August 9, 2013

International Medals

We are pleased to announce we won three medals at the Indianapolis International Wine Competition, including our first international golds!

2010 "Ode to Joy" Meritage
2011 "Ottantotto" Viognier

2012 "Sabado" Sauvignon Blanc

More on the competition here.

Posted by Stephen at 4:15 PM

July 28, 2011

Atlantic Seaboard Wine Competition

We're proud to announce that three of our wines won medals in the Atlantic Seaboard Wine Competition!

"Johann" 2008 Reserve Petit Verdot - GOLD
"Calor" 2009 Barrel Fermented Chardonnay - SILVER
"Cantabile" 2009 Cabernet Franc - BRONZE

Posted by Stephen at 1:08 PM

July 7, 2011

2011 Virginia State Fair Wine Competition

We're pleased to announce our 2009 "Cantabile" Cabernet Franc won a silver medal in the 2011 Virginia State Fair Wine Competition! Check out the complete results here.

Posted by Stephen at 7:30 AM

July 6, 2011

2011 Wine & Music Pairing Results

Thanks to everyone who came out for the 3rd annual Wine & Music Pairing Experience. I've compiled all the votes and the results are in!

"Vincero" Viognier 2010

"Calor" Chardonnay 2009

"Cantabile" Cabernet Franc 2009

"Celtico" Chambourcin 2009

"Johann" Petit Verdot 2008

Thanks to the team at for the great write-up!!!

Posted by Stephen at 11:51 AM

May 31, 2011

First Bottling - 2010 Vintage

Today we bottled the first of our 2010 vintage. It was an incredibly smooth day, both the crew and the bottling line functioning like clockwork. Special thanks to Jeff Blake at Breaux Vineyards for his hard work and unyielding attention to detail.

Shannon and I spent a lot of time blending the new "Vincero" stainless steel-fermented Viognier. The past three vintages have been 100% Viognier, and we felt it was time to evolve the wine a bit. After trying blends with barrel-fermented Viognier, Chardonnay and Vidal Blanc, we were both a bit surprised to find we loved the blend with the Vidal. The Viognier has a wonderful lemony aroma, different than the bright pink grapefruit in years past, and the addition of the floral Vidal has created a completely new identity for this wine. This was my first-ever tank fermentation, and I had a tough act to follow as the previous two years were produced by consulting winemakers Mark and Vicki Fedor over at North Gate. Pretty sure we got it right!

Stainless steel Viognier 88% / Barrel-fermented Vidal Blanc 12%.
Public release fall 2011.

The new "Celtico" Chambourcin is the best yet! A combination of fruit from our grower Ed Reeve and some more we picked up from Breaux, the 2010 is showing intense berry on the nose, and a touch more body and tannin on the palate than in previous years due to an increased addition of Merlot, Petit Verdot and Cabernet Franc. Lightly filtered with a "rock catcher" filter to allow some of the large particulate through, this wine remains the perfect complement for pizza, pasta and brats on the grill.

92% Chambourcin / 4% Merlot / 2% Petit Verdot / 2% Cabernet Franc
Public release fall 2011.
Shipping NOW as an exclusive pre-release for VIP Club Members.

Posted by Stephen at 9:21 PM

February 9, 2011

2011 Virginia Governor's Cup

We are pleased to announce we entered two of our reds in the 2011 VA Governor's Cup (Reds) and received two new medals!

2009 "Cantabile" Cabernet Franc = SILVER
2008 "Johann" Petit Verdot = BRONZE

Congratulations to our fellow Loudoun wineries who also took home medals. Full details here:

Posted by Stephen at 12:44 PM

July 25, 2010

2010 State Fair Competition Results

We are thrilled to announce we received four awards at the 2010 Virginia State Fair Wine Competition!!! We won three awards for our wines, and another for a label design.

GOLD - 2008 "Cantabile" Cabernet Franc
GOLD - 2009 "Calor" Chardonnay
SILVER - 2009 "Verano" Vidal Blanc
3rd Place in the "Best Use of Whimsy on a Label" category for the 2008 "Cantabile" Cabernet Franc

Many thanks to Steven Brown of Indian Springs Vineyards, who grew our Chardonnay and Vidal Blanc, and special thank of course to all of our family, friends and customers who continue to enjoy and support our wines and efforts!

Complete results are available for download here.

Posted by Stephen at 8:45 AM

July 7, 2010

2010 Wine & Music Pairing Results Posted!

I've put together the collated results from the 2010 wine and music pairing event we hosted on 26-June-2010. As with last year most of the wines had a very clear favorite track. Most interesting is that what we believe the best pairing to be (and put on the back label) was either first or second! Pretty awesome!

