Annefield Vineyards’ 2015 Event Schedule.

Mondovino 2015

What are we up to this year?  We’ve reined in the number of events we participate in this year so we can concentrate on growing and promoting the best wine in Southern Virginia.  This past Monday we were in Winchester, Virginia for Modovino 2015Kysela Pere et Fils, LYD.’s annual showcase of selected wines from their enormous portfolio.  It takes place on two succeeding Mondays, so if you represent a restaurant or wine shop and have a relationship with Kysela, there is still time to participate.

Union Jack PubOn the way we stopped in Winchester for lunch at the Union Jack Pub on the downtown mall.  We had forgotten that they carry our wine, and we spotted it behind the bar.  A reassuring sight, yes?

We stopped there for lunch and had traditional British grub — fish and chips (the first fried food we’ve had in a very long time), which ruined our appetite, not realizing the glorious spread Kysela had waiting.  We know now for next time!

This is what we are up to in 2015.

Mondovino 2015Monday, March 2 – Mondovino 2015

Mondovino is the annual trade-only event sponsored by our distributor, Kysela Pere et Fils, LTD at their warehouse in Winchester, Virginia.  If you are a restauranteur or retailer interested in trying our wine and sampling a large selection of Kysela’s portfolio, this event is for you.  Trade only — contact Kysela for details.

Saturday, April 11 – Clarksville Lake Country Wine Festival

This is Clarksville’s ninth annual “Lake Country Wine Festival” in beautiful Clarksville on the Lake. From the Chamber’s website:

This year’s event will host Virginia wineries, artisan vendors, wine accessories & great pairings from cigars, chocolates & gourmet Virginia peanuts. Great food provided by Cooper’s Landing Inn & The Lamplighter Restaurant. Entertaining us with live music is the duo Jeff Bailey and Brian Parks. This event is such a great opportunity to see friends and meet many new ones. Relax on historic lawns in downtown and taste nearly 100 varieties of fine Virginia wines and speak with those who have made these vintages possible.

Saturday, May 30 – Spring Bacchanalia at Annefield

Our annual wine pairing dinner at Annefield.  Details to follow shortly.  Click here to see what we did last year.

Saturday, October 3 – Celebration of the Vine at Annefield

Orr annual harvest celebration, which is free to wine club members and their guests — the number of complementary tickets depends on membership level — see our website for details on wine clubs, and see scenes from last year’s party here.

A Valentine’s Day Feast.

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We hosted a dinner for twelve on Valentine’s Day.  We love holding these things because it provides an opportunity to luxuriate in the present with good friends, food, wine, and enough silver to intimidate even the collector.  It’s fun.

We brought in a local chef, Miles Perkins, who was formerly the Chef de Cuisine at Molasses Grill in Halifax before he branched out on his own.  He specializes in dinners like this, with a decided artistic flair and boundless creativity.

When everyone arrived we started with a few nibbles — mercifully we had stored in the freezer an old favorite, Pâté de Campagne which we presented with cornichons and a trio of mustards, and a new one, Chicken Faux Gras based on a recipe by master chef Michel Richard (should we be confessing this?)  Served with freshly baked French bread, both were dispatched in short order.

Everybody likes a story, so we started with a gift we received from a fellow blogger friend, Danielle Irwin of Naggiar Vineyards in the Sierra Foothills of California.  Danielle and I have exchanged notes and comments online over the last year or so.  We’ve never met, and her informative and entertaining blog is imbedded in the Naggiar website, and because of the way it is structured we are unable to reciprocate the “likes” she bestows on us weekly, so we sent her two bottles of wine as a “thank you” just before Christmas (a Viognier and Cabernet Franc), and she reciprocated with a pair of bottles, so with the first course (and with a heartfelt toast to Danielle) we opened the meal with the Naggiar Vineyards Viognier 2013.

