(Sorry about the animated GIF photo at the top – I didn’t take many pics, so I’m using what I have. Next time!)
The secret envelope must be opened! I was really excited and hoping to win the big prize – a year’s membership! Today was their monthly member event – a “Benoni Day” – when they have a few select wines available in the barrel room to taste and sample. So I grabbed dad and we went to check it out. We started with some errands he needed and then headed to lunch along the way and then up to La Grange.
Tasting in the barrel room is kind of fun – it’s a different atmosphere, fewer people, and the staff is usually having fun (they definitely were today!). Three wines were featured – the first was a chardonnay – not theirs, but made from som grape skins they purchased from Granite Heights (which is still on my list to visit). This was really an orange chardonnay – not orange because there are additives, but because the extended time on the skins gives more color to the wine. It was a richer golden color. They were taking votes on weather to age and bottle it as is or to fortify it and make it more of a dessert wine, or both. We voted to go both ways. I wasn’t partial to this – it didn’t have the regular va chardonnay flavor, and I don’t think I’d like it bottled as is, but it could get interesting given enough time.
The next two was a mini-vertical of their Kali Blend – the 15 and 16 bottles were there to sample. 15 is the current release for sale by the bottle (and one is living in my wine fridge now!), and the 16 is an upcoming release. This is their left bank Bordeaux, with the 15 coming from Washington and the 16 coming from Paso Robles. Both were solid wines, and the 15 was smoother (it had 9 months in oak barrel, whereas the 16 had fifteen months in oak (I think I got that right)). The ’16 was bolder, and some of that was the oak coming through. Given what I learned yesterday about oak covering issues in the fruit, that was interesting. But both were very drinkable now, and will probably age pretty well.
Inside we went for a tasting from the menu at the bar. We were lucky enough to get Zach, who has done a tasting for Wine Friend 1 and me in the past. Zach is funny, albeit a bit sarcastic, and he plays with the flights, mixing and matching based on what he likes, and what he thinks the customer may like. He gave us a great variety – starting with the Gewurztraminer – which I did not care for at all when it was in my club package (I sent it home to sister and FBI (favorite brother in law) with my nephew last year cause he said he would make a soup with it), but it has smoothed out a ton and drinks nicely now – lots of lemongrass in it. He then went to the Viognier – which was a better viognier than many I’ve had lately. I enjoyed this one and found it crisp and smooth with white fruit. It was all stainless steel and drank well.
Zach switched us to reds and took us deep with the Tempranillo. What a wine this is. There is one bottle in the secret wine fridge, and it is going to come out soon. It’s California fruit and it’s good – some spice and lots of darkness to it – it smells amazing too. From there we went to their Zinfandel, which is also out of California and is very strong. I think I wrote about their Cab Franc Reserve from when Wine Friend 1 and I stopped there in the fall and enjoyed out glasses.
Next up the Syrah, whcih in my mind was the weakest of the reds we had that day – jammy, not a lot of depth or complexity to it – it was pleasant, but it didn’t wow me, especially given some of the other rich incredible wines we were drinking.
Zach, making amends for some of his sarcasm, offered us additional tastings, and I requested the meritage, since it’s the wine I fell in love with La Grange over.
The 2015 meritage was a solid red blend, but it was the 14 Meritage Reserve that knocked my socks off. Zach mentioned that the meritage itself wasn’t nearly as good as the reserve, grabbed a bottle and opened it to pour us a sip (Hey Katie, if you’re reading this, please don’t punish him, at least not for this. We did buy two bottles of it!). The Reserve is stunning. So much depth to it, and what I think smart wine people call volume – the taste sensations last for a while with each sip. It’s bold, dark and strong. It’s not Virginia, but it’s GREAT.
Finally, Zach finished us with the 15 Carmenere – which we love a lot and ended up with a bottle to open and sip and take home. Zach did make the tasting a lot of fun with his good humor, and despite the cigarette smoke soaked Russians next to us (with an odd assortment of loud children) dad and I had a great time. We retired to the enclosed deck with carmenere, salami and goat cheese with a baguette and crackers.
The secret envelope – well, that turned out to be 50% off a bottle -not the grand prize, but awesome Katie went ahead and extended it to a few bottles, so dad went home with a meritage reserve and I had the same plus the leftover carmenere. I tried to work a deal to order some for shipping to FBI, but they don’t ship to his state, so that didn’t work out so well.
It’s not all VA grapes, but it’s made in Virginia, and it’s good stuff. There will be a package release next month, and I am totally looking forward to it!