Editor’s Note – Life is Good!

Crush2013 is now in the record books and from most reports the whites were late and the reds were close to on time.  Mother Nature certainly helped by not giving us a hurricane this harvest.

Spending time on the wine trail this October, I found most of the Tasting Rooms bustling with activity and events.  Live music is becoming more the norm in many tasting rooms on the weekends.  What a great way to spend the afternoon with a little bluegrass (or rockabilly, or country, or jazz) with a glass of Virginia wine.  Life is good.

This time of year we also start to think about family gatherings.  Let me be the first to suggest you pick “wine” as what to bring to the holiday dinner.  Then call us and we’ll ship it to your family ahead of your arrival.

Just image how impressed your Mother in Law will be that you were so thoughtful and thought ahead (provided they don’t uncork it before you get there).  We have three packs, six packs and the in law set (a full case of Virginia wines) especially selected for you.  Give Xen a call in the office and we will get you all set up.

There is only one Virginia Wine of the Month Club and we take pride in bringing you the best Virginia has to offer.  Whether for the holiday dinner, client gifts or other celebrations we are just a phone call away.

As always, thank you for letting me be a part of your Virginia wine journey.

 Respectfully Submitted,

Neil Williamson, Editor, VA Wine Journal, Chairman VA Wine Club Tasting Panel

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Vincabulary – High Density Vineyards

In wine regions of France, the growing of wine grapes arose from a culture in which everything was done by hand. When vineyards were replanted after phylloxera, spacing between rows was often just sufficient for humans, and horses, to pass through, but not much wider than that. The great terroirs of Burgundy are a precious commodity, and those lucky few who own them try to get as much fine fruit as they can from the small amount of acreage they own.

Vineyards in Burgundy, Bordeaux and Champagne typically have about 10,000 vines per hectare (4,050 per acre), with vines spaced about one meter (3.28 feet) apart within and between rows. Here in the U.S., however, agriculture has been much more dominated by mechanization, and the width of rows in vineyards has typically been dictated by the size of tractors and other equipment used to work the vineyard. Here, vines are commonly placed eight feet apart within a row and 12 feet between rows, for a density of only about 1,080 vines per hectare.

-Source www.Rjonwine.com

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Church Creek Cabernet Franc 2011 Produced by Chatham Vineyards

Cabernet FrancOne of the delights to living in Virginia is the changing of the seasons.  Along with the brisk mornings and the changing leaves, red wine sales tend to pick up markedly in the autumn.

Cabernet Franc is another Virginian delight. Classically used as a blending grape, one of Bordeaux’s “Noble Grapes”, Virginia wine growers have been on the forefront of establishing Cabernet Franc as a varietal for the last twenty years.

The Church Creek 2011 Cabernet Franc includes 10% Petit Verdot which provides added weight and color. The dark purple hue in the glass is slightly mysterious but the nose is filled with raspberry, blackberry, plum and licorice.

A silky smooth attack leads to a midpalate that expands to showcase blackberry, red cherry, chocolate and toffee notes.  The finish lingers nicely on the rear of the palate with coffee undertones.

The natural pairing for this wine is braised or grilled beef or lamb.  Well marinated vegetable kabobs with tofu will also accentuate the dark fruit elements of this fine wine.

Drinking very nicely now, this wine will continue to evolve with proper cellaring.  Flavor integration on the midpalate and a slight extension of the finish will reward members who wait even six months before opening.


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Church Creek Merlot 2011 Produced by Chatham Vineyards

Section 4.23 of the U.S. Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) wine law specifies that to use the name of a single grape variety on a wine label, the wine must contain 75% of that grape type.  While some might call this a government “loophole” in varietal accuracy, I tend to believe it is recognition of the art of winemaking.Merlot Label

Even though he is not legally mandated, Jon Wehner, owner/winemaker at Chatham Vineyards, prefers to inform his customers what he selects to blend into his varietal wines.  In the case of the 2011 Merlot, Wehner used 89% Merlot and 11% Petit Verdot.  Alone, Petit Verdot can be a big tannic bomb with almost black color.  By using a small percentage in this wine provides the vintage significant color and structural enhancement.

This Merlot presents in the glass deep, dark pigmentation.  The nose includes the aromas of Bing cherry, licorice and plum.  The sharper than anticipated attack includes subtle, silky tannins leading to a midpalate of plum, strawberry and a hint of rhubarb.  The finish lingers nicely with undercurrents of tobacco and leather.

