August’s Quarterly Walsh Family Wine Pickup

Most club pickups include a brief sample of the wines you’re taking home and an opportunity to buy more with a deeper discount.  Some Virginia wineries are taking this in a new and better direction, and today’s Walsh pickup is a perfect example.

On arrival, co-owners Nate and Sarah were working the tasting bar with some customers.  We had the customary welcome glass of Twin Notch Rosé and were told to have a seat and we’d be starting the release event shortly.  Co-pilot was with me, and she absolutely loved this rosé, which has become my favorite Virginia rosé of the summer.

Pretty soon, Nate brought a group out across the patio into the vines, carrying six bottles with him.  We grabbed our glasses and joined the group.

Nate took us through this vineyard tour, the first time they’ve done the quarterly pickup in the vineyard.  He noted that we are at the point of Veraison, where the vine growth halts and the plant focuses on ripening the fruit.  The berries build up sugar and there is color change, though it’s minimal for the white wine varietals and obvious for the reds.  He poured us the 2018 Sauvignon Blanc, which was in the package for pickup.  He noted that the ’17 was still on the menu, as the ’18 had smaller production due to the weather issues, and would likely be a club release and possibly go to restaurants, but was unlikely to make it to the bar.  That’s a shame – it was a nice wine, not quite as bright as the ’17 sauvignon blanc, but definitely drinkable and it paired well with the breezy high 70s in the sunlight in the vineyard.

We walked among the Petit Manseng vines while Nate explained a lot of his growing philosophy, around thinning the leaves covering the grapes on the eastern side so that the morning sun could dry and moisture (preventing mold buildup), and leaving them on the western side so that the hotter afternoon sun wouldn’t burn them.  He talked a great deal about pruning and preventing overly vigorous growth of the vines, and dropping fruit to a level that you could be sure you effectively ripen to make good wine.

He noted that the bird netting was up to protect the fruit as sugars build up, and they were making their way across the vineyard with that.

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Someone asked when picking would start, and he indicated that the sauvignon blanc would likely be first, and maybe in about two weeks.  I heard him share with one customer that the ripening was trending a little earlier this year, but that it was a good growing year.

Our next taste was the 2018 Weatherlea rosé.  This rose is more muted than the Twin Notch.  I find it less crisp and not quite as interesting.  I did trade the bottle in my club pack for the twin notch.  (Side note: the ability to trade individual bottles in the club packages is to be one of the nicest features of these club memberships.  After the tasting, if the wine simply isn’t your style, why wouldn’t they let us trade?).

We headed on to the Petit Verdot so Nate could share a better visual representation of veraison.  Many grapes were turning deep purple, almost black.  I found it interesting the variation among individual grapes in clusters as well as different clusters on the same shoot of vine.

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Nate even offered for us to pull a berry off and taste it, so of course I did.  The petit verdot berry tasted absolutely nothing like I thought it would, and in fact despite being early in veraison, had some sweetness to it.  Given how big and bold Petit Verdot wine is, I expected some bitterness or hint of the tannins to come, but didn’t quite pick that out in the berry.

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Nate noted that since this vineyard is flat, they have weeds, or as he likes to call them, cover crop, in between the rows.  The weeds compete with the vines for water, since it doesn’t run off as well as it does on a hillside.

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He noted that they won’t mow this down unless there is a heavy rain, and they do it then because the mowing causes a growth spurt in the grasses that will cause the plants to absorb water that they don’t want the vines to take in, or until a few days prior to harvest.

Now Nate poured us something fun and interesting – the Mezcla (Mixture).  He shared that they did this wine as an experiment – something to see what they can do, given the abundance of rosé from 2018.  This was originally going to be rosé of merlot that they decided to put on tannat skins to ferment for a bit, giving it a much richer pigment and some serious tannic structure.  They then blended it with Viognier and added some carbonation in the tank (Charmat method) to give it the bubbles.  They listed it in the announcement e-mail as 80% merlot, 10% tannat, 10% viognier.  I found this wine to be super fun, and think it would be even better if colder – it did warm up a little on the walk around the vines.  What a good way to make something special and interesting from a rough vintage like 2018.

Finally, we all had a seat on the patio and enjoyed some snacks and a taste of the Staggerwing Tannat.  I’ve shared about this before – this is a good, big tannat, that despite the grape’s reputation, is pleasant and soft and drinkable.  Even in the sun on the patio, it was good, though I find it’s best in the cold by a fire.

Co-pilot and I grabbed the package and enjoyed a glass of Twin Notch Rosé on the patio for a bit.  The setting is so gorgeous and the weather was totally perfect.  She did go around and take some really good photos, (and one creepy one…. fair warning) so you should check out her instagram feed.

This was a great package, and I think they did a fantastic job with the event today.  Co-pilot noted that what she really liked about the winery was how friendly the people were and how laid back the environment was – there wasn’t pretense, it was about relaxing.  If you read my interview with Nate, then you know that’s a big part of what they’re after, and it sounds like they’ve achieved that part of their goal!

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