Since my first Blind Tasting years back, I have developed a love for this unbiased format of tasting your way through multiple varieties of the same wine from various producers. Blind tastings really provide tasters the ability to try wine without judging based on producer, price, or reputation because, well, it’s blind. My goal is to assemble groups of fellow bloggers, industry folks, and wine enthusiasts to take part in multiple blind tasting events to assist in unbiasedly pointing out some of Virginia’s standouts. During certain blind tastings, we may toss a couple of wild cards in there from other viticultural areas outside of Virginia to see where Virginia stands blindly against other producers throughout the world. One of the first events we held this year was this blind Petit Verdot tasting, which was graciously hosted by Katie and the wonderful folks at Casanel Vineyards in Leesburg, Virginia. We originally threw out a few ideas of varietals to taste including Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot, Norton, and others, but decided to go with Petit Verdot. Before we even began the hunt for a venue, Katie offered up Casanel for our first gathering, and we all gladly obliged. We had a cast of characters in attendance from vineyard consultant groups, winemakers, bloggers (including Kurt from WineAboutVA), and wine enthusiasts that often participate in our meetups. Now, I know Katie has been anxiously awaiting this article, and I can understand being March and just publishing an article from an event in January seems odd. I find that during March, as the weather warms up, more and more readers are looking for those fun mini-getaways to wine country as the weather warms up and given the progress of the new facility when we visited to now this article’s publication can spark a little bit of interest for some of you that have yet to visit Casanel. With that being said, I give you our First Virginia Blind Tasting of 2014.
As we walked into Casanel, we first met up with Anna (Katie’s sister) who helped us all get setup and provided us all with any supplies we needed to get started. I peered around at the new events space and was blown away. Circle banquet tables were all setup with 6 glass tasting setups, napkins, pens, our tasting sheets, and individually marked place settings poking out of wine corks. An enormous spread of gourmet food prepared and provided by Katie and Casanel, including duck wontons, duck crostini, an assortment of other appetizers, and some wonderful desserts. No detail was overlooked when it came to this event, and the DeSouza’s made absolutely sure of that! We started our evening snacking, catching up, and collecting everyone’s selections of Petit Verdot. After determining what our line up was going to be, we bagged, numbered, and setup our pouring table. Before we started tasting the wines, we went on a tour of the new events center that Casanel recently constructed. The main room, which is perfect for weddings, corporate events, or winemaker dinners, contains a full kitchen, fireplace to the far left wall, plenty of space to hold upwards of 150 people, and a couple of tasting bars for overspill of the current tasting room. It was very spacious and welcoming. We followed Katie to the spiral staircase that descends down to the future barrel cave. The staircase drops you off at the both the mezzanine level of the encased barrel room, as well as the production room floor, which will house a large lab, multiple fermentation areas, production floor for bottling and casing, as well as dual garage doors for easy delivery of fruit and export of packaged cases. Nelson (Katie’s father and principle owner), who has built Casanel with his bare hands from the ground up, helped craft and design the large barrel room window that is circular and can provide guests with a glimpse into the production facility from inside the barrel room. Another gorgeous view is observed from the production room into the dimly lit barrel cave – all and all, an excellent, spacious environment for future growth and continued excellence at Casanel Vineyards. We concluded the tour wandering about taking in the construction and visualizing what’s to come. Overall, the facility was very accessible with plenty of room for production, yet tastefully displayed refined areas of the barrel room to provide visitors both an elegant point of view, as well as a glimpse into the hard work that goes into providing tasters that stand out wine.
At this point we all climbed our way back up to the ground level, choose our seats, and began pouring our wines in two flights of six. Now, one unique standpoint of this tasting is that given a blending grape like Petit Verdot’s recent popularity bottled as a single varietal, this tasting can help display and set a baseline on what exactly the single varietal should taste like from a Virginia stand point – or at least I thought it should have. The results, in my opinion, showed the complete opposite – while many of the Petit Verdot’s poured showed very well, there was a unique spin to almost everyone of the wines poured. While those that were poured were scattered about the state, I was almost certain to have formulated some sort of baseline for just what a “Virginia Petit Verdot” was “supposed” to taste like, but, instead, was left scratching my head and eager to taste test all that I could find throughout this year to assist.
Well, enough babbling, which wines were featured in our tasting? Which were showing well? Which wine was the upset? Which wine was not up to par? With that, I give you the collective results of the 2014 Virginia Petit Verdot Blind Tasting. Enjoy!
1. 2007 Ingleside Vineyards Petit Verdot
2. 2010 Casanel Petit Verdot
3. 2010 Breaux Vineyards Cellar Selection Petit Verdot
4. 2009 Cooper Vineyards Petit Verdot
5. 2006 Sunset Hills Petit Verdot
6. (TIE) 2009 Chateau O’Brien Cellar Collection Petit Verdot
6. (TIE) 2009 Barboursville Petit Verdot Reserve
8. 2011 North Gate Vineyards Petit Verdot
9. 2011 Barns at Hamilton Station Petit Verdot
10. 2008 Linden Petit Verdot
11. 2012 Carroll Vineyards Petit Verdot
12. 2006 Crooked Run Vineyards Petit Verdot
Below is a sneak peak of the progress earlier this year from Casanel Vineyards event space and production facility construction. Lookin’ good!!
17956 Canby Rd
Leesburg, VA 20175