This year, in order to help people understand the concept better, I put together a short video from interviews recorded during the event. Check it out:

You can download the results here:

"Ottantotto" Viognier 2009

"Calor" Chardonnay 2009

"Verano" Vidal Blanc 2009

"Cantabile" Cabernet Franc 2008

"Celtico" Chambourcin 2009

Posted by Stephen at 12:12 PM

May 20, 2010

May Bottlings

Today we completed the second round of May bottling! Last week we bottled the 2009 "Celtico" Chambourcin (our first unfiltered dry red) and the 2009 "Ottantotto" barrel-fermented Viognier.

Today we bottled the 2009 "Calor" Chardonnay (barrel-fermented 1% R.S.) and our newest creation, the 2009 "Verano" Vidal Blanc (barrel-fermented 1% R.S.)

All the wines are showing superbly and will be available starting this weekend!!!

Posted by Stephen at 9:01 PM

April 14, 2010

Winery Chores

Spent the day in the winery, which is always a good thing. Checked every red barrel and am very excited about the development. The Chambourcin is holding true to its intended design, a wonderful light-bodied, medium tannin approach. I topped up all the barrels with a Petit Verdot / Cab Sauv mix to add in some dark fruit and weight. Will be bottling the 2009 Celtico on May 6th.

Also ran through all the Cab Franc, Cab Sauv, and Petit Verdot and the wines are showing beautifully. Two barrels of the Merlot needed a splash-racking to burn off some H2S and settled back in to the barrel successfully. Interesting to note the Cab Franc is showing some more pronounced varietal characteristics than in previous years - interesting black pepper notes and a fuller body. Likely due to vine maturity and less aggressive leaf-pulling than in years past, but also made a few changes during fermentation (Opti-Red and different yeast selections) so am very pleased with the results.

One last topping for the whites, which will be bottled on May 6/7 along with the Celtico. "Ottantotto" barrel Viognier, "Calor" barrel Chardonnay and the new "Verano" barrel Vidal Blanc all showing round silky mouthfeel, hints of oak and gorgeous golden color. I had set aside four 5-gallon carboys of the Chardonnay in late fall after a racking (never want half-filled barrels) and used these to top. It was interesting to compare the bouquet differences between the carboy Chard and the barrel - I think the carboys will add in a nice fruity element to the nose of the finished wine.

Stay tuned for bottling updates and release dates!

Posted by Stephen at 5:23 PM

February 4, 2010

Governor's Cup Medals

We are pleased to announce both wines we entered in the Virginia Governor's Cup received medals! The 2008 "Celtico" Chambourcin won silver, and the 2008 "Cantabile" Cabernet Franc won bronze. "Celtico" is a blend of 85% Chambourcin, 10% Tannat, and 5% Petit Verdot. "Cantabile" is a blend of 86% Cabernet Franc, and 14% Petit Verdot. Both are notable in that they are the first two wines we made by ourselves here in our winery.

Many thanks to our winemaking consultant Doug Fabbioli for his continued guidance, as well as to Mark and Vicki Fedor of North Gate Vineyard, all of whom continue to win awards with their wines as well.

Posted by Stephen at 7:53 PM

August 31, 2009

Winery Upgrade Construction

So our current winery setup was NOT going to be able to handle the 2009 crush and production plan. Our temporary case storage we built last year got us through 2008 but now we're out of room again. So to maximize the height of our building (16' ceiling) I opted to build a mezzanine under which we would be able to double our barrel storage capacity.

The key to whole project would be insulating the entire building, not just a portion of it. Thus construction progress through two very miserably hot weeks in late August. Of course many of you will remember people saying "2009 really hasn't been a very hot summer..." UNTIL I go to pick up a hammer. Then the temps were sure to shoot right back up. Very nice.

Enjoy the pics!

Posted by Stephen at 9:35 AM

May 14, 2009

Photo Gallery Catchup

Had the chance to catch up on some more of my photo galleries. Here are several from last fall - enjoy!

Case storage construction

Grand opening weekend

Transporting equipment

August & September


Posted by Stephen at 2:34 PM

April 13, 2009

New Wines Released

We're pleased to announce we've released two new wines in addition to the recently released Vincero Viognier. New to the tasting room are:

"Calor" White Table Wine

A blend of 45% stainless-steel fermented Chardonnay, 45% stainless-steel fermented Sauvignon Blanc, and 10% barrel fermented Pinot Gris with 1% residual sugar.

Like a summer night on South Beach, Calor evokes feelings of good times and good friends. Close your eyes, inhale the ocean breeze, feel the rhythm of the latin jazz, then enjoy a glass of Calor.