IMG_5228A bit about Naggiar and its winemaker: Nagger Vineyards is located in the Sierra Foothills American Viticultural Area, which has many small, family owned boutique wineries (sound familiar?).  Wine has been grown there since the California Gold Rush.  There are more than 100 wineries thought the region nestled in the foothills, with vineyards located between 1,500 to 3,000 feet, an elevation that enjoys a four-season climate. The shallow, austere mountainside soils create moderate stress on the vines, producing low to moderate yields and high quality.

Their winemaker is Danielle’s husband, Derek Irwin, who describes the northern end of the Sierra Foothills as an “untapped gold mine.”  The Irwin’s have their own label, Irwin Family Vineyards, producing wines made using Spanish varietals grown in their vineyard in Nevada County.  An article in the Nevada County Union by Rod Byers, “Winemaker puts roots in Sierra Foothill ‘untapped soil” (30 April 2013), notes “Rather than making ripe and jammy fruit bombs, Irwin prefers more nuanced wines that are slightly higher in acidity and lower in alcohol, with full body and solid structure.”  It sounds like he would be perfectly at home in Virginia.

Anyway, it was a great start.  The wines were a mixed bunch, and were selected on a whim: our Annefield Vineyards Viognier 2013 followed the Naggiar, then our Annefield Vineyards Rosé 2011, a Portuguese red wine to accompany the Portuguese dish (sorry — we failed to make a note of the producer), Hunting Creek Vineyards Indulgence 2012, and a Champagne with dessert.  We pulled out the absinthe fountain, but no need to usher out anyone because everyone had more than enough wine, and quickly bid adieu.  We sent everyone home with a small box of chocolates to enjoy the next day.  Thank you, Miles, and thank you one and all for a memorable evening.

Menu

First

Chilled Oyster with Ginger Pork Consommé and Winter Shoots

Baked Oyster with Scrambled Farm Eggs, Bacon, Fines Herbs

Second

Scallop with Blood Orange, Vanilla Infused Potato and Black Pepper

Third

Handmade Beet Tagliatelle with Pesto, Pecorino Romano and Mussels

Intermezzo

Blackberry Gelato

Fourth

Surf and Turf: Portugal Pork and Clam with Squid Ink, Date, Olive and Chorizo

Fifth

Lamb with Capers, Raisin, Mustard, Pistachios, Roasted Onions, Cherries, Carrot, Yoghurt and Sumac

Dessert

Chocolate-dipped Strawberries, Passion Fruit Sorbet, Grape Gelato, Blackberry Gelato and Shortbread Cookie

Pate

Menu

Candlesticks

Enjoying the Menus

Oysters

Tagliatelle with Mussels

Cooper
Lamb

Candlelit Dining Room

Dessert

Candles

Save the Date for our Spring Bacchanalia!

Bacchanal, by Charles-Joseph Natoire (1747), in the collection of the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, Texas, USA.

Bacchanal, by Charles-Joseph Natoire (1749), in the collection of the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, Texas, USA.

In the depths of winter our thoughts turn invariably to spring.  And there is so much to do in the vineyards to get ready for the growing season — trellis repair, pruning, spreading lime, all going on simultaneously.  With so much promise and so much to do before the buds begin to swell, with budbreak the work truly begins in earnest.  For some reason we’re feeling good about this year — hopeful.

Winter is a great time to plan — so we are beginning to conceive our annual Spring Bacchanalia, an exclusive and decadent wine-pairing dinner at Annefield.  Family obligations prevent us from doing it earlier in the month, so this year it will take place on Saturday, May 30, at 6 pm.

Seating is extremely limited, so needless to say, reservations are essential.  But — we aren’t ready to take them yet, so please drop us a line at info@annefieldvineyards.com if you are interested. Just the name and the prospective number in your party is all that we need. We are starting a list, and those on it will receive advance notice when we open reservations.  Jameson and Read wine club members enjoy a special price, just like last year.  Wine Club members: $120/person, and Non-members: $195/person.  We will announce the details when it becomes available.

The House at Berry Hill, South Boston, Virginia.

The House at Berry Hill, South Boston, Virginia.

