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Bridgette Smith
September 7, 2021 | Bridgette Smith

Forget the PSL, Pour me a Red Blend!

Hey everyone! It’s almost fall, and it is really starting to feel like it in Northern Virginia. As I am typing this blog, I am sitting in the pavilion at Williams Gap on the first cool evening we have had this season. We are gearing up for a release of three new wines and I have the pleasure of tasting through them tonight. I could not be more excited to uncork the Mountain Valley Red, the Round Hill Red, and I have to tell you, I am most ecstatic about the Fieldstone. So obviously for this blog, we are chatting about red blends. 

When I think of blends, most of the wines from antiquity until now and around the world that we drink are blends from Chianti, Bordeaux, Champagne. And wine of the old world usually has a lot of rules to follow, as well. For example, check out the laws for Chianti. Since 1996, the blend for Chianti and Chianti Classico has been 75 - 100% Sangiovese, up to 10% Canaiolo and up to 20% of any other approved red grape variety such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot or Syrah. Chianti Classico must have a minimum alcohol level of at least 12% with a minimum of 7 months aging in oak, while Chianti Classicos labeled riserva must be aged at least 24 months at the winery, with a minimum alcohol level of at least 12.5%. The harvest yields for Chianti Classico are restricted to no more than 7.5 t/ha (3 tonnes per acre). For basic Chianti, the minimum alcohol level is 11.5% with yields restricted to 9 t/ha (4 tonnes per acre). There are plenty of other laws regarding release date, where the fruit for the wine can be grown and more.

 Here in the United States, we really only have a few laws regarding how we make our wine and not one of those laws has to do with what our blends can/must contain, aging requirements, yield restrictions, alcohol content or release dates. So just to give you a brief history on how the American Red Blend came into existence, I did some research and a winemaker by the name of David Phinney continually came up. While I have had his wines, I have not done any research on the guy until now. About 10-15 years ago, this idea of the “red blend” in America really took off. And now, the red blend is looked at by a very large portion of American consumers to be the same thing as asking for a Merlot or asking for Cabernet - it’s a unique category. We are talking about a new category of wine - a category of wine that is treated the same as if a consumer were to say they like to drink Zinfandel. And actually, that’s what’s really interesting - the introduction of the American Red Blend started the death of Zinfandel in America. 

The American Red Blend essentially started as a replacement to Zinfandel and was Zinfandel-heavy because Zinfandel was losing popularity on the market. Not to mention that ripping up vines and replacing them is quite expensive. So a lot of intuitive winemakers took quality Zinfandel fruit and blended it because American wine preferences had changed. The main winemaker on the scene was a guy named Dave Phinney from Napa Valley. He purchased the Zinfandel fruit no one wanted and made a Zinfandel heavy blend called The Prisoner. I am sure you have had it, or at least heard of it - it became a bit of a cult wine and the following kept increasing. And now Dave had a very successful product, so he sold it to another winery. And in selling that wine, he was not allowed to make a blend of wine, red blend of wine based on Zinfandel for eight years. After that eight years concluded, he released a red blend called Eight Years in the Desert and sold it through his personal label, Orin Swift. Orin Swift makes a lot of red blends and for a lot of consumers, the American Red Blend hits everything they’re looking for. It has that power, it has the plushness. This American wine category became popular without the help of the wine industry - it was the consumers. Interestingly enough this wine category really has no definition - red blends can be a light everyday, easy-drinking style or it can be a big, bold, age worthy wine. Which is the perfect transition into our new blends at Williams Gap.

We have three new blends - the Mountain Valley Red, the Round Hill Red and Fieldstone. The first two are aged much like our 2019 reds (10 months in French oak), while the Fieldstone is the highest-end wine we have produced. We aged this wine a total of 10 months in 100% French oak (40% new, 60% neutral). Then the individual varieties were blended together to age as a blend in all neutral French oak for additional 10 months (20 months total aging). 

I am sipping on the Mountain Valley now which is even lighter than our 2019 Cabernet Franc. This wine is subtle and showcases aromas of star anise, which translates to red currant on the palate. It simply reminds me of fall in a glass. The varietal make up is 33% Merlot, 30% Cabernet Franc, 17% Petit Verdot, 10% Cabernet Sauvignon and 10% Tannat. 

Next up, is our medium bodied Round Hill Red which is a similar blend but a totally different wine. We blended 50% Merlot, 30% Cabernet Franc, 10% Cabernet Sauvignon, 5% Petit Verdot and 5% Tannat. This wine showcases aromas of smoky sage, which translates to black raspberry on the palate. Super silky and begs to be sipped on by a bonfire or in front of the fireplace. 

