May 2007 Newsletter
May Days Are Wine Days
In This Issue
"Virginia, First in Wine"
Virginia Welcomes Pinotage
A Tail Wag'n Good Time at Cooper Vineyards
Praise for Virginia Wines from The Homestead
2007 Vintage Virginia Wine Festival Explores State's Riches & Traditions
Order Your Virginia Wine License Plate Now!
Wine Festivals Around the State
Chocolate & Wine
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Dear Virginia Wine Lover:     


In this issue of the WINE LOVER Newsletter, we highlight a few of the hundreds of wine events that take place throughout the Commonwealth beginning in May and continuing through the summer. May days are festival days at many of Virginia's wineries, so pull out your Virginia Wineries 2007 guide and plan your wine weekends!


"Virginia, First in Wine" in London


London Bridge


Virginia winemakers are in London this week to demonstrate the quality of Virginia wines and to promote the fact that Virginia was the first place in North America where English settlers deliberatley set out to produce wine, hence the theme "Virginia, First in Wine."  The delegation hopes that Virginia's European-styled wines can impress a potentially skeptical British wine trade that equates "American" with "Californian."


The historic wine tasting in London on May 2 was organized by the Virginia Wine Experience in London, LLC, which was formed by six Virginia wineries including Keswick Vineyards, Kluge Estate Vineyard & Winery, Pearmund Cellars, White Hall Vineyards, Williamsburg Winery and Veritas Winery.  In February, 10 wine experts tasted 88 wines from 33 Virginia wineries to select the wines for the London event.  The selected wines will be introduced to an exclusive audience of media and wine trade members at the renowned Vinopolis wine tasting venue and presented as worthy of comparison to fine wines from any region in the world.  


Richard Leahy, executive director of the Virginia Wine Experience in London, LLC, points out that Virginia is both literally and stylistically between California and Europe.  In announcing the competition, he said that due to its favorable mid-Atlantic location, between north and south, Virginia wines represent both New World and Old World wine making styles.  Virginia's climate produces the most versatile range of fine wines in the eastern United States.  Leahy said that Virginia is on the cutting edge of the regional wine industry, with a national reputation for Viognier and with major awards in national and international competitions. 


A complete list of judges, participating wineries and the wines selected for presentation in London on May 2 can be found at   Stay tuned for a full report of the London wine tasting in our June newsletter.


Virginia Welcomes Pinotage 
By Peter F. May
Peter May
Virginia wine drinkers are becoming more adventurous in the varietals they buy. For instance, the top selling South African wine in Virginia, according to ACNeilson, is not Cabernet, Merlot or Shiraz, but a little known variety - Pinotage from Golden Kaan winery.


Pinotage is South Africa's own red variety, and indeed many sources will tell you that it is produced only there. But it is growing in Virginia and by coincidence both Grayhaven Winery and Horton Vineyards are releasing their first varietal Pinotages in 2007.


"Pinotage has become one of our favorite grapes in the vineyard, producing some world class fruit," Neil Glaser of Horton told me, "We planted our first Pinotage grapes in 1998 and have been using it in a blend with our Syrah.  We will continue with the blend as well as making a varietal wine out of Pinotage. Our first varietal release will be a 2005 vintage."


Pinotage has the advantage of not only ripening early and being a good cropper but also being resistant to many vine diseases - although Virginia presents its own challenges, as Grayhaven's Max Peple-Abrams told me.  "We haven't had any problems, save for Japanese beetles and birds and drought and monsoons and all the lovely things mother nature throws our way."  She adds, "One can certainly understand why Thomas Jefferson didn't quit his day job!"


Max fell in love with Pinotage after traveling in South Africa. She says "My husband is a native South African who grew up in Johannesburg & Cape Town. I spent several years trying to locate Pinotage nursery stock before I found a few hundred in New York State." Those first plantings in 2000 failed. Max says "We lost every single plant. We scrambled and found another thirty vines and they all survived. We graft our own now."


So what sort of wine is Pinotage? The very thing that makes Pinotage so exciting for many is what deters others. For there is no one style that is Pinotage. Since it is a fairly recent variety and there is no old world model to copy, wine makers have been interpreting Pinotage in several styles, including light fruity, like Beaujolais; rich and spicy like Rhone & red Zinfandel; and, restrainedlike Bordeaux.


My take is that the taste profile of a good red Pinotage should be found within the enological region bounded by southern Rhone Syrah, northern Italian red and California Zinfandel. There is the spiciness of Zinfandel and warm depth of Syrah with a twist of the slight sharpness of Italian reds. Plus a sweet mouth-feel that is uniquely Pinotage.


Peter May Grapes on Basket


Pinotage is a grape that very much reflects terroir, so that while you

should find a strong similarity with Pinotages from South Africa and California, both Horton and Grayhaven will show something extra that no other Pinotages can ever have - the unique taste of Virginia.


Be the first to taste them. But don't delay, these are hand crafted wines made in small quantities.  Cheers!