Best paired with hot sax.

"Celtico" Chambourcin

85% Chambourcin, 10% Tannat and 5% Petit Verdot, dry red wine

Hard to define, yet mysteriously familiar, our Celtico Chambourcin is blended with Tannat in a fusion of new and old. Mystical and uninhibited like the culture it honors, its dauntless spirit endures. Slainte Mhath!

Best paired with new age Celtic.

All wines are viewable here:

Posted by Stephen at 6:14 PM

March 30, 2009

Blog Catchup - New Photo Galleries

If you've been following this blog for any length of time you've by now figured out I'm devoted to keeping it up to date, no matter how far behind I get. I've just spent several hours building some new photo galleries from spring 2008 and have uploaded them into the appropriate blog entries. Will be posting several more over the next few days - stay tuned!!!

March 2008

April 2008

May 2008

Case Storage Construction


Posted by Stephen at 8:36 AM

March 8, 2009

2008 Viognier in the Bottle

We are pleased to announce our 2008 Viognier has been successfully bottled! Many thanks to our winemakers Mark and Vicki Fedor, who have really created an amazing wine.

And the name...? We had a few guesses on our Facebook page as well as through email, and had a couple people correctly guess the name - Vincerò.

So what does that mean? Vincerò is the last line of the lyric to the Puccini Opera "Turandot" - learn more about Turandot here and read the lyrics here.

For us, Vincerò symbolizes the completion of our first step in what will hopefully be a long and amazing journey through the wine, music and hospitality industries. Although we still have a LONG way to go there is an inner peace knowing what has already been achieved. In searching for just the right word to convey our feelings at this stage, I spent hours and hours poring over music dictionaries, only to find the answer has been with us from the start. For those who have spent some time on our Web site, you may recall that my description of "what is Notaviva?" has always included a reference to Nessun Dorma, and Pavarotti's interpretation of that piece. Anyone who has ever seen it will never forget "the note" at the end of the song. And the lyric when he hits that note?


Believe in yourselves, and enjoy.

Posted by Stephen at 6:31 PM

February 27, 2009

2008 Viognier Almost Here...

We are eagerly anticipating our Monday bottling of the newly-renamed 2008 Viognier. Produced by the talented husband and wife team of Mark and Vicki Fedor, founders of North Gate Vineyards the 2008 is showing a remarkable tropical fruit bouquet, wonderful mouthfeel and bright acidity.

Although we're not letting the cat out of the bag yet as to the new name, we do want to drop everyone a hint. It is in the lyric below - tune in to our Facebook page and write on our wall if you want to offer a guess! The label will be posted here Monday night so check back to see if you got it right!


Nessun dorma! Nessun dorma!
Tu pure, o, Principessa,
nella tua fredda stanza,
guardi le stelle
che tremano d'amore
e di speranza.

Ma il mio mistero e chiuso in me,
il nome mio nessun saprá!
No, no, sulla tua bocca lo diró
quando la luce splenderá!

Ed il mio bacio sciogliera il silenzio
che ti fa mia!

(Il nome suo nessun saprá!...
e noi dovrem, ahimé, morir!)

Dilegua, o notte!
Tramontate, stelle!
Tramontate, stelle!
All'alba vinceró!
vinceró, vinceró!


No-one sleeps,
Even you, O Princess,
in your cold room,
Watch the stars
which tremble with love
and hope!

But my secret is locked within me,
no-one shall know my name!
No, no, I shall say it on your mouth
when the light breaks!

And my kiss will break the silence
that makes you mine!

(No-one shall know his name,
and we, alas, shall die!)

Vanish, o night!
Set, ye stars!
At dawn I shall win!

Posted by Stephen at 9:10 PM

February 12, 2009

Cantabile Wins Silver

We're pleased to announce that our 2007 "Cantabile" Cabernet Franc has won a silver medal in the Virginia Governor's Cup! Our second contest entry and our second award, we think the Cab has really developed since bottling last June and consistently receives great comments from visitors to the tasting room. Special thanks of course goes to our winemaker Doug Fabbioli, whose own reserve Cab Franc took home a gold medal and is in the running for the Governor's Cup.

Posted by Stephen at 8:08 AM

October 6, 2008

Pressing Chambourcin

A late night down at the winery, Shannon and I were pressing off the Chambourcin cap. Things went pretty well, although it would have been REAL nice to have had the crush pad in place, rather than doing it in the gravel. But, next year will be a different story. Got started about 5:15 and it took a few hours (3 pressings) and I had all the equipment disassembled and cleaned up by 9:15. Felt pretty good about the project, but definitely learned a few lessons that will come in very handy for the upcoming Cabernet Franc production. Many thanks to the Fedors for lending us their bladder press!!!

