TasteCamp Day Two; The trip through flavor country

Day one of the TasteCamp event proved to be nothing short of spectacular, and a bit overwhelming. Sounds rough I can imagine you saying yourself. After so many wines, your palate goes numb and all ability to decipher between two reds or whites goes right out the window! That being said, I was eager to see what day two would have in store for us.

There we were, rolling up the long driveway into the parking lot of Fabbioli Cellars, and who better to greet us but Doug Fabbioli? Doug started his tour by explaining the many challenges that most of the other wineries had been faced with this year, frost risk and the early heat. The early heat has led the way to a 2-3 week early start to the bud break and growing season. The early bud break extends the season, which increases the chance of insect or fungi damage. It also tends to move the sugar level in the grapes to ripen far ahead of schedule. This, in turn, forces wineries to scramble to harvest the grape earlier, in some cases as early as mid-August, in order to prevent their grapes from turning into raisins. Another factor that has been plaguing wineries this year, has been frost warnings. A saturating dew, mixing with below freezing temperatures overnight, and early bud break which leaves the young shoots and buds exposed, can easily destroy an entire crop of grapes for the season.


Doug went on to explain his method of dealing with the frost and how it factors into his decision to place vines on the hillside of his property (about 10 acres of grape). As the cold air tends to sink, the expensive fan unit at the vineyard’s lowest valley, sucks the cold air down the hillside and channels it through the fans to be blasted outside of the vineyard. Doing this allows the air to keep circulating and keeps the cold frost from settling on the vines. Another factor in creating a well balanced wine, Fabbioli went on to explain, is the limestone content based soil. Doug covered other topics such as his pruning styles and cutting back of the excessive buds to provide more sunlight and proper air flow to produce the best grapes possible. He went on to describe his spacing between the vine rows, challenges with vine disease, his take on single vs. dual trunk vines, fresh fruit and vegetables grown on site, and growing pears inside of bottles for his pear wine (which earned him accolades for his innovation). Doug is very passionate about all aspects of his vineyard operation and his animated explanations and vibrant tour was a testament to that.


 After a nice stroll through the vineyard, it was time to head back to the tasting room to taste some of Fabbioli Cellar’s offerings. As the tasting room was being prepped, Fabbioli poured his newest vintage of Pear wine from the barrel for all of us to try. The wine was paired with some ginger cookies. DELICIOUS! After that treat, Jim (the AC and Wine Educator) and Meaghan (The tasting room manager) gave us the nod that the tasting was about to begin! The tasting sheets were distributed, spots were claimed by writers, and pourers were ready to unleash Fabbioli’s offerings.


The tasting consisted of the following:

  • 2011 Something White ($18): Traminette/Vidal blend .6% RS – peach and floral notes – peach on the palate finish crisp and clean
  • 2010 Chambourcin ($16): blackberry and light tobacco nose – black cherry + tobacco with slight tart finish
  • 2009 Cabernet Franc Reserve ($30): HOLY PEPPER batman! Huge peppery nose – dark cherries roll through the palate with a smooth, less intense, peppery finish
  • NV Raspberry Merlot ($22): Very strong raspberry forward nose and palate with a perfect balance from start to finish
  • 2009 Tannat ($45): blackberry, plum, and tobacco nose – blackberry and tobacco notes on the palate with a light spice finish (that will suck the moisture out of your mouth) for a bone dry characteristic
  • 2010 Paco Rojo ($16): Petit Manseng/Chambourcin/Sauv Blanc Blend – .9%RS – blackberry nose with plum & blackberry palate finish velvety

After the tasting concluded, Doug wished us well for the remainder of the conference and we expressed thanks to him and his entire staff for their hospitality and an extravagant start to the day.


Next up on the agenda was Tarara Winery. We offloaded the bus and Jordan Harris, the winemaker came shooting down the hill on a four wheeler to greet us. A few minutes later, we headed up the driveway to grab some clean glasses from the cellar, and then went back down to meet Jordan for a pour of the 2011 Petit Manseng. As the heat rose and sun poked through the clouds, this tropical fruit forward, crisp glass was a perfect quencher. We then set out onto a couple of tractor-pulled trailors to tour the vineyard side. Jordan shared with us the layout of the vineyard, different sites where his grapes are harvested, vine layout methodology, pruning techniques, disease and hazard control, and other factors that go into making quality Tarara wines. He found out (from trial and error) that certain varietals just aren’t fit to grow at Tarara, and went over what varietals were ripped out and replaced. Jordan also touched on past vintage years that were abandoned due to bad growing seasons as a result of bad weather and other factors. He spoke of the history of Tarara and his experiences from the day he joined the team. Since Mr. Harris joined the Tarara team, major changes have been made. The overall tour was very informative and I gained a much better appreciation for what Jordan is doing at Tarara.