Peter F. May is the founder of The Pinotage Club, an international cyber-based fan club for wines made from the Pinotage variety. He was awarded Honorary Membership of the producers Pinotage Association in 2004 and he judged the annual Pinotage Top 10 Competitions in 2004 and 2005.  Peter is a wine writer, educator and author. His book 'Marilyn Merlot and the Naked Grape - odd wines from around the world' was published in summer 2006.  You can visit his blog at and his Unusual Wine Labels site at
A Tail-Wag'n Good Time at Cooper Vineyards!

  Lucy's Day SPA

Cooper Vineyards will host its Fourth Annual Wine Festival to benefit the Richmond SPCA on Saturday and Sunday, May 26 & 27.  A short drive from the West End of Richmond, Charlottesville or Fredericksburg, the vineyard is located on Shannon Hill Road in Louisa.  Take I-64 to Exit 148 (Shannon Hill Road, Rt 605) then north on Rt 605 for 8 miles.

Lucy_DogThe event is dubbed Lucy's Weekend in honor of the winery's hound who was discovered on the side of the road a few miles from the winery on Memorial Day 2001.  She was starved and had gunshot wounds, as well as a broken leg from having been hit by a car.  Lucy, (pictured to the right) now famous as a featured canine in Wine Dogs USA, will be present to greet guests and sign copies of the book.


The Richmond SPCA adoption bus, "Tail Wag'n", will be on site with kittens, puppies and adult dogs available for adoption hoping to find their "forever" home.  A portion of ticket sales, as well as a "Pet and Wine" themed raffle will be donated to aid in animal rescue at the Richmond SPCA which was recently honored nationally as a model "no kill" shelter.  (


Lucy's Weekend will include live music from "DogTown" bluegrass band, as well as several local artists including Adele Castillo and Foust.  It will also serve as the kick off for Cooper Vineyards' series "Wine A Bit Café" which will feature live music and sponsor animal rescue groups throughout the year.


Tickets are $20 at the gate or $15 in advance at or by phone at 540-894-5253.  Admission includes souvenir pet lover's wine glass, pesto tasting and a glass of your favorite Cooper Vineyards wine.  Guest winery, Tomahawk Mill will join in the festivities.  Picnics, lawn chairs and leashed furry friends are welcome.


Cooper Vineyards celebrates Virginia's own native grape Norton as its primary red.  Discovered growing wild on the banks of the James River in 1820, Norton is a new world grape producing a vibrant, round, full-bodied, deep complex wine with intense dark berry flavors.  It was the first grape variety planted by Cooper Vineyards in 1999 and is the only grape grown ungrafted.  This month, Cooper Vineyards' award winning Norton 2004 will be poured in London as part of the Virginia Wine Experience in London in conjunction with 400th Anniversary of Jamestown.  (See article on Virginia Wine Experience in London.)


Lucy's Weekend at Cooper Vineyards is not to be missed!


Jacquelyn Hogge

Cooper Vineyards

(540) 894-5253
Praise for Virginia Wines from The Homestead
Homestead Yellow Flowers

John Loeffler of The Homestead was good enough to share a favorite recipe and some of his personal favorite Virginia wines.  Mr. Loeffler is manager of the main dining room at the Homestead, one of Virginia's premier resorts.

"The sparkling wines of Oasis and Kluge are two of my favorites with wonderful minerality and richness that go well with shellfish, or spring canapes - or a grilled New York Strip on a summer evening.  Viognier has definitely become a superstar, like the 2005 Rappahannock Cellars Viognier Reserve that has great citrus notes and a noticeable style influenced by their South African winemaker.


"Brad McCarthy from Blenheim Vineyards makes a Viognier that I mistook for Condrieu in a blind tasting.  It has beautiful flavors of honeysuckle and floral notes and would pair well with poultry or fish with a citrus sauce, or even crab cakes.  Cellar producers are making wonderful red wines, especially Barboursville and their 2005 Cabernet Franc Reserve, Keswick Vineyards 2004 Heritage or the 2005 Jefferson Meritage.  All show wonderful color and great fruit.  They do well with lamb and wild game." 


Baked Trout in Foil "Homestead"


Note:  It is imperative to use fresh trout for this purpose


1 Serving:

1 fresh trout approx. 12 oz. before boning

A small dash of salt, a sprinkle of ground white pepper

Juice of ½ lemon

1 ½ tablespoon maitre d'hotel butter (recipe follows) softened at room temperature

½ teaspoon white breadcrumbs

Oil for foil

1 piece 14x14 inches aluminum foil, lightly oil on 1 side


If possible have butcher bone the trout of rib bones and backbone and leave butterflied with the halves attached along the back.

IF NOT: rinse trout under cold running water and then butterfly using a boning knife.  Split trout open along the belly, leaving the halves attached along the back, carefully remove all bones including ribs and backbone, the head and gills and trim ¼ inch along belly flap.  Season lightly with salt, a sprinkle of ground white pepper, a squeeze of lemon juice and spread both trout halves with maitre d'hotel butter.  Sprinkle the breadcrumbs over the butter spread.  Fold trout halves together, place on oiled foil leaving 3 - 4 inches foil open facing you.  Fold other end over trout.  Fold all edges lightly together for a complete seal.


