Saturday, April 25, 2015

Glen Manor Comparative Barrel Tasting

On Sunday the 19th, Ann and I drove down to Glen Manor Vineyards south of Front Royal to participate in their comparative barrel tasting, which is one of the most informative tastings that I have ever done. Before we get into that, we should back up a couple months when Jeff and Kelly and I  had a flurry of email conversations about the event and what to pair with each set of wines.

The concept for the tasting as Jeff explained to me in an email was that there would be three stations at which he would pour two wines that differed by only one variable so that we could see the effect (or not) of that variable on the wine. The wine geek in me loves that idea.

Jeff White in Action
The three stations were, in order of tasting, Cabernet Franc, then Cabernet Sauvignon, and finally Petit Verdot. At each station, Kelly had set out bread and/or crackers, water, a dump bucket, and individual portions of Meadow Creek cheese and the charcuterie that I had made to accompany each set of wine.

And His Lovely Wife Kelly
In the photo above, you can see the grissini and crackers that Kelly baked. She killed herself bringing this event off. She decorated each station most artfully and Ann and I both remarked that she did a wonderful job of making the drab and utilitarian cellar come alive.

The two Francs came from the same block and have been in the same barrels, but were vinified with two different yeasts, the one that Jeff uses traditionally for Franc and another that is used for wines of more structure, such as his Cabernet Sauvignon. For Jeff's Franc, which always tastes of bright cherry, I paired a terrine of local pork and dried sour cherries, topped with a cherry mustard. I find when pairing wine that it often helps to echo the predominant fruit in the wine. There are other ways to pair wine, but this is generally safe and since I had no opportunity to taste the wines beforehand, safe is good.

I appreciated the deep cherry flavors in the wine made with the traditional yeast and I appreciated the more tannic structure of the other wine. In fact, I did a glass blend of 60% of the fruitier wine and 40% of the more structured wine and came up with a great glass of Franc. I suspect that both these barrels are destined for the Hodder Hill blend and will not be bottled as Franc.

Kelly Makes my Food Look Good
You see my pairing above for the Cabernet Sauvignon, a bison and blueberry terrine with a cassis mustard. Cab almost always tastes of blackberries and cassis, black currants. In addition, I made a mushroom pâté so that non-meat eaters would have something good to pair with their wine. The two Cabs differed only in that they came from two different blocks with perpendicular row orientation, North-South and East-West.

I expected to like the N-S version best because it would get roughly equal sunlight hours on each side of the row and would likely be riper. What I didn't plan on was that I really enjoyed the structure of the E-W version better. I was amazed in the differences in the two wines from blocks just feet apart, due mainly to row orientation. Live and learn.

The final station had Jeff pouring two Petit Verdots, one of which was aged in a barrel made from oak air-dried 24 months before cooperage and the other whose oak had been air-dried for 36 months. Petit Verdot can be a tannic beast and so I decided to throw some fat at it to tame the tannins. I made duck rillettes with lots of duck fat and butter. I appreciated that the 24-month barrel imparted an oakier flavor to the wine. I liked the 36-month barrel slightly better.

My hat is off to Jeff and Kelly for letting Ann and me come to this wonderful tasting. I learned a lot.

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