Monday, February 01, 2010

Williamsburg Winery - 2007 Adagio Release Party

Patsy’s Restaurant, NYC, 1/19/2010

Wine is alive and well and being made at an exceptional level on the east coast in the state of Virginia. The wines from Virginia have been making great strides of late, having recently been selected for White House State Dinners. At the head of the pack is the Williamsburg Winery and its eclectic mix of traditional and unique grapes and wines well suited to the terroir Virginia. In fact Virginia has a similar temperate zone to that of Bordeaux, France.

The gracious Duffeler family started the Williamsburg Winery almost 25 years ago, having started the operation in 1985 and releasing its first wine in 1988. I was lucky enough to sit with the Duffeler family that night and got to know them and the Williamsburg Winery. The Duffeler’s are a well traveled, well versed, friendly and warm family. Patrick and Patrick II welcomed us to their table and discussed the tough aspects and the glamorous side of owning and operating a winery. It’s not all beautiful scenery and drinking fine wines, a lot of work goes into the marketing and selling aspects. There are plenty of beautiful moments I am sure, but being a winery that is not from Napa in the United States is not an easy proposition. Making wine is a capital intense business with large overhead costs. Sales require a winery in this day of the ever smarter wine consumer, a will of iron to hit the road and pitch their product. Tonight not one wine, but two from the Williamsburg Winery, can be proud of itself to be able to contend with some of the best wines offered in the United States.

The Party

The Adagio Launch Party was a great affair with many industry and media guests, such as the eponymous, and surprisingly exuberant Kevin Zraly. Mr. Zraly is best known for his wine education classes and best selling book “Windows on the World”. Mr. Zraly kicked things off with a monologue for the night full of zingers and one offs to keep the crowd rallied and fresh. Having read many of his past books and articles, I was surprised to hear him delivering a speech studded with jokes like a comedian. Make no joke about it, he knew his stuff, but the delivery was refreshing. It was a great treat and I look forward to meeting with him again soon as our paths cross in the wine biz. We enjoyed a 4 course dinner which Sal, the executive chef of Patsy’sNew York City, created to pair specifically with the Williamsburg Winery wines. in Patsy’s also happened to be Frank Sinatra’s favorite dinner spot back in the day and is adorned with pictures of stars from yesteryear. The food was spot on, top notch New York. I recommend anyone visiting to come by for a real taste of New York Italian food and a little bit of Rat Pack nostalgia.

Back to the Wine

Adagio, in Italian known as “ad agio” in English means 'at ease'. Adagio is also a musical term indicating the tempo of a composition that is meant to be slow and stately. It is from these philosophies that this wine is named in honor of Adagio’s extraordinary depth, elegance and grace.

The winery’s website describes the wine as follows:

“Balance is the focus of this Merlot, Petite Verdot, and Cabernet Franc blend. The fruit, oak, tannins and alcohol all come together delightfully. An initial hint of black cherries progresses into more mature dark fruits such as figs and dates. Mixed in with the fruit is a lovely note of fresh cocoa, along with a bit of soy and eucalyptus. Earthiness and minerality blend agreeably with the fruit. The tannins are firm but approachable and contribute to a wine that will age gracefully over many years.”

I agree with most of those sentiments and have a few of my own to add from that night’s festivities. But before we do that, I wanted to mention this was the best wine we had that night and recommend anyone that likes their wines big, but with a touch of elegance and European flair to place their orders. I had a few similarities with winemaker Matt Meyer’s notes.

Dark in color, purple black core with purple/red edges. Very complex nose of currants, plum sauce and black cherry, some earth and a touch of oak folds in adding further depth. These aromas flow down to the palate expressing extra notes of delicious mocha and chocolate, more black cherry and finishes with firm tannins. Decant for sure, at least an hour. This is made to last, 10-15 years easy. 40% Merlot, 40% Petit Verdot, 20% Cabernet Franc.

Wine #2: Trianon

“Trianon is our Virginia Cabernet Franc. Rich and full-bodied, with a superb balance of red berries and darker fruit of cherries, figs and blackberries. This wine will age gracefully for many years.”

The winery explains this one well, but I have a few other notes from my tasting. While to me the best Cabernet Francs from California often fall short, there are few that I enjoy and buy consistently. Trianon however makes a great compromise combining some of the best characteristics from Chinon (Loire Valley, France) and California. You get some of the pepper, earth and minerality like in a Chinon and from the new world you get lush, juicy red fruit and concentration. Bravo, well done! 75% Cabernet Franc, 25% mixed parts Cabernet Sauvignon, Petit Verdot and Merlot.

Matt Meyer is a talented and congenial wine maker. We discussed a few things the wine regions of Virginia have that make them unique. One of those being that Virginia's climate is similar to Europe, especially that of Bordeaux. I have driven through part of Virginia and have thought to myself that some of these regions, with just a little bit longer of a growing season than New York, could do well with growing grapes. The problem on our coast is the humid and hot nights. In California it is a drier climate, with much cooler nights which help develop and maintain a wine’s acidity. I also have to mention that the first great American wine connoisseur, Thomas Jefferson, the 3rd President of the United States, hailed from Virginia and made it his job to import the best wines from Europe to enjoy at Monticello, his historic mansion home now an oft visited museum. Jefferson also tried to grow grapes of his own to make his own Monticello wine but failed miserably. At least he tried, and today I am sure he would be proud sampling wines from such Virginia wineries like Williamsburg Winery.



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