Live wine blogging from WBC11 in Charlottesville, Virginia

The fourth annual Wine Bloggers Conference started officially at 1 PM today in Charlottesville, Virginia, with a great, down to earth keynote speech from Jancis Robinson, followed by breakout sessions (including the one on local wine, which I was happy  to take part in with Lenn Thompson, Frank Morgan and Dave McIntyre).

But now, the crazy stuff is back: the first of two speed-dating sessions where wineries have five minutes to introduce a wine that we blog about live, also in the same five minutes. Quick, exciting, no time for second impressions, which I always like.

The notes will be added as the wines are poured. Ready, set…

Tabarrini Adarmando 2008

Slightly vegetal nose on this unoaked trebbiano spoletino that sees extended lees contact, made in Montefalco, Umbria. A unique vineyard, says the winemaker, of 70-year old vines. There is a depth to the wine that is interesting, probably partly from old vines, partly from the lees contact. Good value for the retail price of 17-22$. Some tropical notes, good length, and a combination of fattiness and good acid that I like. Original.

Michael Shaps 2008 Monticello Viognier, Virginia

Small production viognier (couple of hundred cases) made at WineWorks. Glad to taste my first Virginia viognier, which seems to be gaining a following. Pretty fresh nose with a slightly leesy character. Feels a little tight. Very fatty, significant texture, sharp acid. It is certainly very young. Vinified in stainless, bottled early on. Interesting, but I’d like to have more time with it to have a more definite opinion.

Jefferson Vineyard 2010 pinot gris, Virginia

86 % pinot gris and 14% viognier in this wine from this local Charlottesville winery. Property has a historical connection to *the* Jefferson. This wine was bottled in April. It’s a little reserved, nose has a limited apple expression. Mouth is dry, with good weight, and the apple character of PG with a little papaya or tropical notes in the back. Retails for 18.95$. Okay, but a little more grigio than gris to me.

Sivas-Sonoma 2010 Sauvignon Blanc

Made by the Sebastiani family in Sonoma County. The winery production is 10,000 cases on four varieties. The sauvignon blanc is Sonoma County, mostly from the Sonoma Valley (62%) and from Russian River (38%). Those who follow me know my dislike for NZ sauvignon blanc, and sadly, this one has the grassy, vegetal, slightly stereotyped nose I can’t really take. Things are better on the mouth, for me, with a white grapefruit component and some herbal notes. Well-made in its style – it’s too bad it’s a style I can’t stand.

Maycas del Limari 2008 Chardonnay, Limari Valley, Chile

Oak-fermented chardonnay from the Limari Valley, north of Santiago. 10 months in oak – but not new. Pretty nice and crisp, with a fair bit of oak, but the acidity and freshness keep it together. No malo on the wine, to preserve that freshness. There’s a nice white fruit character, floral elements. The nose didn’t speak to me much, but the wine is pretty pleasant, if a little constrained in style. True enough, it is a 2008, and could keep going for a good while. For 20$, no complaints.

Keswick Vineyards  2010 Verdejo, Monticello, Virginia

The winemaker, Stephen Barnard, talks about keeping the acidity and freshness in this young Verjdejo, but the nose is floral and aromatic and the mouth feels ripe and well-rounded – oh, wait, there’s that acid on the finish. Apple notes on the mouth. Tasty and fresh, indeed, overall. A pretty great summer sipper for under 20$. I agree with Stephen that it’s a good idea to show some of the variety that Virginia can bring to the table.

Tarara Winery 2009 Nevaeh White, Virginia.

70% viognier with 30% chardonnay in that blend from Northern Virginia. Vineyard is close to the Potomac River, which has a cooling effect and produces a mineral character, says the winemaker Jordan Harris. Oak-aged wine, with 20% new oak and malo that goes if it goes in a cool cellar. Nice sort of lemon curd/meringue aspect, good acid with a well-rounded character from the aging. Winemaker is a graduate from Niagara College, interestingly enough.

Williamsburg Winery 2009 chardonnay, Virginia

Classic oak-aged chardonnay, with some refreshing bitterness at the back. Pretty well-integrated, although there is something a little soft and consensual about it, for me. Apple-pear with a little vanilla, good length. Pretty good, but I’m looking for something specific and not sure if I’m finding it. Oz Clarke liked it, apparently…

Cornerstone Cellars 2010 Coralina syrah rosé

Designed as a rosé, says Craig Camp, Cornerstone’s man in the house and Wine Bloggers Conference fixture. Rosé de presse, not a saignée: spends two hours in the press, soaking in the color, and then pressed. Round feeling to it and great, great acid, fresh and flavorful, nice garrigue, smoke and red fruit on the nose. Good length, well-made. Maybe a tad dry on the finish, but very nice to taste.

Emma Pearl 2009 Chardonnay, Central Coast

Inaugural vintage from this winery. 90% chardonnay, 10% viognier. Round and full-bodied, very aromatic, expressive nose, floral pieces. Ripe Central Coast fruit, a little on the rich side, but sustained by acidity. 3.3 pH when it comes in, says winemaker Nova Cadamatre. Good stuff for the price. Has personality and strikes a nice balance, with even a little minerality on the finish.

CalNaturale 2009 Chardonnay, Mendocino, California.

Organic chardonnay in Tetra Pak – chosen for environmentally-friendly reasons, we’re told. Apples – and a tad of browning apple or raw apple juice. 12$ or so, retail. Even at that price, I find it lacks a bit of freshness. I’ve had worse in Tetra Pak or bag-in-box, but I’m not enthused.

Cliff Family Winery NV The Climber Chardonnay

The wine comes in a 1.5 liter bag format. Original and interesting, packaging wise. Simple, green apple, a little lemon. But for the price (17.95$ for the equivalent of two bottles), it’s really, really a good deal. Clean, refreshing – what more would you want for your picnic in the summer heat? Nice job.

Aaaand… we’re done. Until tomorrow, for the reds. Lots of wines around 18$, this time, and it felt a little uniform, overall. Standouts for me were the Umbria Trebbiano, the syrah rosé, the Emma Pearl chardonnay and this last one. Good stuff.

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