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Monday, July 28, 2014

Corcoran Vineyards

Up in north-central Loudoun county, not far front the town of Waterford, you will find Corcoran Vineyards. Like many or maybe even most wineries in the area, it’s located on property that has been farmland for over a century. Since 2002, the crop has been grapes with about four acres under vine on the farm. Corcoran has a total of 20 acres of fruit, but the remainder is on leased property elsewhere in the county. 

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Lori Corcoran opened her winery in 2003 and the tasting room in 2004. Not content to only make wine, she owns a local brewery and recently opened Loudoun’s first hard cider business, with a separate tasting room on the property. Production levels are about 3000 cases of wine and 2500 cases of cider each year. There will be a slight increase in cider production, but Lori is content with current levels and is able to market all of this through word of mouth and social media.

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With all of the things Lori has going on, you might think she has time for nothing else. You’d be wrong. She’s also the winemaker. Her winemaking technique is to limit the use of oak and allow the fruit to express itself in her wines. I tasted eleven of her offerings during my visit and that philosophy seems to work well. 

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The whites were well balanced and lacked any trace of tartness. I might go so far as to describe them as almost creamy, which is interesting given the limited use of oak. The Viognier was one of these and was really a special wine with it’s big tropical notes. Sadly, Corcoran lost all of their Viognier vines to the cold this year and there are no plans to replace it. Despite the fact that it’s the official state grape, Lori just feels that it is too difficult to grow.

There were several reds on the list and I enjoyed each of them, but there were two of real note. I got to taste a 2008 Cabernet Franc that was not on the menu, but happened to be opened. It was a medium bodied red, made from fruit grown at the nearby Benevito Vineyard. It had a lovely deep color and beautiful fruit.  The Tannat, however, was really my favorite. It had a lot of dark fruit, plumb and cassis, on the nose and palate. There was still a bit of tannin, so it can use more time on the shelf. With a little more age it’s going to be a truly great wine. 

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I had a very nice visit at Corcoran. I arrived very near the end of the day, but the staff didn’t try to rush me along. The presentation was informative and well organized. There were a couple visitors who arrived later than me and received exactly the same treatment. I think two thumbs up are in order and I can heartily recommend this venue to anyone exploring wineries in Loudoun County.


Monday, July 21, 2014

Mediterranean Cellars

Louis Papadopoulos started making wine in his native Greece and continued making wine for the next 55 years. After finishing a successful career in the United States, he decided to pursue his passion as more than a hobby and purchased a tract of land in Central Fauquier County. In 2003, Louis opened Mediterranean Cellars and began making wine from 100% estate-grown fruit.

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Mediterranean is a small boutique, craft winery, that’s not as fancy as some of the big operations further north. What sets them apart from those large wineries, however, is their emphasis on hospitality. They give each visitor as much personal attention as possible. On top of this, you can do a personal tasting with Louis and there are all sorts of schedules and options for such an event. But every visitor experiences the personal touch applied by the tasting room staff.

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Wendy, my wine steward, epitomized Mediterranean’s credo of hospitality. She took her time, told stories and engaged in the light banter of an expertly conducted wine tasting. She poured a total of eleven wines and our conversation mingled with all the elements of the tasting.

We started with a Chardonnay that had seen time in stainless steel and oak. It had a slightly oaky nose that was followed by nice apple and pear notes and slight buttery nuances in the finish. There was also an excellent Viognier, but the surprise among the whites was was a Moscato that showed only its natural fruit. It was not done in the style of a traditional dessert wine and was dry with a beautiful herbal nose. It was a very interesting wine, that also receives big points for originality.

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Every red on the tasting menu was six or seven years old. Reds were all 2007 and 2008 vintages. All were expertly crafted. Among them was my top pick and the real star of the tasting. The 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon spent 27 months in oak. It had lots of black fruit, real complexity and a little bit of pepper in a very long finish. It could hold its own against any Cab Sauv of that vintage.

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Following the tasting, Wendy took me on a quick tour of the adjoining rooms, which offer space for groups or corporate events. The terrace at the front of the building provides seating and a spectacular view of the  vineyards and surrounding hills. It’s a lovely property.

If you are seeking great wines and an unparalleled customer experience in a location that offers a bit of old-world charm, Mediterranean Cellars is calling your name. If you’re near Warrenton in Central Fauquier, you need to stop in.


Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Crushed Cellars

You know, I’ve driven by Crushed Cellars many times on my way to or from other tasting rooms in the area. It’s up in the northern tip of Loudoun County and surrounded by many great Virginia wineries. It sits on the hillside overlooking Route 9, which is one of the main roads through wine country. It was near the end of the day on Memorial Day and I was striking out, many wineries were closed. I called Crushed Cellars, spoke with proprietor, Bob Kalok, and explained my dilemma. He was closing up, but told me to come on by. What serendipity! This turned out to be a great find.

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Bob was busy when I arrived. He was closing up and schmoozing with the last lingering customers. He directed a member of the tasting room staff to bring me some crostini and poured me a bit of wine. I took the opportunity to just observe and I have to say, there’s a lot going on at Crushed Cellars. Bob is selling eggs produced by his free-range chickens, local cheeses, breads that he personally bakes each morning and local meat. Several transactions took place as I sat there at the tasting bar.

Crushed Cellars is a small, boutique operation that produces about 1500 cases of wine each year from ten acres of fruit. The winery has been in operation for about three and one half years, so they're fairly young. I have to say, they are operating under the radar. I knew the name, but I’d heard nothing about them at all.

Finally, Bob ushered the last visitor out the door and turned his attention to me. He began to pour his wines and the whole tasting blended into the larger conversation. I will point out that everything on the tasting menu earned a medal somewhere. San Francisco, Indianapolis, the list went on. All prestigious competitions. All of the wines also had a little age. We weren’t tasting recent vintages. The menu was full of wines from 2010 and earlier. I might add that there was not a runt in the litter. These were all exceptional wines.

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The Seyval Blanc was a balance, off-dry wine that showed crisp citrus notes.The Vidal Blanc was a bit sweeter with 2.3% residual sugar, but there was nice balance between the sugar and acidity, which made it quite drinkable. It stood up to pretzels and wasabi dip, so yeah, pair it with something spicy. The Merlot spent 30 months in oak and was worthy of mention, but the Meritage was the bomb. OMG! It was an amazing wine. It’s a left-bank style blend that’s 72% Cabernet Sauvignon and the remainder is Merlot, Malbec and Cab Franc. It was complex, with beautiful fruit and a crazy long finish. Pair this wine with something big. The image of red meat and a grill come to mind, even as I write this review.

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You know, Bob traveled quite a bit before settling in Virginia, but he really enjoys the quiet lifestyle that goes with living in the country. He scaled back his life in order to settle in at Crushed Cellars, but he seems comfortable and happy. He brings a very laid back style to his tasting room and possibly the entire operation, but it looked like the other visitors appreciated his approach. Personally, I had a great visit and enjoyed talking about the wines and the surrounding area. Before I left, he spent a significant amount of time giving me restaurant advice and handed me a loaf of bread on the way out the door. So i’m definitely a fan and I will absolutely return.

The wines were special and the atmosphere was inviting. If you’re navigating Route 9, don’t just drive by. Pull in for a quick visit and check it out. There’s not much buzz around Crushed Cellars, but there should be. Spread the word.