Posted by Stephen at 10:01 PM

September 30, 2008

August & September Pics

Here are a few photos from the last two months - check them out!

Posted by Stephen at 2:27 PM

September 28, 2008

Winemaking Update

Apologies for not being able to go into more detail about all that's been happening in our winery, but we are totally jamming down there! We currently have two barrels of Viognier and ten barrels of Chardonnay in primary fermentation, as well as a Macro-bin of Chambourcin (about half full, nearly 1,700 lbs of fruit) Really enjoying the punching down process on the Chambourcin, very much a "hands-on" kind of exercise and all the aromas are amazing. Winemaking kicks ass.

Posted by Stephen at 5:50 PM

August 28, 2008

New Pics Posted

I finally got around to posting pics from our first bottling this past February. Check out the blog entry here.

Posted by Stephen at 3:46 PM

August 25, 2008

Sulfuring Barrels

This afternoon I gave all of our barrels a dose of sulfur, using small discs that are lowered into the barrel and set aflame. Check out the discs here.

If you're into this topic, here is a cool interview about different barrel management techniques. Such techniques are used by people with lots of money, experience and expensive equipment, none of which are currently found in our winery... :o)

Posted by Stephen at 9:33 PM

July 3, 2008

Transporting Equipment

So we're putting together the production plan for the 2008 harvest and crush. Have to move around a few pieces of gear, and get the barrels into the cool storage area to keep them sulfured and chilled. Took a few pics of the operation - enjoy!

Posted by Stephen at 10:08 AM

June 12, 2008

Viognier Earns Gold Ribbon!

In what can only be described as the underdog story of the year, our Viognier has just received a Gold Ribbon at the 2008 State Fair of Virginia Wine Competition. Our first vintage. Our first competition. Absolutely unreal.

It is overwhelming to see our name listed amongst the finest wineries in Virginia, yet at the same time we feel tremendous pride knowing all the hard work and attention to detail these past few years has begun to pay off. Special thanks of course goes to Doug Fabbioli, without whose guidance we would be lost. Congratulations to Doug as well for his wine awards, as well as his 1st place finish in the Overall Winery Presentation category. Hooray Doug! Special thanks also to Ben Renshaw (founder of 8 Chains North wines) who oversaw the production of the Viognier and whose long hours in the winery have allowed this wine to fulfill the promise of the fruit. A total team effort, from the long hours during the season to bring in top quality fruit, to the hard work in the winery. And it goes without saying, thanks and love to our family and friends who have given so much of their time, effort, and support both in the vineyard and out.

Below is the complete listing of all winners. In addition to this honor, we'll now get to pour our Viognier at the "Black Tie and Boots" banquet in September. That will be quite an experience!


Gold Ribbons
AmRheins Wine Cellars - Melange 2005
AmRheins Wine Cellars - Petit Verdot 2005
Autumn Hill Vineyards - MERLOT 2006
Barboursville Vineyards - Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve 2005
Barboursville Vineyards - Merlot 2006
Barrel Oak Winery - BowHaus 2007
Barren Ridge Vineyards - Viognier 2007
Cooper Vineyards - Cooper Vineyards Coopertage Blanc 2006
Cooper Vineyards - Cooper Vineyards Petit Verdot 2006
Corcoran Vineyards - Viognier 2007
Gadino Cellars - RESERVE MERLOT 2005
Gray Ghost Vineyards - GRAY GHOST GEWURZTRAMINER 2007
Holly Grove Vineyards - Holly Grove Vineyards Chardonnay 2006
Ingleside Plantation Vineyards - Petit Verdot 2004
Ingleside Plantation Vineyards - Rosato Di Sangiovese 2007
James River Cellars - PETIT VERDOT 2006
Keswick Vineyards - CABERNET FRANC 2006
Keswick Vineyards - CHARDONNAY 2007
Keswick Vineyards - MERLOT 2006
Keswick Vineyards - VIOGNIER 2007
Lake Anna - Spotsylvania Claret NV
Naked Mountain Vineyard - Barrel Fermented Virginia Chardonnay 2005
Notaviva Vineyards - Viognier 2007
Oakencroft Vineyard & Winery - Oakencroft Cabernet Franc Reserve 2006
Oakencroft Vineyard & Winery - Oakencroft Cabernet Sauvignon 2006
Pearmund Cellars - Petit Verdot 2006
Pollak Vineyards - Pollak Vineyards Cabernet Franc 2006
Potomac Point Winery - LaBelle Vie 2007
Potomac Point Winery - Petit Verdot 2006
Rappahannock Cellars - Claret 2006
Rappahannock Cellars - Cabernet Franc 2006
Rockbridge Vineyard - Rockbridge Dechiel Cabernet Franc 2005
Rockbridge Vineyard - Rockbridge Chardonnay Dechiel 2006
Rockbridge Vineyard - Rockbridge Riesling 2007
Rockbridge Vineyard - Rockbridge Merlot 2006
Rogers Ford Farm Winery - Rogers Ford Petit Verdot 2006
Sugarleaf Vineyards - Petit Verdot 2006
The Winery at La Grange - Fletchers Chardonnay 2006
Willowcroft Farm Vineyards - Petit Verdot NV
White Hall Vineyards - SOLITERRE 2006