Trying to make world class wine that is not characterized as New World or Old World (as he explained he doesn’t see much of a difference), but is simply excellent wine. We did get a chance to taste other varieties during the tour including the 2007 Viognier and 2007 Syrah. As hunger mounted, it was approaching the time of the Grand Tasting, which would be followed by lunch in the cave-like cellar of Tarara. The Grand Tasting was incredibly overwhelming to the point I wasn’t able to taste all of the offerings from the various vineyards in attendance. Thankfully, most of the ones I did not taste, I will have the pleasure of sampling them at their winery in the coming weeks. Special thanks go out to those who did pour: Tarara Winery, Corcoran, Delaplane Cellars, General’s Ridge, Horton Vineyards, Loudoun Valley Vineyard, Narmada, Philip Carter, Stinson and Zephaniah. Now rather than break down every winery that I tasted from, I’ll just include the tasting notes at the end of my post.


 Moving along from the Grand Tasting, the crowd began to flock around the tables at the entrance to the tasting cave. The lunch was provided compliments of Tarara Winery and VirginiaWine.org in the form of a portable brick-oven pizza caterer by the name of Pizzeria Moto. Salad was the starter and various types of pizza was served. Tarara also provided a few wines for the hungry bloggers to pair with their pizza: The 2009 Tranquility, a barrel sample of the 2010 Tranquility, 2008 Nevaeh Red, and the kicker…a 1992 Tarara Cabernet Sauvignon. Although the Cabernet Sauvignon was very mint and menthol forward, it was still a treat that Jordan pulled it out of the library. As we wrapped up at Tarara, I had to make a quick stop by the wine store to purchase a bottle of the 2010 Long Bomb Fourth Edition. After the great experience I have had in the past with the 2008 Long Bomb Edition Two, this was recommended as the next best wine. It’s now in my wine rack, and until I go back and grab another bottle, this will have to age a little while before I get a chance to taste it.


As the bus departed, we headed off to our next stop of the day, Tranquility Vineyards. Ben Renshaw, the winemaker at 8 Chains North and vineyard manager at Tranquility Vineyard, greeted the writers at the vineyard’s edge, and began to explain his vineyard management methodology. The terroir played into every aspect of the grape varietal selection on the site. Renshaw went on to explain other factors that went into his highly dedicated formula for harvesting the best grape possible. As we finished up the tour of Tranquility Vineyard, Ben followed us down to Otium Cellars, located directly across the street from Tranquility. There Ben poured a variety of wines from Otium Cellars including a vertical of his Dornfelder wines from 2009 and 2010, the 2010 Pinot Gris, another German variety by the name of Blaufraenkisch, and the 2010 Pinot Noir. Ben also tossed in a tasting of 8 Chains North 2008 and 2009 Furnace Reds which capped off another great tasting. I didn’t think it was possible for my palate to comprehend differences in wine varieties any longer, but a nice rinse and short break allowed some palate relaxation.


After a brief break, we headed to North Gate Vineyards for our dinner suaré, hosted by Mark and Vicki Fedor (Owners of North Gate Vineyards). This was a BYOW (Bring Your Own Wine) event, so every writer was encouraged to bring a couple bottles (or several in some case) of wine to share amongst the masses with dinner. Dinner was provided by Smokin’ Willy in the form of BBQ, Brisket, Cole Slaw, Pasta Salad, and corn bread. Before cutting into the dinner line and hovering over the wine tasting free for all, I participated in a tasting of North Gate’s current offerings with Paul and Warren of Virginia Wine Time. After the tasting, I made the move, it was time to eat! What better way to kick off my first plate than to pop open one of my bottles, a 2006 Kluge Estate New World Red. This bottle has been sitting in my wine rack for a couple of years and I couldn’t think of a better occassion to break it open. I also brought with me a bottle of 2008 Ingleside Vineyard Sangiovese, which was tried by all.


As the day was winding down, I used this time to enjoy a variety of wines that others brought. No note taking, just a little relaxation, and some socializing with the other oenophiles. As I finished my second plate of BBQ goodness, it was time to join the others on the back patio so that I could mingle and taste some of their wines. Viewing and pulling from the table, I was able to taste bottles of 1977 Mirrasou Zinfandel, 1990 Ravens Wood Zinfandel, 1996 Mount Veeder Winery Reserve Meritage, 2006 Matthiasson Napa Red Wine, and a stand out (special thanks to Julien Marchand for offering a taste of this) Antolio Brongo Cryomalus Cider Ice Wine from Quebec. All in all, there were over a hundred bottles on the two table settings, but these are the ones that if not by taste then by vintage year, stood out to me the most. The night was a huge success and a hell of a lot of fun. I think, for the first time, my palate was smoked. I had to finish off the evening with a Coca-Cola and prep for the next day’s festivities. A very big thanks to the Fedors for hosting our shindig and allowing us to roam about the property in the name of Wine. This day proved to be very exhausting, so I, physically and mentally was unable to participate in any after party events. The next day began at 8AM with a stop at Linden to meet with Jim Law…stay tuned for Day Three Coverage coming soon! In the meantime, be sure to check out my other friends recaps of the Day One and Two listed below.