The unique balance in this wine leads me to pairing with Italian dishes like lasagna or Eggplant Parmesan.  While drinking very nicely now, I do anticipate additional flavor integration on the midpalate and a possible extension of the finish with proper cellaring.



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Church Creek Chardonnay Steel 2012 Produced by Chatham Vineyards

Steel Chardonnay LabelWhen little to no oak aging occurs, (as in this “steel” version) Chardonnay leans to be more crisp and fresh. Winemakers say it is much harder to hide a flaw in an unoaked Chardonnay because the truth is there for all to see; whereas a barrel fermented vintage provides the subtlety of the oak.

Chardonnay is the world’s most popular white wine grape and it is grown in virtually every wine-producing region.

The 2012 Church Creek Chardonnay presents a consistent light parchment color throughout the glass.  The nose is filled with fall fruits and tropical notes including bananas and allspice.

Stainless steel fermentation provides a sharp attack with green apple undertones.  The midpalate picks up on the tropical notes of the nose expressing a most interesting balance of honeydew melon and white grapefruit.  The finish, albeit brief, is accentuated with citrus elements of tangerine and pink grapefruit.

This Chardonnay would pair well with almost any entrée.  The acidic attack and citrus finish tend to lend themselves to grilled seafood (without a white sauce) or slightly spicy vegetarian dishes.

Stainless steel fermentation lends itself to earlier consumption.  Drinking nicely now, I do not anticipate significant gain in the flavor profile with additional aging.


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Chatham Vineyards – Church Creek Wines

Wine making education programs (UC-Davis, Virginia Tech, etc.) can provide a fantastic understanding of the science of wine but the best way to learn how to grow wine is experience.  Chatham Vineyards Winemaker Jon Wehner is a second-generation winegrower on the Eastern Shore of Virginia. He first learned about grape growing from his parents who operated Great Falls Vineyard in Great Falls, Virginia for thirty years.

Virginia wine has changed a great deal in that time and continues to evolve.  Since 1999, Jon and his wife Mills have been on the forefront of the development of the Eastern Shore as a wine region.  Mill even serves on the Virginia Wine Board, the organization tasked with the advancement of the Commonwealth’s wines.

Located on the Eastern side of the Eastern shore in Marchipongo, Chatham has more than 20 acres under vine.  Focusing on Vitis Vinifera varietals, the high density plantings (1,740 vines per acre) include Merlot, Chardonnay, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon and Petit Verdot.  Such high density planting, and aggressive winter pruning is designed to produce lower yields (4 tons per acre) and more concentrated flavor (see vincabulary).

The land at Chatham, which overlooks Church Creek, was patented in 1640. The Federal-period brick house, Chatham, was built in 1818 by Major Scarborough Pitts and named for William Pitt, the Earl of Chatham and friend of the American Revolution. The historic outbuildings, barns and two early 1900s homes on the property have been renovated in recent years. Chatham Farm has been a working farm for four centuries.

The vineyards benefit from well-drained sandy loam soils, a maritime climate allowing for a long growing season, a nearly constant breeze and favorable temperatures during the grape harvest season in September and October.  With such advantageous environmental benefits there is also a fair amount of risk.  The Eastern Shore vineyards are positioned directly in the path of many historic harvest hurricanes that can easily erase the efforts of an entire growing season.

The National Weather Service records show August with 5.52 inches of rain as the Eastern shore’s wettest month on average.  This can hinder ripening and push harvest further back into October when tropical storms are prevalent.  Since its founding, Chatham has been impacted by late summer storms but they have not lost an entire vintage.

The winery was constructed in 2005 and currently has a production capacity of 3,000 to 5,000 cases annually.

While the tasting room in the winery is quite nice, the Wehner family plans to renovate and restore an 1890s farmhouse adjoining the winery to serve as a tasting room and special events facility.

As a second generation wine growing family, the Wehner’s are making a proud name for Chatham Vineyards one wine at a time.

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Vincabulary – Veraison

Veraison is the period of the beginning of berry ripening. The berries become soft and take on the colors characteristic of their specific varieties.  From the beginning of veraison to harvest, the berries will increase in volume, weight, and sugar content (brix).



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