Silver Ribbons
Abingdon Vineyard & Winery - Riesling 2007
AmRheins Wine Cellars - Sauvignon Blanc 2007
Barboursville Vineyards - Octagon 2005
Barboursville Vineyards - Octagon '04 2004
Barboursville Vineyards - Brut NV
Chateau Morrisette - PETIT VERDOT 2005
Chatham Vineyards - Church Creek 2007 Steel Chard 2007
Cooper Vineyards - Cooper Vineyards Viognier 2006
Delfosse Vineyards & Winery - Chardonnay Reserve 2006
Delfosse Vineyards & Winery - Viognier Reserve 2007
Fabbioli Cellars - Tre Sorelle 2006
Fabbioli Cellars - Cabernet Franc 2006
First Colony Winery - Sweet Shananda 2006
Holly Grove Vineyards - Holly Grove Vineyards Merlot 2006
Ingleside Plantation Vineyards - Merlot 2005
James River Cellars - MERLOT 2005
James River Cellars - VIDAL BLANC 2007
Keswick Vineyards - HERITAGE 2006
Keswick Vineyards - TOURIGA 2007
Lake Anna - Totally White NV
Lake Anna - Merlot 2005
North Gate Vineyard - CHARDONNAY 2007
Silver Ribbons continued
North Gate Vineyard - MERLOT 2005
Pollak Vineyards - Pollak Vineyards Petit Verdot 2006
Rappahannock Cellars - Chardonnay 2006
Rappahannock Cellars - Viognier 2007
Rockbridge Vineyard - Rockbridge Chardonnay 2006
Stone Mountain Vineyards - Petit Verdot 2005
Sugarleaf Vineyards - Cabernet Franc 2006
Sugarleaf Vineyards - Cabernet Sauvignon 2006
Sugarleaf Vineyards - Viognier 2006
The Winery at La Grange - Cabernet Franc 2006
Vault Field Vineyards - Reserve Red 2006
Veramar Vineyard - Rooster Red NV
Virginia Mountain Vineyards - Virginia Mountain Vineyards Traminette 2006
White Hall Vineyards - PETIT MANSENG 2006
Barboursville Vineyards - Malvaxia 2005
Pearmund Cellars - Late Harvest Viognier 2005
Rappahannock Cellars - Vidal Blanc 2006

Label Competition
Individual Label Design
1st Place: Barboursville Vineyards - Virginia Malvaxia Passto
2nd Place: Lake Anna Winery - Seyval Blanc
3rd Place: The Winery at La Grange - Snort

Overall Winery Presentation
1st Place: Fabbioli Cellars
2nd Place: Ingleside Plantation Vineyards
3rd Place: Barboursville Vineyards

Overall Consistency for Label Design
Rappahannock Cellars

Posted by Stephen at 9:05 PM

June 4, 2008

Case Storage

Well now that we're a winery and everything it's time to have somewhere to put wine. Okey dokey. So since we don't have a cave lying around (they are overrated anyway...) I had to build a temperature-controlled case storage room within the winery. Working in my typical fashion (under-funded and alone) it took about four days to frame in the walls and ceiling, run the electrical/video/internet, then get some drywall on, then insulate the whole thing. Really happy with how it all turned out, and now we have a ton of personal storage up on top.

Enjoy the pics!

And yes, you read that right - internet and video cabling in the case storage room. You never know... :o)

Posted by Stephen at 8:30 AM

February 15, 2008

Our First Bottle!

Today we achieved another milestone, the successful bottling of our first commercial vintage, the 2007 Viognier. This vintage was produced with the help of our friends over at Sunset Hills Vineyards. Mike and Diane Canney were kind enough to allow our equipment into their winery so Ben Renshaw could produce our wine. So today was the big bottling day for several wines, our Viognier, Ben's "LoCo Vino" and a couple of Clyde Housel's wines for his forthcoming Hiddencroft Vineyards label.

