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Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Quattro Goomba's Winery

I have driven by Quattro Goomba’s Winery numerous times while traveling to or from other wineries. I had internalized a rumor about their wines being made exclusively from out of state grapes. So I avoided stopping in, as it turns out, unjustly. When I finally could put it off no longer, I dropped by and found a vibrant wine scene, an attentive staff and wines produced from both imported and local fruit. 

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I arrived late on a Saturday afternoon. There was still a nice crowd in the winery, which doubles as a venue for local musicians. I wandered over to the tasting room to find that they were closing up. I spoke with Karen, who is a part-time wine steward at Quattro Goomba’s, and explained that I was a blogger trying to squeeze in one more winery. She graciously agreed to pour for me and answer a few of my questions.

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Jay and Jody DeCianno opened the tasting room on Mother’s Day in 2008 and they have since stabilized production at around 2000 cases per year. Much of the fruit is imported from Washington and California, but many Virginia wineries source at least some out of state fruit to help cope with the local grape shortage. There is acreage on the property, however, that is under vine. No less a local consultant than Doug Fabbioli is helping with the vineyard and wine is currently produced using estate fruit. 

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So Karen poured five of the Quattro Goomba’s wines. I found them all to be worthy of note. Among them was a Riesling made from Washington fruit and a Zinfandel that obviously uses California grapes. There is no reason to be put off. They do not try to disguise the facts or obscurely label the bottles. The Piney River White was, at the time of my visit, the sole estate wine. It is a blend of Viognier, Vidal Blanc and a splash of imported Muscat Canelli. I found it a delightful wine with real potential and I was pleased to see a reliance on  fruit from the property. There are plans, I am told, to expand local cultivation in the coming years.

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I found the winery to be quite lively. There is music most weekends and a large local crowd will often gather. Pizza is made in the winery and a brewery is now open for business. It was a warm spring day, so groups were also stretched out on blankets and picnicking on the lawn. It is a venue where you will feel compelled to linger and to make a repeat visit.

My tasting experience may not be representative of the norm, but I will say that Karen was extremely knowledgeable and did not rush me through the tasting. We had a very nice conversation that lasted until well after the last wine was poured. So I found Quattro Goomba’s to be far more than I expected and my visit left me wishing I had stopped in earlier.

Located not far from the village of Aldie, Quattro Goomba's sits right on Route 15, so it is very easy to find on one of the wine region’s main highways. I do suggest a visit and I also recommend that you plan to spend a little time. You won’t want to rush off. So after you stop in, please let me know what you think.


Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Cardamon Family Vineyards

Many Virginia wineries conduct some type of food and wine pairing. Most consist of traditional combinations of wine and some sort of charcuterie. Cardamon Family Vineyards has added its own unique (for Virginia anyway) spin. Chuck Cardamon trained as a chef prior to opening his winery and he happens to specialize in salsa. I’m not saying that is all he does, but salsa is his superpower and he is pairing them with his wines.

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Cardamon Family is fairly new. They have been producing wine only since 2012. With just 500 vines on the property, most of the fruit is sourced, but they are all Virginia wines. Total annual production is between 500 and 600 cases, so it is a pretty small boutique operation. Nevertheless, a visit to the tasting room will reveal well-crafted wine and steady stream of visitors. It is a pretty lively scene.

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Chuck recently published a Salsavino book that contains 86 salsa recipes. Some of these salsas are available for purchase in the tasting room and there are typically four that are paired with the wines. So every wine will not have a corresponding salsa, but you will find them interspersed throughout the tasting. Now you might be thinking salsa equals hot, but many of them are mild and the concept really works. Ultimately you will have to check it out and form your own opinion.

So I sampled four salsas and nine wines. A couple of the pairings included a dry-style Vidal Blanc and a corn salsa. Another (and my personal favorite) was the Reserve Chardonnay and a pineapple, pear, corn and habanero salsa. Again, these did not pack a lot of heat. I will also point out that they were all pretty inspired.

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I should say a few words about the wines. I thought they were all well made, but as always, I had a couple favorites. The Seyval Blanc, Vidal Blanc, Chardonnay blend was my favorite white. It was done in stainless steel and had two percent residual sugar, but it was a perfectly balanced, food-friendly wine. My top pick of the tasting was the Cabernet Sauvignon-Cabernet Franc blend, which was paired with a red, white and blue salsa. It was a medium-bodied red that spent eighteen months in oak, but still showed nice fruit and beautifully structured tannins. It is a potential award winner.

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I really enjoyed my visit. I found the entire experience to be both educational and entertaining. Many of the visitors appeared to be regulars, which I think speaks volumes about the wine and the venue. I intend to be one of those repeat visitors. So if you have not checked out Cardamon Family Vineyards, it is high time that  you venture out there. When you do, please let me know what you think.