December Sweet Wine – Rapidan River Blackberry

Rapidan River, a secondary label for Prince Michel Vineyards, has a little known but rich history.  The house on the original Rapidan property was used as a civil war hospital; cannonballs and personal artifacts were routinely discovered as the vineyard was originally planted. Many years ago, when Winemaker Brad Hansen and his family lived in the house they reported several unusual, perhaps paranormal, experiences.

The Rapidan River Blackberry wine presents as a medium dark hue in the glass.  The nose is filed with ripe summer strawberries, raspberries and blackberries.  The soft attack has a nice balance with strong grape jam undertones.  The midpalate is filled with blackberry and spice.  The finish is delightfully brief that lingers slightly like the last of homemade blackberry jam in a mason jar.

Excellent as an aperitif, this wine pairs exceedingly well with cheesecake and other equally decadent desserts.


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Editor’s Note

The holidays provide us time for relaxation and reflection.  2013 was a great year!  Our talented ambassador corps logged thousands of miles attending festivals.  Virginia Wine Club President Stewart Reynolds and I had the privilege to touring and tasting the best of the Old Dominion.

Our often unsung back office staff kept Stewart and me on task and on time with a multiplicity of deadlines and commitments.    Trust me when I say, without Xen’s proofreading prowess, readers would find countless errors in the VWJ.

When all is said and done, you are the reason we do what we do.  I treasure each of your emails (even when they disagree) because it means together we are expanding the footprint of Virginia wine.

I am grateful for your membership, your willingness to agree (and disagree) and your understanding that we are all different.  God bless us every one.

And as always, THANK YOU for allow me to be a small part of you Virginia Wine Journey.

Respectfully Submitted,

Neil Williamson

Editor, Virginia Wine Journal

Chairman, Virginia Wine Club Tasting Panel

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Vincabulary – Méthode Champenoise (Champagne Method)

First Fermentation: Still wines are blended for Champagne. Cuveé is allowed to ferment from 2 weeks up to 5 months.

Second Fermentation: A bottling Dosage (spirits and sugar) and special yeasts are added and are immediately bottled and corked.

Disgorging (dégorgement) The neck of the bottle is frozen and the cork is removed.

Shipping dosage (dosage d’ expedition). Cuveé and additional sugar is added. The bottle is corked, caged, and wrapped.


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Trump Winery 2008 Brut Blanc de Blanc

Without question, this wine is the most highly acclaimed vintage we have shipped since I have been editor of the Virginia Wine Journal.  The most well known awards include:

  • Gold, San Francisco International Wine Competition 2013
  • Jefferson Cup ‘Best in Class’, Jefferson Cup Invitational 2012
  • Double Gold, Finger Lakes International Wine Competition 2012
  • Gold ‘Governor’s Case’, Virginia Governor’s Cup Competition 2012
  • Silver, San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition 2012
  • Bronze, Dallas Morning News 2012

The Blanc de Blanc is a sparkling wine made via Méthode Champenoise with 100% Chardonnay, picked at night by hand and gently pressed to ensure that this wine retains all of its best qualities. After a combination of stainless steel and French oak barrel aging, the wine gains complexity by aging on the lees in the bottle for 22 months.

The light straw appearance in the glass is regularly interrupted by columns of evenly spaced bubbles yearning to be free.  The appropriately yeasty nose has an undercurrent of pear and green apple.

The sharper than average attack leads to a long and creamy finely-beaded mouth fee on the midpalate.  The palate reveals beautiful grapefruit and lemon along with subtle hints of pastries.  The finish is clean and memorable


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Roundabout Cellars Arc De Triomphe 2011

The Arc de Triomphe de l’Étoile is one of the most famous monuments in Paris France.  In taking this name Roundabout Cellars, much like France, is stating this as their signature wine.

Unlike its namesake, I would not call Roundabout Cellars 2011 Arc De Triophe neoclassical or enormous.  One of the measures lost on many tourists is the high level of detail of the friezes on the Arc.  In this way I do see similarities.

The 2011 Merlot dominated (70%) blend also includes 30% Nebbiolo.  Candy apple red in the glass, the nose features cherry, smoke and leather.

The mellow and muted attack leads to an exciting midpalate filled with cascading flavors: red cherry, pomegranate, and white pepper.  The well structured and memorable finish lingers slightly with a touch of smoke and hints of leather.

The structure provided by the Nebbiolo gives this wine an expansive list of pairing options.  By dominating with Merlot, the wine has a softness that creates great options with lamb, braised beef or vegetable soup.  I would not be afraid to pair this wine with steamed artichokes or spicy poultry dishes.

Drinking very nicely now, I see only limited increases in complexity over the next twenty four months with proper cellaring.  I fear some of the fruit character that makes this wine unique may fade in that time


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Roundabout Cellars Crossroads 2011

Virginia is clearly making a name for itself with blended red wines.  The vast majority of the Gold Medalists in the 2013 Governor’s Cup competition were red wine blends.

Roundabout Cellars 2011 Crossroads is a slightly different take on blended red than the typical high complexity heavier tannins versions.  This wine focuses more on the fruit and less on the winemaking.

In what winemakers often call a “balanced” blend, the 2011 Crossroads is 34% Cabernet Franc, 33% Nebbiolo and 33% Merlot.  In the glass, this wine presents a deep brick red almost opaque color from rim to rim.  The nose is filled with plum, licorice and blackberry.

The subtle attack features gentle tannins with an underpinning of toffee.  The midpalate expands to expose black cherry notes and strong hints of dark chocolate.  The finish lingers nicely on the rear of the palate with highlights of berry, pine nuts and chocolate.

This well balanced blend is exceptional paired with spicy tomato based Italian food.  While I would not choose to pair with a peppercorn steak, I believe it would be a fine selection for beef stroganoff and grilled eggplant.

Drinking most nicely now, I do not anticipate a significant increase in complexity with additional bottle aging.


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Roundabout Cellars

American author Napoleon Hill once wrote “A goal is a dream with a deadline”.  The Roundabout Cellars brand is testament to what can be accomplished when a dream is supported by passion.

While the term “custom crush” has fallen out of favor with the legislature it is an accurate description of contract winemaking that is being conducted across the Old Dominion.

Roundabout Cellars is the brainchild of Mike Shapiro and Virginia Winemaking veteran (and VWJ friend) Andy Reagan.  Andy’s deft touch can be felt throughout the Roundabout Cellars portfolio.

Roundabout Cellars wine is crafted by Reagan at Ox Eye Vineyards in Staunton.  By utilizing Ox Eye’s facilities, Roundabout Cellars can produce their wines without the capital expenditures of winery ownership.

Several wineries have started with the custom crush model and then moved to their own production facilities, while others see no need to change and have created almost a decade of vintages under the tutelage of a larger winery.

Roundabout Cellars uses sourced fruit from the Monticello American Viticultural Area (AVA) to produce the five wines (3 red, 2 white) in its portfolio.

Reagan and Shapiro have made Roundabout Cellars is a label to watch in 2014 and beyond.

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