It was a momentous occasion to finally hold that bottle in our hands, so much time, effort and money have been poured into this endeavor it is very rewarding to have a tangible "trophy" to hold!

Check out the pics!

Posted by Stephen at 9:39 PM

November 28, 2007

Interior Marketing Photos

I've been working on taking some interior shots to begin using in our marketing collateral. Got a couple good ones during Thanksgiving, as well as a few others.

Enjoy the pics

Posted by Stephen at 7:38 PM

December 12, 2006

New Logo

At long last I think I've finally settled on a font for our logo. It took forever to find, and even once I began designing with it the final image took some font manipulation (adding anchors, doing some distortion, removing some letter bits etc.) Anyhow it is the closest I've been yet and given my current state of exhaustion and the fact that we needed wine labels I'll just say it's done. Like Sting said about recording a song - "A song is never finished - it's just abandoned." I feel pretty much the same.

Posted by Stephen at 4:35 PM

November 5, 2006

Viogner Bottling

This morning we bottled the last of the Viognier we harvested back in August.

Check out the pics!

In order to experiment with different styles, I created three different types (suitably named with musical terms of course!)

All three exhibit similar citrus bouquets, pink grapefruit being most prevalent. They all also have high alcohol content and seem a little "hot", however this is consistent with the 24 degrees brix at harvest which roughly translates to 13.5% alcohol. Maybe they just need to mellow in the bottle for a few more months - we'll see.

The dolce blend has the floral notes consistent with the addition of the Gewurtztraminer and a hint of sweetness on the palette. Down the road I'll probably add in more Traminette and increase the the residual sugar a bit (maybe a 60/40 blend) - not really my favorite style of wine but that will sell like crazy on hot summer days! The oak blend should probably have been bottled a week or two ago - I think the oak bouquet is quite nice but a bit strong in the finish. Perhaps it will settle down in the bottle, or perhaps I just screwed it up (more likely...)

So there it is. In just over four years we somehow managed to go from an absurd notion to bottling our first vintage. There is just too much going on right now for me to really let that sink in, but for the brief moments when I try to ponder it I have trouble believing it has actually happened. Holding one of those bottles in my hand is just an amazing feeling.

My goal this harvest was just to get something bottled - not necessarily to make a great wine, but rather to just get a wine with no obvious mistakes. I think however, that we did far better than that. Shannon and I have been to a lot of wineries during the last four years, tasting, experimenting, evaluating. Perhaps we're just biased, but we both feel very encouraged at the results of our efforts. I sincerely believe I have paid $20 for worse-tasting wine in the store, and I KNOW I have tasted much worse at some of the wineries we've visited. Winetasting is entirely subjective, and that will be something that I will struggle with for the rest of my life. Some people will love our wine, some people will hate it. So regardless of what I think this vintage tastes like, one thing is certain - our Christmas shopping is done!

Posted by Stephen at 10:59 PM

October 17, 2006

Barrel Sterilization

Rinsed out the barolkleen from both the French and Hungarian barrels and added a solution of potassium metabisulfite to sterilize them. Looks like I'll be racking in the wine tomorrow night!

Posted by Stephen at 10:32 PM

October 15, 2006

Barrel Preparation

So in order to take my winemaking the whole way, I decided to purchase two different kinds of barrels to evaluate any differences between French and Hungarian barrels. Since this was kind of a last minute decision, the supply house was out of the sizes I wanted, so I settled for a 20-gallon French and a 12.7-gallon Hungarian. Since the optimum barrel size is around 50-gallons, smaller barrels tend to introduce too much oak character due to the larger surface-to-volume ratio of wood to wine. So the supply house recommends prepping the barrel with a solution of barolkleen, which extracts excess tannins from the oak to allow a more controlled aging process. Otherwise the wine can taste like sawdust in a matter of weeks - not cool.

Posted by Stephen at 10:33 PM

October 3, 2006

Viognier Haze

Looks like the pectin enzyme cleared the viognier haze, but it seems to me that a touch of the grapefruit bouquet has disappeared. I had read that one danger of fining agents is that they can often remove the subtleties of the wine, and now I wish I had thought to leave a control batch to conduct taste tests i.e. did the bouquet lessen due to another reason or directly as a result of the pectic enzyme addition? Oh the vagaries of winemaking - this is so awesome.

Posted by Stephen at 10:52 AM

September 30, 2006

Viognier Protein Haze


Having a little trouble getting the viognier to clear. I didn't add any pectic enzyme at crush (like I did for the cabernet franc) and looks like that was a mistake. So I ordered the enzyme and added 1/4 tsp per each carboy to hopefully clear the haze. The isinglass settled out the rest of the precipitate, so if I can just clear this last bit I'll be ready to bottle. Walking that fine line now though, of adding clarifying agents vs. stripping out flavors. Going to add minimum amounts and see how it goes.


