First and foremost, I would like to thank Frank Morgan (@DrinkWhatULike) and Lenn Thompson (@lennthompson) for putting together a weekend packed with some pretty incredible wine, vineyard tours, lunches and dinners, great writers/bloggers, transportation, and experiences that I’m sure pushed all participants palates to the limit! I would also like to thank Tarara, Jordan Harris, Ankida Ridge, Annefield, Barboursville, Boxwood Winery, Blenheim, Gadino Cellars, Glass House, Hume, Notaviva, Paradise Spring, Pearmund, Rappahannock Cellars, White Hall, Breaux Vineyards, Jenn Breaux, Corcoran, Delaplane, General’s Ridge, Horton, Loudoun Valley, Narmada, Philip Carter, Stinson, Zephaniah, Fabbioli Cellars, Doug Fabbioli, 8 Chains North, Otium Cellars, North Gate, Linden, Jim Law, Visit Loudoun dot com, VirginiaWine.org, Smokin’ Willy, and Ben Renshaw. WHEW. Pause. Okay. Now that my thanks are out of the way, I would like to take the time to curse the WMATA for holding me up just enough to allow me to miss the afternoon at Boxwood Winery.
I started my day with the intentions of making it out to the 2PM Grand Tasting following the glorious luncheon provided by Boxwood Winery (I saw the twitter pics!). My nine-to-five had me detained for the morning (hey, gotta shine and make a living!) so my amazing boss let me use some vacation to head on out to the winery just after noon, which was only derailed (no pun intended) by the Metro for an hour and a half (Follow on twitter @unsuckdcmetro). After I pretty much cursed my way to within a handful of miles from Boxwood, time unfortunately would not permit to enjoy more than 15 minutes of the Grand Tasting. From what most of the other writers shared with me, I truly missed Ankida Ridge’s Pinot Noir which is one of their first harvests and was described to me as incredible, more so by Virginia standards. Pinot Noir generally doesn’t grow well in Virginia so this fact came as a surprise. Annefield’s Viognier was another highly recognized variety which adds to my frustration by not making this portion of the Taste Camp! Boooo! Looks like a certain blogger needs to make accommodations to make it down south in the coming weeks!
At this time I headed over to the National Conference Center (NCC) to meet the other attendees and the shuttle for the trip to Breaux Vineyards (NCC resembles a real life version of Pan’s Labyrinth). I was immediately greeted by my friends from Virginia Wine Time (Paul & Warren), Swirl Sip & Snark (The dynamic duo), and Wine About VA (Kurt and Carol) who were all on their way to the bus. This was already starting off to be a great evening. As we pulled up to Breaux Vineyards, we were greeted by Jennifer Breaux, her husband, and their staff, who were rolling out the red carpet to their tent covered patio. Upon entering the tent, we were greeted with a glass of Breaux’s 2010 Sauvignon Blanc, and a wide array of hors d’ouevres served to the mingling bloggers. With the help of some other Breaux offerings, hors d’ouevres such as Seared Scallops on Lavosh with Fennel Salad and Orange Glaze, Roasted Pear and Caramelized Onion Tartlets, and Compressed Melon with Feta and Sherry Gastrique tantalized every attendee’s taste buds. Varieties brought out of the library included the 2002 Breaux Reserve Merlot (which I purchased that night), 2010 Breaux Viognier, and 2010 Breaux Jen’s Jambalaya, all of which are, for the most part, unavailable for purchase by the public. After an hour of socializing and catching up with fellow writers while enjoying some of Chef Patrick’s (from Tuscarora Mill’s) hors d’ouevres, as well as Breaux Vineyards library wines, it was time for the blockbuster meal in the production room of the Vineyard!
Chef Patrick Dinh had prepared a plethora of exquisite dishes and worked closely with Breaux Vineyards to pair their exceptional vintages with the dishes he created behind the scenes. Upon entering the room and planting my rear end next to Kurt (Wine About VA), Hagan (LoCoWino), and across from Kirsten (@VAWineWoogie / CellarBlog) we quickly reviewed the menu and began listening to the introductions. Jennifer Breaux expressed her thanks for our appreciation for local wine and being included in the TasteCamp. She then introduced her staff including her new Spanish winemaker David Pagan Castaño. David later spoke about his upbringing in the industry and how he established himself, as well as his experiences and inspiration for his work overseas and at Breaux. Jennifer’s husband, Chris Blosser, was also introduced and gave us a few words of thanks. Jennifer and Chris, as well as their staff, are a very classy and humble group of people and this night proved that from the beginning.