If you are not ready to grill or bake trout, refrigerate the trout package until ready to use (refrigerated trout may take 1 more minute to cook). However the procedure up to this point can be done up to 24 hours ahead under good refrigeration 38-40 degrees.  When ready to grill, place foil package on preheated hot grill rack for 2 minutes.  Turn on the other side for 2 minutes, then move trout to a spot over medium/low heat to finish cooking 3 more minutes.  Do not overcook fish.  Serve with lemon wedge.


For indoor cooking place the trout package on preheated baking sheet pan and cook in preheated oven at 380 degrees for 7 minutes on each side.  If trout is larger increase cooking time accordingly.  Serve with small boiled (or new in the skin) potatoes, rolled in butter, pinch of salt and fresh cut chives.


Maitre d'hotel Butter (1/2 cup)


1 teaspoon finely chopped shallots

1 teaspoon butter

8 tablespoons unsalted butter at room temperature

1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon fresh squeezed lemon juice

½ teaspoon fine chopped lemon rind (no white skin)

¼ teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley

1 tablespoon fine cut chives

½ teaspoon Worcestershire sauce (Lea & Perrine)

In a saucepan over medium/low heat simmer shallots in 1-teaspoon butter until soft (without browning).  Add to a bowl with remaining ingredients and proceed in rolling butter into long logs in waxed paper.


Refrigerate or freeze for future use (well wrapped).

The Homestead
Hot Springs, VA
2007 Vintage Virginia Wine Festival Explores
State's Riches & Traditions
The Vintage Virginia Wine Tasting Festival, held annually on the first weekend in June, is one of the largest and longest-running wine events on the East Coast.  The event, which features over 50 wineries pouring unlimited tastings of over 350 award-winning Virginia wines, attracts an annual crowd of some 20,000 wine enthusiasts.  This year's festival on June 2 & 3 returns to Bull Run Park Special Events Center in Centreville for a showcase weekend of sampling and shopping.


In addition to wine sampling and purchasing, Vintage Virginia offers educational seminars on food pairing, as well as the opportunity to peruse the wares of more than 100 artisans, including spectacular jewelry, stained glass, pottery, woodwork and other unique crafts.  The festival also features children's activities, including the Ocean in Motion from the Virginia Marine Aquarium, family comedy from "Those Two Guys," the children's musical group Gamelan, face painting, caricature drawing and amazing balloon tying.


There are opportunities to indulge in fresh regional cheeses, along with seeded Decem bread fresh from an on-site wood fired brick oven, homemade bruschetta, fresh Greek salads and Maryland crab cakes.  You can shop for homemade gourmet ingredients such as spices, jams, sauces, nuts and sweets.  Whatever your fine food preference, you'll find it to complement your favorite wine.


The 2007 roster of musical entertainment at Vintage Virginia may well be the best ever offered at a Wine Festival, with headlining performances by the Dirty Dozen Brass Brand, Soullive, Jon Cleary and the Absolute Monster Gentlemen, in addition to renowned regional performers American Dumpster, DJ Williams Projekt, William Walter & Co., Blue Mule, Sol Creech Band and Scott Perry.


Visit for additional information about the festival, ticket purchase and directions to Bull Run Park.   


Order Your Virginia Wine License Plate Now!

VA Wine License Tag
 The Virginia Wineries Association has announced the pre-sale of a new license plate bearing the phrase, "Virginia, first in wine."  Cost of the plates is $25 (or $35 personalized plates).  This is a great way for people all across the Commonwealth to show their support for Virginia's vibrant wine industry.


Before the plates can get into production, a total of 350 must be presold, and the VWA must receive completed applications and payment by the deadline of June 15, 2007.  If the number is not reached, applicants will have their money refunded. If the tally reaches the 350 mark, the plates will be available after January 1, 2008. 


Like many other specialty tags offered through DMV, after 1,000 plates are sold, $15 from each sale is contributed to the sponsoring organization.  The winery plate has a bit of a twist in that the funds would go to Virginia Tech's enology research department, a program that supports Virginia wineries and vineyards by providing soil testing, viticultural research, and other educational support.   For more information on the research at Virginia Tech, visit the website


For more information about the wine plates, contact Tonya Rideout at (703) 373-6000 or visit the VWA website at  



Arts in the Vineyard at James River Winery


At James River Winery in Glen Allen on May 19, you'll experience the height of sophistication and culture.  Arts in the Vineyard Wine Festival is a wonderful opportunity to enrich your senses with exceptional regional art and award winning wines.  Meet the artists and enjoy live entertainment as you sample the wines of James River along with three other guest wineries.  Tickets are $10 in advance, $15 at the door.  For tickets and directions, visit the website at




Montpelier Wine Festival

May 5-6 on the grounds at Montpelier              


Luray's 2nd Annual Festival of Spring

May 12 in Luray


21st Virginia Wine & Craft Festival

May 19 in Front Royal


"Romance by the River" Hampton Wine, Art and Jazz Festival

May 19 in Hampton


Ash Lawn Highland's 13th Virginia WineFest

May 19-20 on the grounds at Ash Lawn

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