Monday, April 23, 2012

Linden Barrel Tasting

We had been looking forward to Sunday's Barrel Tasting at Linden Vineyards for a long time. Last year, we were in the Caribbean during the cellar tasting; this year, the stars aligned and we were able to attend. Karen was planning to join us this year, but work intervened as it sometimes does. Jen and Dewi were waiting for us when we arrived just shy of noon, in the pouring cold rain. Over Ann's shoulder, you can see the gray, dreary day and the wet deck boards from the cold, driving rain. Inside, it was delightful; outside, not so much.

It took 10 tries to get them both to smile simultaneously!
Usually in good weather, we start outside on the unloading floor with a glass of Sauvignon Blanc, but the downright awful weather forced us to start in the tasting room in the little room overlooking the cellar. The 2011 Avenius Sauvignon Blanc is delicious, a little leaner than 2010 and less tropical, with more minerality and herbaciousness. I love it and it paired beautifully with a green lip mussel from Tarver King, chef at The Ashby Inn, who provided all the great eats.

Next it was down to the cellar to taste Chardonnays from all three sites. Here you see the "menu" from the tasting. I didn't want to be that obnoxious guy blasting the flash in everyone's eyes—unlike the woman in front of me—so cellar photos are limited to what I could shoot in the dim light.

First up, Shari Avenius, wearing fairy/butterfly wings, was pouring her eponymous Chard, which had a distinct minerality and a surprising petrol note reminiscent of Riesling. Delicious. Next up, the Hardscrabble Chard poured by Jim's dad, Dick. Less nervy and more balanced than the Avenius, this wine is going to fare very well in the future. My favorite of the three. Just behind Dick was a steel rack holding carboys (and even what appears to be a Carlo Rossi bum jug) of wine to top off the barrels. The backlighting was dramatic and playful; somebody (-ies) had a good time gussying up the cellar for the tasting.

Dramatic lighting, no?
After saying goodbye to Dick, we moved on to barrel number three where Richard Boisseau was pouring his 2001 Chard. Honestly, I was expecting a California Chard from his hot, west facing, low elevation site, but the wine was more interesting than that. It's a big crowd pleaser with buckets of upfront fruit, but it has enough lemony acid structure to keep it from being cloying in that California fashion. My least favorite of the three, but judging from other comments, a crowd favorite. It's definitely a Chard for drinking young; age is not going to sit well on this beauty.

Next in line was the 2011 Claret, the only red we tasted in barrel. This seems a clear signal to me that Jim is not happy with the rest of his reds from a shitty, shitty vintage and may still be trying to figure out what to do with the juice. The Claret blend is noticeably lacking Petit Verdot; it must not have done well. But the wine is delicious, unpretentious, and will make a very good food wine. We'll be proud to serve it at the restaurant.

Speaking of things we'd be proud to serve at the restaurant,  how about this salame? Right behind the Claret barrel was Andrew Campbell of Croftburn Market in Culpeper who was tasting his delicious sausages. We tasted a basic sopressata, a finocchiona, and a pepperoni, all quite delicious! I look forward to seeing if these are cost effective to serve at the restaurant.

Beyond the salame station, we came to the head-to-head tasting of 2008 and 2009 reds. I found this highly instructive because Jim changed techniques between the two very similar vintages and the results are dramatic. At each of three stations, we tasted the Boisseau reds against each other, the Hardscrabble reds against each other, and the Avenius reds against each other. In each case, the long cold soak and extended maceration of the 2009s left them with more extraction and firmer, but quite supple, tannins than the 2008s.

Until this point, the 2008 Hardscrabble Red had been my favorite Virginia wine ever. I can now say that it pales in comparison to the 2009 Hardscrabble Red. This is the best red wine I have tasted in the last year or more. Very, very well done; world class. Weaving in and out of these tastes were several appetizers that Tarver was busy preparing out back, including one that had a mushroom cream, a grilled/smoked pâté, and delicious dolmades. At one point, I popped outside in the cold to say hi for a second, but that reminded me that I was happy to be on the eating side of the appetizers. I had my fill of cooking for the Glen Manor barrel tasting this year.

Reluctantly leaving the cellar—after all, it was more like a cellar party than any barrel tasting I've ever been to—we headed upstairs and luckily managed to secure a table where we dug into the newly bottled Avenius and Hardscrabble reds and yacked the afternoon away.

A parting shot. Every now and again, I take a photo that I really like. This is one. I'll call it "A Good Day."

A Good Day

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