerality an amazing combination of both. The fruit (peaches?) was right there at your nose and on your palate yet it is a dry wine. This was an excellent way for me to get to know the varietal, and I think that Chrysalis with its unique terroir did the grape that made this wine proud.

Chrysalis Mariposa Rose `10 $ 15.00 This is a Norton Rose. My first taste of Norton. It is dry, in the European style, but fruity and concentrated. A trait of Norton? I think. This is a food wine.

Chrysalis Sarah's Patio White `10 A blend of Vidal Blanc and Traminette (a hybrid Gewürztraminer/Joannes Seyve 23.416). What a combo! It is refreshing and crisp, and fragrant, and an all around easy drinker. (Kat said that she brought three cases of this on family vacation) and I can see why. This is a patio wine. Invite some friends over, and pour a bottle or two, eat some light food and just enjoy. This is a casual celebration wine that can please a crowd. It is a bit sweet, but not too sweet. I dare to say that Sarah's Patio White has "Hit a
Sweet Spot".

We were still on the chilled wine, and Kat poured us:

Sarah's Patio Red `10 $ 15.00 Hah! It may be 100% Norton, but I call it Lambrusco. It is not sparkling, but it is sooo easy to drink, and it is cherry flavored, and Kat told us a secret. When making Ghiradelli box Brownie mix, substitute 1/2 a cup of water with 1/2 a cup of Sarah's Patio Red and POW, you have one amazing brownie! My mouth is watering just thinking about a glass of Sarah's Red and some chocolate cake as I write this. This is what I love and was so unique to Chrysalis. They play with their varietals, and in this playing, mixing and fermenting, they come up with a really nicely styled wine. This is a fun everyday wine, just like its sibling, Sarah's Patio White.
Chrysalis has a tasting room, a patio (Sarah's* Patio) and a BBQ area (Jenni's Pavillion). And they have a Director of Culinary Operations, Chef Hump. You can see his weekend menu at the vineyard, or you can order from his catering. You see, Jenni has it all there, waiting for you.

*Sarah. Kat referred to Sarah, as the vineyard's "Resident Dead Girl". She has to be a great girl to have her own patio AND two wines named after her. I'll let a staffer at the vineyard tell you about Sarah. I'll keep her secrets.

Now, back to the living, and the tasting. One of the great things about having these "insider" views into
a working vineyard/winery is seeing the whole operation. From the clean room (I dubbed it the wine laboratory)to the barrel room, and everything in between, there is always something interesting. That morning, I found her in the barrel room; She had just had a terrible summer haircut, and she was sulking. But she was sweet, and she wanted to play. (at 13, who wouldn't want to play?) It wasn't Sarah, it was Tresa Dora, and she loves to play fetch with a barrel cork. I'll admit that I spent an inordinate amount of time taking pictures of and playing with her, but, hey, what do you expect? I was the blogger with the giant hole in her pants.

We moved on to the reds.
Chrysalis Rubiana `08 $17.00 This is where you can tell I was distracted. I tasted this wine, made note that it was dry and slightly smoky, like my beloved tempranillo, and then I played with the dog. If I were a good wine scholar, I would give you better tasting notes. But it was 11 am, there was a cute dog looking at me, and well, I'll just say I had a good reaction to the wine, and you should try it yourself. Maybe go to Chrysalis, buy a bottle and have a BBQ picnic there.

Chrysalis Estate Bottled Norton `07 $17.00 Now this is a wine. It packs a fruit forward punch in the mouth with tannins that remind you that you should be eating something with this wine. Condensed blackberry flavor, with some dark cherry (Highlights?). Intense. It was when I sipped this that I made a decision; and this Vineyard, and this varietal would play a part in my decision**.

Chrysalis Petit Verdot `06 $35.00 This is their Bordeaux. A rich, lingering red wine that simply says "I am wine,
take me seriously". Dinner, drinks with your University Professor, a sipping wine for the days when you just want flavor and a hint of bittersweet chocolate. Classic. European, very straight forward, and my bet is that this will still be an elegant wine twenty years from now.

Chrysalis Tannat `07 $35.00 my heart skipped a beat when I read that we were drinking a Tannat. I am smitten with a Tannat ever since I had the fortified Uruguayan Viñedo de los Vientos Tannat Alcyone NV. Now I was going to have Tannat as a wine, not as an after dinner drink. It is the subtle coffee flavor in this wine that is so unique and interesting. Vanilla and complex layers of flavor that makes this a wine and a quiz game all in one sip. On my next trip to Virginia, some of this is coming home with me. I am kicking myself as I write this for not buying some while I was there.

Chrysalis Papillion `08 $35.00 this Petit Verdot/Tannat blend is a robust, multi layered red wine that tastes of pepper and coffee. It is big, bold and fruit forward, and I can imagine will be a wine that will only get more complex with age. I love the blend, and I'd like to see more of this dynamic type of blending.

Norton Locksley Reserve `08 this was the wine that made me realize that I hadn't been dumping enough. Concentrated flavor. It is a mouthful, and has a long, long finish. This is a wine that you build a meal around. I think that as a vehicle to show the grandness and flavor of the Norton varietal, you can't get any more classic that a bottle of this wine. It had all of the flavor, concentrated and ready for your glass. I can imagine though that in a few ye
ars, it will mellow even more, and the spicy undertones will become more subtle.
At the end of the tasting, as a special treat, Jenni poured some of their sold out for VIP club Members only Petit Manseng Dessert Wine. It was a hit, and a troupe of bloggers finished their wine, and then walked out into the 100+ degree heat, traipsed up to the Chrysalys Tasting Room to purchase some wine to take home. (I went back to find the bus to change - sigh... it would have been nice to bring a bottle of the Tannat home with me)

Here is a link to all of my photos from the visit.

**My decision? This was part of a pre-conference tour of Loudoun County. Later that day, our tour bus was going to bring us to Charlottesville for the rest of the conference, and on Friday night, we were going to a wine reception at Monticello. I am a Thomas Jefferson geek. I am pretty much an American History Geek, and I am most definitely a wine geek. I had, packed in my bag, a copy of the Declaration of Independence, and as tasted this Norton, and listened to Kat tell the story of this Virginia Bred grape, I decided that I wanted to be sipping Norton when I crept away from the reception to read the Declaration of Independence (quietly, to myself) at Monticello.I can tell you that Jenni herself poured me that glass on the hilltop at Monticello, she also kindly noted that it was 106 degrees in the shade, and I was crazy to be drinking such a big wine in that weather. But I was on a mission, and she poured me a glass anyway. (in hind-site, Sarah's Patio Red is made from Norton too, but well... hind-site is 20/20). I am ending this post with a picture of my bag, glass and Declaration on a bench at Monticello.

1 comment:

  1. I was glad to read your learning fun at Chrysalis Winery and introduction to the Norton grape/wine. With 244 Norton wineries in 23 states, I hope you will bump into this wine again and again. So far in our travels in ten states, we've been able to always find at least one winery that has a "handle" on this unique grape/wine. Remember, this wine benefits from aging five or more years and always needs to breathe an extensive time before enjoying.