A World Class Wine from Virginia

    The dream of a world class Virginia wine began with Thomas Jefferson.  Although Jefferson knew that Virginia had the weather and terroir for grape growing and winemaking, he never saw his dream come to fruition. This is, in part, due to Phylloxera—an aphid-like insect that feeds on the roots and leaves of grapevines.  However, Virginia grape growers now understand that to successfully grow European grapes, they must first graft the vine onto phylloxera resistant American rootstock.  This was the first major hurdle to realizing the dream of a Virginia wine, the next, proving the viability of grape growing as an agricultural endeavor. Officially, the wine industry in Virginia began in 1976 with the Zonin family, one of Italy’s largest wine producers. They bought Barboursville in Orange, an area near Charlottesville, with the hopes of starting a vineyard.  Underlying this decision was the belief that European grapes could thrive in the Commonwealth of Virginia.  After the purchase of Barboursville, the Zonin family invited Gabriele Rausse, an Italian winemaker, who is currently the Director of Gardens and Grounds at Monticello, to assist in making the dream of a Virginia wine a reality. Today, the Commonwealth boasts hundreds of successful wineries and vineyards, many producing award winning wines–including Barboursville Vineyards, Virginia’s first commercial winery.  And, Gabriele Rausse is partially responsible, having consulted on 40 vineyards and 10 wineries in the Commonwealth, including his own.  He is considered the father of modern […]

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So, What Vintage Are You?

September is my birthday month, and thankfully, I’m turning another year older.  I am now firmly into my fourth decade–or as Farmguy corrected–fifth decade, because you count 0 to 10 as your first decade…..okay—whatever!  The bottom line….I am forty-something and well into the journey of my life.  And, with this understanding, I started considering the passing years and what “age” means to me. As someone who’s interested in wine and recently completed the WSET Level III Award in Wines through the Wine & Spirit Education Trust this year, I started thinking about aging in wine and aging in life.  I thought about the grapevine’s journey versus our own journeys.  Young grapevines have vigor and brightness, but it’s the older vines that are the most sought after to make the best wines.  This is partially because the vines take on the nuances of their environment:  herbs, mushrooms, and flowers as well as the minerality of the soil; and, as vines age, they produce a delightful complexity and intensity in their fruit.  These extra years are prized and celebrated, because in viticulture, time is allowed for character to express itself. It’s understood that many vintages will pass before a vineyard will start to show its magic.  From the vineyard to the cellar, respect for the aging process continues.  A particular set of environmental conditions is cultivated to help the wines age:  dark cellars, correct humidity, constant and perfect temperature, and no excessive […]

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Got Merlot?

  Farmgirl in Saint Émilion (right bank of Bordeaux) November 2016   “You had me at hello.” A line made famous by Dorothy Boyd, the love interest in the film “Jerry Maguire.” However, if Dorothy had been a sommelier, she may have said, “You had me at Merlot.”  And, with good reason. Merlot, French for little blackbird because of its very dark fruit, is naturally versatile, acclimating to different climate zones and soil compositions, which, over time and a lot of travel, have made it the second most planted red grape on the planet, behind its brother from Bordeaux, Cabernet Sauvignon.  Merlot can be big and rich, but also fruity and soft, without being overly high in acids or tannins.  These characteristics make Merlot an elegant and easy choice to drink as well as pair with food. If that doesn’t spark your interest in Merlot, maybe this will.  You know all those famous red wines from Bordeaux? Wines that are considered some of the best in the world?  Well, they’re all blended with Merlot.  And, many are mostly Merlot—especially, on the right bank of the Gironde estuary in the Bordeaux appellation, where it’s the law that Merlot has to be the predominant grape.  Of course, the most famous Merlot wine is undoubtedly Pétrus (100% Merlot) from the Pomerol region of Bordeaux.  This highly collectable wine can fetch several thousand dollars, depending on its vintage. You may not be as familiar with Merlot’s positive […]

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Ruin Is a Gift

  Our new lambs–Tino, Sweet Pea, Butterbean, and Truffle Spring 2018   Please bear with this somewhat stream of consciousness post.  I kept going around and around about what to say, how to say it, and whether to even say it.  But here it is.  Suffering at the hands of someone you love and who is supposed to love you, […]

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Tuesday Tunes: Shhh….We’re Hunting Wabbits

Dash and Bizou   There is no shortage of rabbits on Green Hill Farm this summer.  I’m not kidding!  We are Plum. Covered. Up.  There are big rabbits, little rabbits, and even teeny-tiny rabbits. They’re everywhere:  running across the driveway, darting into bushes, chasing each other around the vegetable garden, sunning themselves on the lawn, hanging out in the sheep pasture, munching on clover in the back garden, and sitting under the window in the dogs’ play room—tormenting poor Bizou.  We simply have too many rabbits! Don’t get me wrong.  I love all critters, especially cute, furry bunnies.  But, lately, they’ve been making our lives somewhat stressful.  These wascaly wabbits are driving Bizou and Dash to distraction, and me right along with them.  Bizou is completely obsessed.  Once in a while, I’ll hear a groan and a moan and then a whimper.  This melodic trio quickly escalates into many high-pitched whimpers, followed by lots of frantic whining and running around the room.  And, of course, jumping up on window sills—all in a vain attempt to glimpse rabbits. Understandably, this behavior isn’t good for Bizou, the window sills, or my nerves for that matter.  So, whenever the rabbits decide to hang out under the windows, I usually encourage Bizou to leave the room, and I shut the door.  The other day, Bizou was so wound-up, running in circles and launching himself at the window to get the rabbit that no amount […]

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Through the Garden Gate

  “Everything that slows us down and forces patience, everything that sets us back into the slow circles of nature, is a help.  Gardening is an instrument of grace.”   ~May Sarton   Photographs taken by Tonya R. Hengerer at Hidcote Manor Gardens and Kiftsgate Court Gardens in Gloucestershire, England–the Cotswolds

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The Joys of Gardening

“A flower doesn’t lose its beauty because weeds mocked it.” ~Matshona Dhliwayo   Thanks to all the rain we had earlier this summer, our garden has been an explosion of color—especially the lilies!  It’s also been an explosion of weeds. As with everything, we take the good with the bad. However, one bad thing Farmguy and I like to avoid […]

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