If you are traveling from outside of the area and need accommodations for the weekend, we suggest booking a room at The Berry Hill Resort in South Boston.  Here’s a suggestion — make a pampered, culinary weekend of it — arrive on Friday, book a massage at the Blackberry Spa at the resort, then have a leisurely dinner at your choice of two very special places.  Choose between Bistro 1888 in downtown South Boston, and Molasses Grill in Halifax.  Last year Chef Margaret Moorefield, co-owner of Bistro 1888 , was named one of the top chefs in the country. The accolades come from Best Chefs America, an annual publication showcasing the best chefs in the nation. Moorefield says out of all her awards, this one tops them all, because she was nominated by other culinary professionals. “That means the most to me, because other chefs, they know what it takes.”

Both restaurants are a touch over five miles from Berry Hill -- a very easy and pleasant ride.  Or if you choose to stay in, dine at Berry Hill’s Mansion Dining Room, which has made great strides under new management.  The next morning after a little sightseeing or relaxing by Berry Hill’s indoor pool, join us on Saturday evening for drinks and a memorable dinner.  Other accommodation options are here.

We’ll post another announcement when we are closer to the date.  Until then, Happy Spring!

A Chinese Feast at Tranquil Hill.

Chinese Lanterns

Last year we were sucked into a very fun supper club with a group of friends.  Each member drew straws to select a cuisine (we got Cajun), and this past weekend one of the group put on their assignment, Chinese.  Chinese New Year is February 19, so we celebrated early.  But for this one the host took a different approach, and hired a chef to prepare the meal.  We just had to bring wine and good cheer — both of which we possess in spades.

Our friends’ farm is a place called Tranquil Hill near the town of Mount Laurel in Halifax County. The farmhouse dates from 1834, and features generously sized rooms, fabulous woodwork and great, great bones.  The front portico with Greek revival columns is fittingly grand, leading to a reception room with a very elegant curved staircase.  The two parlors on either side of the stair hall also sport Greek-revival details in the mantels.  It’s one of our favorite houses in the region, exuding great warmth, like the owners.  They raise horses and dogs, of course, like good Virginians.

The chef was Paul Anctil, Jr., who will also be preparing the meal for our Spring Bacchanalia this May (more on that next week).  We started with a cooking demonstration, where Paul showed us how to make dumplings and spring rolls.  Then ushered us out of the kitchen so he could get some work done.  The meal, of course, was spectacular, and included some fraternity-like Sake shots.  Great fun.

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Recipe: Slow Roasted Turkey Breast.

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Over the holidays if you aren’t a large group but want a bit of turkey, this is the recipe for you.  It’s great during the summer, too, when no one wants to slave over a hot stove — yet we have no problem being outside in the heat and humidity tending to a hot grill (go figure).

We chanced on this recipe by Andrew Schloss in The Washington Post last Thanksgiving and tried it for our intimate gathering prior to the more elaborate Friendsgiving feast hosted by friends of ours in Halifax county.  We did for a whole turkey this past Friendsgiving (plan way in advance — roasting an entire bird takes about 12 hours).  It’s a winner: the turkey is the most succulent imaginable, and the beauty of it is you place the turkey in the oven and forget about it.  No basting!  The temperature is so low, overcooking is impossible.  You bake the turkey for for 8 to 9 hours at a very low oven temperature, and there is no basting or fussing.  The only alteration we made to this recipe was the addition of bay leaves, which we habitually include in anything that would benefit from their aromatic lift.

Why not make this during the summer? Since it takes care of itself, you can devote your energies to other things, like roasting corn on the grill, or making salads to accompany it.  The oven temperature is so low you’ll barely notice it.  Even better is cooking it overnight — just put in the oven at bedtime and take it out in the morning.  If you like, take the drippings and make a gravy with a little chicken stock.  A perfect accompaniment is something with good acid and just a touch of residual sugar, like our 2013 Annefield Vineyards Viognier.

Slow Roasted Turkey Breast.