The first course was now ready: a light and sensual Crumbled Goat Cheese with Walnuts and Balseto Vinaigrette. Of course, what better to serve the opener with a newly released glass of 2011 Breaux Rosé! This ‘Old World Spanish Style’ Rosé offered up a gentle strawberry nose, caressing the palate with much of the same strawberry qualities but adding light oak to the mix, and finishing with a buttery finish that was very light in acidity for such a young release. A very good Rosé, and for $19, well worth the purchase. The main course was absolutely AMAZING! Savory Spiced Angus Beef Medallions with Bacon Fig Sauce scented with Chocolate, Gorgonzola Rosotto Studded with Currants and Almonds; a concoction that I could NEVER have dreamt in a million years. This dish pleased my taste buds with a completely uncomparable flavor. Chef Patrick absolutely NAILED this dish and took it to a whole new level by pairing it with the 2007 Cabernet Franc Reserve and the 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon. There couldn’t have been a better match made in heaven. The Cabernet Franc was peppery on the nose, and added some light spice and notes of white pepper throughout, carrying a lengthy finish with notes of light mocha. The Cabernet Sauvignon had a higher alcohol aroma with oak and spice from start to finish and floral flavors nudging upward on the palate, finishing with slightly higher tannins than the Cabernet Franc. My favorite of the two however, was the Cabernet Franc, and in my opinion, was a better pairing that the Cabernet Sauvignon with the main course. By pairing with the Rosotto with the Cabernet Franc actually enhanced the spice in the meat and enhanced the mocha notes that I detected on the finish of the wine.
The next course was a Variety of Cheeses including Morbier, Valdeon Blue, Mahon, Quince, and Hazelnut-Onion Marmalade. The cheese course was paired with a vertical tasting of the Nebbiolos. The vertical consisted of the 2001, 2002, 2005, and 2007 Nebbiolo, of which my favorites were the 2002 and the 2007. Being that it is still in the barrel, this 2007 favorite exhibited some dry blackberry notes on the nose and palate, mixed with a little licorice and finishing with a jammy tart burst as expected with its youthful qualities. I actually paired the Valdeon Blue and a piece of the tostada, which brought the fruit forward qualities down to an acceptable level, and really excited me for this 2007 release! The 2001 Nebbiolo was potent on the nose with oak and a highly alcoholic aroma, soothing out with black clove and tobacco on the palate, with high tannin structure, leather, and licorice notes smoothing out the finish. The 2005 Nebbiolo exhibited cotton and super light notes of spice and pepper on the nose. The palate had an almost Djarum Clove cigarette taste bearing a very full bodied structure, and finishing with dark cherry flavors. Saving my favorite for last, the 2002 Nebbiolo, wafted aromas of black cherry and spice. It has very well balanced tannin structure, with huge notes of licorice on the palate, that finishes with an almost velvety fashion. LOVE IT! Paired with the Morbier cheese? Euphoria! Perfection! Ok, I ran out of adjectives, though it was pretty epic I will say that.
The final course of the evening consisted of a White Chocolate-Apricot Cake with Lychee Sabayon, paired with 2010 “Chére Marie” or Vidal Blanc, and the 2006 Soleil. The Vidal Blanc gave aromas of tropical fruit, and carried flavors of candied fruits, finishing relatively clean for a wine with 2% residual sugar. The 2006 Soleil was a rock star wine especially paired with the dessert offering. It is made of 100% late harvest Vidal, Viognier, Semillion, and Sauvignon Blanc and gave a punch of peaches in the nose and palate. The finish was a bit syrupy but with the cake it was the perfect compliment. As dinner concluded, Lenn threatened the bus was going to leave us as we mingled with the staff and winemaker. So on that note, I bolted to the tasting room to purchase a bottle of the 2002 Breaux Merlot Reserve and 2011 Rosé. Next stop, the NCC. Not going to lie, God bless the people that stayed there because myself, along with the Swirl, Sip, Snark duo, VA Wine Time duo, and LoCoWino ended up lost for quite a while attempting to reconnect at the after party. I have to say that there was no better way to start a conference then at Breaux Vineyards. Day one was perfect…stay tuned for the write-up on the rest of the weekend!