And finally, the pièce de résistance - our 2019 Fieldstone. Our 2019 Fieldstone is a blend of 60% Petit Verdot, 20% Merlot, 10% Cabernet Sauvignon and 10% Tannat. This is the most luxurious, full bodied and longest aged wine we have made thus far. This wine showcases aromas of a freshly toasted barrel, which translates to dried fig and baking spices on the palate. The word that comes to mind is "elegance" and it makes me really desire to appreciate this wine by dissecting every flavor and aromatic compound. This wine is so complex and I honestly cannot wait to take another sip. For those of you reading this blog, you may be thinking, “how can I taste this wine?”. Well, we aren’t making it easy for you - and it’s not out of malice, I promise. The case production of this wine was limited and we want to watch age over the next decade. As such, it is currently club-exclusive and only available by the bottle. Not yet a club member? Head over to the Wine Club tab of our website and check out the benefits. Next time you are in, ask for a beautiful bottle of Fieldstone and it is all yours!

Thanks for reading along with me and I hope you are able to enjoy all three of our new blends as soon as possible - you won’t regret it! Cheers!

Bridgette Smith

Tasting Room Manager

Susan Cuellar
July 27, 2021 | Susan Cuellar

Summer Whites Boarding Pass

Hi, my name is Susan and I love learning about wine and sharing the love and appreciation of wine with others.  I have been working at Williams Gap as a Tasting Room Associate since early May, 2021 and am WSET Level 2 certified.  One of my passions is exploring wines from around the world and appreciating the difference that geographic location, climate and terroir can make in the taste of wines.  The same grape varietal can make wine that tastes completely unique to the part of the world where it is grown.  For example, a Pinot Grigio from Italy will taste completely different than a Pinot Gris from Oregon and location, climate and soil are important factors.

 I love “traveling around the world” through tasting international and domestic wines, especially during this past challenging year when real worldwide travel has not been possible.

In August, as temperatures rise into the 90’s, we tend to gravitate towards lighter bodied, refreshing white wines.  These wines are easy to drink on their own, and pair nicely with summer dishes like seafood, salads and lighter fare.

Crisp, acidic white wines get their characteristics from the terroir and climate they are grown in.  As an example, cooler climates may create grapes that have more acidity, which translates into mouthwatering, refreshing white wines.  Acidity in wine is described as a “mouthwatering feel” and it should be refreshing and enjoyable.  It should be balanced with the fruit so the wine does not taste too acidic.

Here at Williams Gap this August, we are featuring our “Summer Whites Boarding Pass”.  Come out and enjoy a seated tasting featuring our very own Vidal Blanc as well as five other refreshing crisp whites from around the world.   We are also offering white wine flights, either domestic or international.  In addition, these wines are available by seated tasting, by the glass or by the bottle

Let’s start with our domestic white wine offerings.

 First, we have the 2019 Lone Birch Pinot Gris.  This wine comes from Yakima Valley, Washington and comes from a family-owned vineyard with a lone 70 year old birch tree on the property which lends its name to this estate vineyard.

This wine is 100% Pinot Gris and although 2019 was a challenging year for winemakers in Washington State with cooler temperatures than normal, the 2019 Pinot Gris is approachable with high acidity and exceptional fruit aspect. 

 The Lone Birch exudes aromas of fresh lemon zest and tangerine which translate to bright flavors of melon and pineapple on the palate.  This wine has balanced acidity which exits the palate with a clean and refreshing finish.  

Our next wine is the 2020 Bonny Doon Picpoul.  Bonny Doon Vineyard is located in Arroyo Seco, Central Coast of California.   It is made from 100% Picpoul grapes, and “Picpoul” translates to “Lip Stinger” by definition.  The grape originally came from Southern France.  It is a high acid, savory, white grape that pairs well with seafood such as oysters.  It comes from a vineyard in Arroyo Seco that is named the Beeswax Vineyard, which may give the wines some beeswax or honey aromatics.  

The Bonny Doon Picpoul showcases subtle almond aromatics which translates to green apple and briny cucumber on the palate.  It has a subtle, unique waxy scent.

Third, we spotlight our very own Williams 2019 Gap Vidal Blanc from Round Hill, VA.  It is made from 100% Vidal Blanc estate grown grapes and offers aromas and flavors of ripe cantaloupe, lemon juice, lime zest and orange blossom.  The stainless steel aging allows the wine to showcase the fruit.  This vintage provides mouthwatering acidity that begs us to take another sip.  I love drinking this wine on my front porch on a hot, summer day and then having a glass with a summer meal of light seafood and salad.

Now we are off to explore our international white wines.