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon dried thyme leaves
  • 1 tablespoon dried basil leaves
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons crushed dried rosemary leaves
  • 1 teaspoon dried marjoram leaves
  • 1 teaspoon rubbed sage
  • 2 teaspoons coarse sea salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • One 7- to 9-pound whole bone-in turkey breast, with skin
  • 1 large onion
  • 4 bay leaves
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil

DirectionsIMG_4660

  1. Combine the spices (except the bay leaves), salt and pepper in a small bowl to create the rub.  Rub it all over the turkey breast.  Refrigerate the turkey, uncovered, for 12 to 24 hours (keeping the breast uncovered causes it to dry out slightly, thereby drawing the salt and spice deep into the flesh).
  2. Pre-heat the oven to 450°F.
  3. While the oven pre-heats, remove the turkey from the refrigerator and allow it to sit at room temperature for one hour before roasting.
  4. Cut the onion into wedges (no need to peel), then arrange them to cover the bottom of the roasting pan.  Add the bay leaves.
  5. Place the turkey breast (breast side up) in the pan on top of the onion wedges and bay leaves.
  6. Drizzle the olive oil evenly over the breast.
  7. Place in the oven and roast for 15 minutes.
  8. After 15 minutes, reduce the temperature to 175°F.  Roast for 8 to 9 hours, or until the internal temperature measures 165 to 175°F.
  9. Let the turkey rest at room temperature for 10 minutes before carving, or tent loosely and carve several hours later.

Adapted from Cooking Slow: Recipes for Slowing Down and Cooking More, by Andrew Schloss (San Francisco: Chronicle Books, 2013).

Paying Respects in Chase City.

Grave of Jacob and Aurelia Holt

With Sunday afternoon free, we made our way to Chase City over in Mecklenburg County to pay our respects to Jacob W. Holt (1811-1880).  The cemetery, which dates from 1869, is what one would expect – ancient and modern monuments in a bucolic setting, dotted with yews, magnolias and boxwood.  The scene was a bit disconcerting, because there were Confederate flags all over the place.  Then we remembered that last Friday was Lee-Jackson Day, a holiday in the Commonwealth of Virginia that honor the birthdays of Robert E. Lee and Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson.  No doubt the Sons of Confederate Veterans put the flags out for the occasion.

We also chanced upon the final resting place of Chief Justice Edward Wren Hudgins, his wife Lucy Morton Hudgins and their son Commander William Henry Hudgins, whose house and extensive gardens in Chase City is now the MacCallum More Museum and Gardens.  Notable landscape designer Charles Gillette consulted on the gardens, and the property is listed in the Virginia Landmarks Register and the National Register of Historic Places.IMG_5093

Readers of this space know that Mr Holt was the master house wright who built the house at Annefield for Hillery M.L. Goode in 1858.  While the bulk of his surviving buildings are in Warrenton, North Carolina, which was one of the wealthiest communities in that state before the War Between the States, but after the war he removed to the town of Christiansville, which was seeing an influx of new money by Northern investors (or, as one writer put it, “fell prey to carpetbaggers from the North”).  He died at his son’s house in nearby Keysville in Charlotte County, and is buried at Woodland Cemetery in Chase City.  Catherine W. Bishir’s biography of him on North Carolina Architects & Builders is a masterful summary of his career and significance.

When we first acquired Annefield we made a pilgrimage to Warrenton to see the houses Jacob Holt built there.  The goal was to measure the porches and columns of the surviving houses so that we could get ours right.  Everyone we met wanted to know where we were from — “Saxe.”  “Where?”  “Do you know Chase City?”  “Oh, yes!  I know where that is.”  It turns out there is a National Weather Service weather station there, and Chase City always appears on weather maps during local news broadcasts.