I can already see some improvement in the clarity of the wine. Looks like I'm on the right track - we'll see if it clears all the way or if I have to add another dose.

BTW I got a B+ in my UC Davis class. Bummer. Could nailed it without that big show the last week of lectures, but given everything that's going on guess I can't whine too much. Just a little. :-)

Posted by Stephen at 9:29 PM

August 26, 2006

Viognier Harvest And Pressing

So today was the big day. The first official Notaviva Vineyards harvest! Preparation actually began last night, as I unpacked the press and all the plastic fermenting pails. I laid out all my chemicals and tools in the kitchen, so that when we arrived witht he grapes everything was ready to go. I finally go to bed about 12:30 AM - ugh.

I got up at 4:30, made a pot of coffee and headed over to the vineyard. I had ordered a flat of harvest lugs so I needed to get them unpacked. Shannon, Ken, and Jim met me at the vineyard at 6 AM, and we loaded a couple dozen lugs in the back of Ken's truck and drove them into the vineyard. It was still pretty dark out, but we were able to start laying out lugs in the rows and got to the picking.

Turns out my harvest forecasts were pretty far off - I had estimated we'd bring in about 800 pounds of Viognier, and we only filled up 14 lugs with 382 pounds. What the hell - we didn't think we'd be picking any this year! The picking went fairly quickly, and we were ready to head back to the rental by 7:30. The rationale for picking so early is to get the grapes at the coolest temperature possible, to inhibit microbioligical activity for as long as possible once they are cut. Picking while cool also helps to preserve the fruit flavors, which disappear quickly as the grapes (and eventually the must) heat up.

We got to the rental and quickly got some fruit on the sorting table so we could pick out any berries shriveled from black rot. At first I had hoped to be able to do the direct-to-press method, where the whole clusters are loaded into the press. Once we had filled the press, I started ratcheting down the head and all sorts of problems started to arise. As the press started to compact the clusters, I realized that we didn't have enough wood blocks for spacers, and the ratchet head bottomed out. So we added more. And it bottomed out again. So we added more - still no juice. So we added more, and finally started to get some juice coming out of the press pan, but now the floor was all slippery and it was getting harder and harder to get leverage on the ratchet.

Now mind you, Jim and Ken are quite strong lads, and they were holding the press with everything they had while I was cranking and we were still sliding around the kitchen. So I decided to screw the press to the floor. Yup, that's right - I ran six drywall screws through the holes in the press legs right into the kitchen floor. Then we made a little more progress but still weren't getting the juice as I expected. So we switched, and Jim began to crank the ratchet while Ken and I held the press. He gave it a few cranks and broke the screws.

Now I'm getting really pissed off, which should make for some good TV because did I mention we're doing this with the HGTV camera in our faces? Nothing like making a total asshole of yourself on national television. So I've had it, and decide that I'm going to lag bolt the goddam press to the floor. So Ken and I head to the hardware store to get some bolts, and return home to secure the press. Ahhh - much better! Now we're getting somewhere. We finish off the first basket, evetually getting four gallons out. Disappointment set in though, as I took apart the basket to remove the pomace we saw how many berries in the middle of the cake were still unbroken. I'd say we left at least a gallon of juice in there.

So on the next basketful, Ken started crushing the fruit by hand (since I hadn't purchased a crusher/destemmer as I figured I didn't need one for the direct-to-press method...) This didn't speed up the process any but seemed to be getting a lot more juice out. We got two more basketfuls done in this manner, and eventually finished up with 18 gallons of juice in 3 six-gallon fermenting pails.

I added potassium metabisulfite to 60 ppm in each pail (an anti-oxidant and anti-microbial). I checked my hydrometer readings and found a few discrepancies. The hydrometer read a specific gravity of 1.108, which correlates to 14.5% potential alcohol and 26 degrees brix. But last night when I measured the brix in the vineyard it was 24 degrees brix, which correlates to 13.5% potential alcohol and 1.100 specific gravity. So somewhere I think one of my measuring devices was affected either by temperature or by suspended solids in the juice. Hopefully the field brix readings are the more accurate, because a wine over 14% alcohol is going to be too hot - we'll see.

I built a "wine-cooler" to settle the juice overnight. Basically put an air conditioner in my bathroom and set it on eskimo. The strategy is to settle the juice overnight, then tomorrow I'll rack it off the solids, pitch the yeast (EC-1118) and add bentonite (1 TBS) and diammonium phosphate (1 TBS - DAP is a yeast nutrient) and let the fermentation begin!

