Another Wonderful Day at Walsh Family Wine

It’s not alliteration if the letter is every other word is it?  Surely there is some name for that in the history of grammar and ELA courses everywhere….

Today was a good day, it was club pickup day at Walsh Family Wine.  This was my first club pickup with them, and they really did it right.  Wine Friend 1 came along, as did two of our coworkers/friends.

As usual, we were greeted with a glass of Rose.  Sarah greeted us at the door and told us to start out on the patio and she would get us when the tasting began.  Soon enough, Nate, co-owner and grower/winemaker took us in the barrel and tank room and started discussing the process for the wines we were about to receive.

Nate started with a discussion of where we are in the growing season since tiny flower clusters that will become grapes have just started to show themselves.  Because there is so much rain, their big job right now is shoot cutting and thinning, to tame the vigor of the vines and ensure quality grape production.  He shared that the crew is working seven days a week right now on that alone.  He also mentioned that in the “cellar” area now there are estate petit manseng and chardonnay waiting to be bottled as well as two red blends.    This informational part always turns me on – I really like hearing about what they’re working on and getting some of the education.  This was some good insight into where he sees the winery heading.

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The Petillant Naturel was a huge hit!

The first club sample was from Plateau, their Petillant Naturel rose.  This rose was made of cab franc from the Twin Notch vineyard, same as the rose in the club shipment.  He spoke about the vineyards themselves and how this block of the vineyard (nicknamed the plateau) was producing big berries, and they decided to pick early in September to get more acid.  They pressed and tanked the grapes and let the indigenous yeast do its work.  The wine was bottled before fermentation completed, in order to give it a tiny amount of bubble and sparkle.  Everyone who has read a few entries understands that I am very interested in clean / low-intervention wines, and this had no additives or sulfites.  I really enjoyed this, after not liking my previous experience with Pet Nat very much.  It has a flavor very similar to the twin notch rose, but with the bubbles adding a pleasant but not overwhelming aspect to it.  This is still a dry wine (the previous Pet Nat I had was quite sweet, and fairly undrinkable) with good acid and nice fruit.  It was such a hit when the winery opened, that they had to halt sales in order to give some to the club members, and after this distribution it will likely be gone. Never fear, they plan to make more!  It is a labor intensive production, because they can only bottle 80 cases per day, as opposed to 2000 per day of other wines.  This was a really interesting discussion.

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Nate tells us all about Russ Mountain Merlot

The next wine we tasted was the Russ Mountain merlot, and Nate had a fascinating story about this one.  He talked about starting in Northern Virginia wine and going to winemaker roundtables where they would discuss different grapes and support each other with ideas.  At one of these he tasted a merlot that really struck him, with grapes all from Russ Mountain.  The growers didn’t make their own wine, they just sold them off to other winemakers, and they had a waiting list for other wineries.  He couldn’t ever get any actual grapes.  In 2017, NorthGate took over the lease for the entire growing and started apportioning it among winemakers.  Once the Walshes purchased the winery, they took over the lease, and now the grapes are all his.  I’m pleased by the product of that because this low intervention merlot is stunning.  It’s quite full and tastes like a stronger grape, much fuller and rounder in mouth when drinking than I am used to with merlot.  This is a very solid red wine, and I’ve got two bottles on hand at home.  WF1 and friends split a bottle on the patio with me with our lunches.  Nate noted that this is an exceptional site with heavy clay and a good slope that doesn’t get too hot in the summer.  While they grow merlot at other sites, those grapes will be for blends.  This site makes grapes so special they need to remain single varietal.  I agree and support this decision!

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Pouring a tank sample of the 2017 En Passant red blend

Our last club taste was a preview of the 2017 En Passant, which has been blended into a “base blend” that they will take out and sample and probably add to for a final blend.  These are grapes that were barreled and part of the purchase of the winery from North Gate.  The 2017 preview had merlot, cab franc, petit verdot, tannat and I think I remember him saying cab sauv.  It was ok, a little raw, and had a bolder taste that the 2016 En Passant on the tasting bar.  I do think I liked it a little better than the 16, and I will be curious to see where this blend goes from here.

So, I picked up my package with the Plateau, 2 Twin Notch Roses and a merlot.  We grabbed another merlot to have with our lunch.  The patio was pleasant with the outdoor fireplace going behind us while we ate and sipped.  Sarah stopped by to speak a little with us and talked about what else will be coming in a few years, with albarino and chenin blanc now having their third leaf, with a good harvest hopefully coming soon (I think she said three years, but Kent inside suggested it might be four – at the end of the day, they’re at the mercy of the weather).  These are two wines I will really look forward to checking out.

We went back in so the crew could sample the full tasting menu, and the big hit was the Sauvignon Blanc.  One of our guests agreed with me that the tannat is really solid, but it was too dark and rich for WF1 and the other friend.  We also got to sample the weatherlea rose, but as a group we felt the Twin Notch was stronger.

The consensus of the group is that this is a solid winery, and well on its way.  The club tasting was really fun and informative – this is what I keep coming back for, the chance to really learn about the wines and process.  The whole team at the tasting bar is so friendly and the indoor and outdoor spaces are awesome.  One guest commented on how relaxing it was there even though we’d been engaging in way too much shoptalk about work.

What I’m looking forward to:  Nate indicated that the 2018 white wines would probably come out toward the end of the summer.  That will be good for warm September evenings hopefully.  I’m really looking forward to their evolution and seeing their red blends emerge too.

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