Chase City, which is just 16 miles down the road from Annefield, was named for Supreme Court Justice Salmon P. Chase in 1873.  The town has an interesting history; Northern investors chose to settle there because it was in the middle of the Virgilina Gold Vein, which runs roughly from Virgilina to Drakes Branch.  Gold, silver and tungsten mining brought wealth, the mines being reopened (they had closed during the California Gold Rush).  The town also brought tourists visiting for the curative waters of a nearby lithia spring, staying at the massive Mecklenburg Mineral Hotel (now lost; it burned in 1909).  Chase City was widely viewed as “the wealthiest Northern town in the South.”  Holt clearly had the good sense to “follow the money.”

There are a number of Holt-designed and Holt-attributed buildings in Mecklenburg County.  A gallery of Holt-built or attributed buildings follows below.  There are more — these are the buildings that are listed in the Virginia Landmarks Register and the National Register of Historic Places.  All images are courtesy of the Virginia Department of Historic Resources.  For more on Chase City, see Chase City, by John Caknipe, Jr (Arcadia Publishing: Charleston, SC, 2008).

Shadow Lawn

Shadow Lawn

Sunnyside

Sunnyside

Eureka

Eureka

Long Grass

Long Grass

Boyd's Tavern

Boyd’s Tavern

 

Bottling Time.

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A New Year, a new vintage . . .

Winter in the winery is actually a busy time.  We met with our winemaker the other day to decide on blending, and to sample our 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon that is still resting in barrel but being bottled this week — more on that below.

Our primary task was deciding what to do with the 2014 Pinot Gris, which was not in the best condition when it was picked.  In our climate it tends to fall apart as it ripens (we’re giving serious thought to pulling it out and planting something else).  We were able to save it, but the wine lacked quality to be bottled as a single varietal, so it is being blended with our very productive Vidal Blanc for this year’s off-dry White blend.  It was just a question of figuring the best proportions. Consulting with our winemakers, Ben Jordan and Michael Shaps, we decided on a blend of 53 percent Vidal Blanc, the balance being the Pinot Gris.

But we are most excited to sample our first single-varietal Vermentino, which was fermented in stainless steel (the Italian way), but stored in neutral oak barrels until it is bottled.  Rather than a winemaking decision, its a space issue.  Still, there may be some subtle affect from the contact with oak.  As we write this, we’re sipping the sample we took home with us — it has excellent fruit and body, bright acidity, and a very interesting touch of salinity in the finish — this is a characteristic of the grape.  It sounds a bit strange, but it is absolutely perfect with seafood.  It brings to mind dining alfresco by the sea.  Lovely.  Ben said,”We just let it do its own thing with no intervention.” We once joked with Frank Morgan of the blog Drink What YOU Like about putting it up against Barboursville Vineyards’ Reserve Vermentino, noting that the swimsuit competition is going to be tough.

The 2014 Chardonnay is still undergoing malolactic fermentation, and will remain in barrel until April.  It is not yet finished, but this wine also shows great promise.  Well rounded flavors and great balance; in a French style with a touch of oak.

The Vidal Blanc is playful, with a fun, tutti-frutti finish.  It will give great life to the White blend.  For the first time we will feature a dry Vidal Blanc in our product line, because we lost our Viognier to frost in 2014, and our red grapes refused to ripen (it was so wet and overcast at the end of the growing season), so we left them to the birds rather than have a less than stellar wine.  This was a major disappointment after the stellar 2013 vintage.  Let’s hope that this is a once in a decade event.  Ben expressed an interest in making a Vidal from a carefully controlled crop, limiting production to, say, three or four tons per acre.  This particular variety just goes gangbusters, and one does wonder what the fruit would be like if yield was carefully controlled.  That would be a very interesting experiment.

This brings us the 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon.  The fruit had such strength and finesse, we chose to keep it in barrel for 16 months to give it the dimension long contact with oak can infuse.  It is very bold, with excellent dark fruit; moody, brooding, complex.  We will leave it in bottle at least a year before release, though truthfully four or five years is more appropriate.  There isn’t much of it — just 100 cases — and wine club members have first dibs — so join a wine club if you want to be assured a case or two.  This is one to lay down for a while.
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