Tasting Notes

Tarara Winery

  • 2011 Boneyard White: Apricot on the nose, citrus fruit and lemon tones with effervescent feel finishing clean and crisp
  • Leap 10 (2010): dried cherry burst with light spice on the nose, nice balance of spice and very light leather leading to a more berry prominent dry finish
  • 2010 Cabernet Franc – leather and tobacco on the nose and palate – finish with a very oak forward kick
  • Boneyard Red – Dark berry and spice adding some oaks notes on the finish
  • 2009 Tranquility: aroma and flavor of blackberry with light spice, lingering with a dash of white pepper on the finish
  • 1992 Cabernet Sauvignon – mint and menthol (clearly just to break out a library wine but nice that we got to try it)
  • 2010 Tranquility: jammy nose with blackberry jumping out on the palate and smoothing out with a buttery finish
  • 2010 Nevaeh Red: blackberry forward, very high in tannins, very dry finish, toasty & creamy finish
  • 2008 Nevaeh Red: Perfection in a glass, amazing blackberry at just the right amount throughout with light floral notes on the nose, and a velvety smooth finish. My favorite by far!!!


Otium Cellars

  • Recently covered in review


Stinson Vineyards (Additional vintage not listed in previous review added below)

  • 2011 Sauvignon Blanc ($21.99): Grassy nose with passion fruit finishing super crisp

Delaplane Cellars (Additional vintage not listed in previous review added below)

  • 2008 William’s Gap: plum & blackberry nose with strong blackberry notes and a smooth dark berry finish
  • 2007 Shirland SYRAH: strong toasty and nutty scents, light fruit masked by a smoky bacon flavor adding an extra kick on the finish


Corcoran Vineyards

  • (Wasn’t able to taste, visit planned this summer)


Horton Vineyards

  • (Lost my tasting sheet, visit coming this summer)


Phillip Carter Winery

  • (Lost my tasting sheet, visiting in June stay tuned!)


Loudoun Valley Vineyards

  • Recently covered in review

Zephaniah Farm Vineyard

  • 2008 Cabernet Franc ($25): big berry nose, light pepper on the palate and finish with toasty & nutty characteristics
  • 2009 Cabernet Franc: Spice, possible clove scents, light dark berry with peppery undertones, smoky oak finish
  • 2010 Chambourcin ($20): Aroma of oak and dark berry giving way to toasty flavors lingering on the finish
  • 2010 Chambourcin Reserve: Blackberry and floral essence on the nose, blackberry and dark fruit palate, smooth semi sweet finish (Excellent)


General’s Ridge Vineyard and Winery

  • Recently covered in review


  • (Lost my tasting sheet [womp womp], visiting again in June)

North Gate Vineyard

  • 2010 Petit Manseng ($??): Tropical fruit aroma, semi-sweet apricot flavors, touch of honey on finish
  • 2010 Roussanne ($19): almond scent with citrus poking through on the palate, finish smooth
  • 2010 Chambourcin ($17): plum & cherry on the nose, mixed spices and dark cherry flavors in fruit forward finish
  • 2010 Cabernet Franc ($20): clove & tobacco on the nose, black pepper bursting on the palate, toasty-peppery finish
  • 2009 Merlot ($18): jammy nose, oak and smoke flavors carrying out the rest of the experience
  • 2009 Meritage ($20): tobacco heavy nose with a very strong tobacco and leather flavor straight to the finish
  • 2010 Petit Verdot ($24): Intense tannins and very powerful dry finish (not for amatures)
  • 2010 Apple ($13): a baked apple pie, in a wine glass


Other TasteCamp 2012 Articles




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Return of the Blog – New Approach, Backlogged Reviews, and More.

First and foremost, our sincerest apologies about our absence during the last year. We have been fortunate to have a large following over the past several years that has brought in over 100,000+ readers. We want to thank all of you! We have expanded beyond Virginia, touching many places in the United States and even spun off a travel blog to cover our International journeys. So where do we go from here? Many readers have submitted suggestions of a more digital approach. Monthly review pieces versus daily postings, video production, food pairings, wine country itineraries and even a podcast. 

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