The Tasting Panel magazine

November 2013

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PHOTO COUTESY OF BOXWOOD WINERY An aerial view of Boxwood Winery in Virginia. PHOTO COURTESY OF BILTMORE ESTATE PHOTO: CAMERON DAVIDSON, COURTESY OF VIRGINIA TOURISM CORPORATION Recently returning from a ten-day tasting tour of most of the South, Southern winemakers have convinced me that they are making good wine, even great wine. Admittedly, not all are good, but there's a lot of mediocre wine coming out of California, too—and it's a hell of a lot easier to make wine in California than in the South. According to the winemakers I visited with in the Southern states, making Southern wine requires serious winemaking skills—similar to the skills required to make great wine in other difficult climates such as Burgundy or even Bordeaux. And, frankly, I have to agree with them. Their results are proven in the bottle. If I poured a glass of good Southern wine from a bottle with a California appellation, most consumers would go nuts over it. What I realized on my wine tasting excursion was that the biggest problem for the good wineries in the South is not their grapes, climate or abilities, it's the names of their states—a true marketing problem. On the contrary, I was surprised at how many wineries I visited actually had out-of-state distribution—a good sign that wines of the South are getting more market penetration. Luca Paschina, owner-winemaker at Barboursville Vineyards. Virginia Virginia is leading the "quality wine" pack with the best and most consistent wines. At the end of my tour, I was a wine judge for the 12th annual Wines of the South competition held at the University of Tennessee, which allowed entries from any of the 14 Southern states. For "Best of Class," I voted for a beautiful Viognier that I now know was from Virginia. It eventually won Best of Show. In addition to Viognier, both Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay are doing well. However, I was also impressed with Barboursville Vineyards Vermentino, a crisp and clean version with floral, stone fruits and mineraltiy. Winemaker Luca Paschina—born in Italy but in his own words "now a Virginian"—has produced Virginia's most famous and, possibly, most awarded wine, Octagon. It's a Bordeaux blend and quite pretty and well balanced with fruit, leather and spice—and a great value at $45. For me though, it was Luca's other wines that really caught my attention: the 2011 Cabernet Franc and 2010 Nebbiolo Reserve. The first was fruity and juicy with soft tannins and loads of finesse and the latter was true to its Italian heritage—elegantly aromatic with dried fruits and leather. In Northern Virginia, at Boxwood Winery, owned by the Kent-Cook family of Washington Redskins fame, I began to realize a commonality in the red wine terroir of Virginia. Even though there are several AVA's in the state, terroir driven Virginian red wines appear to have similar earthy flavor profiles, with dark fruits and beautiful finesse—more subtle fruit than the typical Californian with the elegance of many of the French. These are food wines to be sure. Boxwood produces just four wines all from traditional Bordeaux grapes, all extremely well-priced. Three are red: Trellis, Topiary and Boxwood; one is a Rosé (which I didn't have a chance to taste.) Trellis, the lightest of the three is earthy with a bit of herbaceousness and fruit ($18.) Topiary is earthy with dried strawberry notes, a pit of pine and some pepper ($25.) Boxwood has tobacco and leather with fresh, november 2013  /  the tasting panel  /  147 TP1113_109-156.indd 147 10/24/13 9:18 AM

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