Enjoy the pics

Posted by Stephen at 9:37 PM

February 9, 2006

Rhetorical Questions

This entry is from a wine blog I follow, and this entry is especially relevant to the Virginia wine industry:

A Good Cry & Rhetorical Questions

Posted by Stephen at 3:07 PM

January 30, 2005

Barrel Tasting

Last night we visited neighboring Windham Winery for a barrel tasting. Our friend/consultant Doug Fabbioli, winemaker for Winham hosted the 6pm event. Seemed to be about 24 people there, which considering the weather (wintry mix) isn't bad, plus there was an 8pm session which was delayed because of an accident on the road heading to Windham. Anyway the tasting was quite interesting, consisting of four flights of four different wines. The first flight was the Sauvingnon Blanc with two 2004 barrels (one each from vineyards 2&3) and the 2003 and 2002 vintages. Very interesting to smell/taste the differences between the two barrels from the different vineyards (same grape varietal in different soils and microclimates == different wine.) The 2002 was particularly nice, even being slightly past it's prime, while the 2003 was crisp but with noticeably less fruit.

The second flight was the Chardonnay, but to be honest the nose on the first wine (2004 new French barrel) affected us so much we were basically unable to do much with the other three Chardonnays. At this point in the winemaking process (I believe Doug indicated it was in the middle of malolactic fermentation, the process by which malic acid is converted into lactic acid) a very strong chemical compound results which basically smells like burnt rubber. Very close to the smell when your vaccuum cleaner gets stuck and burns up the belt - that's what this smelled like. It was one of those compoinds that just sticks in your nose, but accepting those compounds along the way and knowing that the wine is being transformed is part of the challenge of the process. Scared the shit out of me though - I think the first time I smell something like that come out of one of our barrels I'll pour it in the pond to kill the algae...

Next up was the Cabernet Franc, highly anticipated by Shannon and I due to being one of our first acres in a few months. And we were not disappointed! Very nice wines these Cabs - especially the second 2004 being aged in Hungarian barrels. Such a smooth texture, much different than the American barrels which had a bit of a bite to them, although Doug indicated this is important to the final blend, taking characteristics from each to create the final wine. This is going to be a great wine, we'll be getting a case of it upon release.

The final flight was the 2004 Cabernet Sauvignon, the 2003 and 2002 Vintner's Reserve, and a port which Doug is experimenting with. Obviously the 2004 Cab was quite young (and a touch vegetal I thought...) but the Vintner's Reserves were nice and the port, considering it is the first attempt was quite enjoyable. Not nearly as nutty as a Sandeman's or other Oporto port, but still nice.

Perhaps even better than the educational experience of the barrel tasting was the new people we got to meet. Doug mentioned a few times during the tasting that Shannon and I are new growers and that got some good conversation going with the other two couples at our table, both from Middleburg. Actually one of the guys, Stirling Young, is the vineyard manager at Boxwood Winery, the new venture of John Kent Cooke. Stirling and his friend Andy were great to talk with, and we chatted about vineyard startups, labor, etc. Looking forward to dropping in on him at Boxwood soon.

And the funniest moment of the evening, was when Shannon spotted Dave Collins, winemaker at Breaux Vineyards with a Jars of Clay hat on. Funny because I toured with Jars from '96-'97 and we had just seen the band the weekend before at a close friends' wedding. So we tapped Dave on the shoulder and told him about my association with the band, and had a wonderful conversation. Dave has been making wine in Loudoun County for nearly 20 years, having planted the first vines at Breaux long before they even owned the property. He was very interested in our venture, and knows the area and will drop by sometime. I told him I'll be getting him a picture signed by the band and he was really happy about that!

Posted by Stephen at 11:14 PM

May 31, 2003

Winery Seminar

Today we attended a winery seminar given by Dr. Bruce Zoecklein from Virginia Tech.

What an amazing amount of knowledge to gain in a single day. Main focus of the day was on business plans for varying size wineries, from 2,000 cases all the way up to 200,000 cases per year. Excellent course material broke out all the costs associated with a winery start up. Additional presenters from the Virginia wine industry also gave excellent information on everything from tank selection to power requirements.

This seminar was great because we got a sense that Dr. Zoecklein and the other people are total realists, and essentially tried to discourage the people in attendance from starting a winery unless they were absolutely 100% serious about the venture. As wonderful a notion as founding a winery is, it will also be a rough road getting it off the ground. This is not going to be a cheap or easy venture - probably the main reason Shannon and I are attracted to it. I guess if we didn't bag this idea today we're in it for the long haul!

Posted by Stephen at 5:12 PM