First, we move on to Spain, and to our first international white wine, the 2020 Melea Organic White Blend. 

The wine is named after the rare bee, Anthrophora Melea.  It is an organic, vegan wine fermented with wild yeasts and made using viticultural practices that do not contain any toxic chemicals.  The fruit comes from organically certified vines in the Cuenca area of La Mancha, Spain.  The family has a bodega, or small wine shop, located in Alicante, a city in Spain and are leaders in the production of high quality, organic wines.

Tasting notes include aromas of wet stone and lemon grass which translates to honeydew and lemon curd on the palate.  The wine is dry and refreshing with a long citrus finish with concentrated flavors.

Our next wine comes from France, a white blend called Domaine De Pajot Les 4 Cepages.  This wine comes from the region of Gascogne from a small, family run winery and is produced from organically grown grapes.  The grape varietals in this wine include 35% Sauvignon Blanc, 35% Columbard, 20% Ugni Blanc and 10% Gros Manseng.  Ugni Blanc and Colombard grapes are  often distilled into Armagnac in this region, but this family-run vineyard uses these grapes and blends them into this delightful white wine blend.

The Domaine de Pajot showcases aromatics of juicy pear and lemon which translates to kaffir lime on the palate which is perfectly balanced by mild salinity.  The blend is the epitome of Gascony – light and fruity, fresh and crisp, with a bright texture and plenty of refreshing acidity.  

I picture myself enjoying this wine alongside a poolside dinner or enjoying it by itself at a patio cocktail hour.

Our final international white wine is the 2020 Arca Nova Vinho Verde.  Located on the Atlantic coast in northern Portugal, Vihno Verde means “green wine”.  The Vihno Verde region is lush and green due to its high precipitation and Atlantic Ocean influence.  Vihno Verde is known for light and refreshing wines.  

The Arca Nova is made from a blend of three grapes, 50% Loureiro, 40% Arinto and 10% Treixadura.  It offers pleasing aromas of honey crisp apple, lemon and honeysuckle.  The slight effervescence and bright acidity gives this wine a bright and zippy finish.  

All these wines are available for purchase by the flight, glass or bottle from our main bar, or for an elevated experience, by seated tasting in our upstairs tasting room.

We hope you will come out to Williams Gap to enjoy the last few dog days of summer relaxing with a glass or flight of refreshing white wine selections.  If you want a bite to eat while you visit, we have charcuterie and cheese boards for purchase that pair perfectly with our wines.  The beautiful mountain and vineyard views from our outdoor spaces and tasting room make visiting Williams Gap vineyard a perfect way to slow down and enjoy quality time with family and friends as summer draws to a close.  

Susan Cuellar

Tasting Room Associate

Bridgette Smith
June 25, 2021 | Bridgette Smith

Petit Manseng for Breakfast, Wine Not?!

Hi again! Today we are talking the best meal of the day: BRUNCH! When I think of Sunday, I think of brunch and my mind immediately goes to mimosas. If you can drink a mimosa for breakfast, then wine for breakfast is quite alright with us. In fact, I could probably make a pretty strong argument to leave the juice out and just drink wine. You can drink sparkling for a special occasion, dinner, a light lunch and even breakfast and no one thinks twice. That is why when I enjoy brunch, I pop a beautiful breakfast bottle - and it’s usually not sparkling. I wanted to discuss wine pairings and brunch with you today as we gear up for our first Wine Club Pick Up, “Flights & Bites: Brunch Edition” on July 11. 

While you can enjoy any beverage your heart desires for brunch, I want to focus on our white wine lineup here at Williams Gap and pairings that Chef Marium Caternolo and I thought would pair beautifully. A great food and wine pairing creates a balance between the components of a dish and the characteristics of a wine. After tasting through the three Flights & Bites: Brunch Edition pairings, I have never agreed more. 

First up, our 2019 Vidal Blanc! Vidal Blanc is often just called “Vidal”, especially in the tasting room at Williams Gap. This is a white wine grape that is grown primarily in the northeastern US and Canada and is a French hybrid. The grape was "created" by pairing two different grape parents. This is sort of like breeding a poodle and a golden retriever and creating a goldendoodle. In the case of Vidal Blanc, the varietal was created from the parents Ugni Blanc and Seibel. I love talking about this to guests, as Ugni Blanc is also known as Trebbiano and is a white grape used in Chianti blending. Yes, the Italians sometimes blend white white into red wine and it still produces a red wine. It was once so widespread there that it was used in Tuscany's famous red wines. This practice was so common that the authorities were forced to endorse it in the appellation laws. “As of 2014, Trebbiano Toscano was still permitted (up to 10 percent of the blend) in red Carmignano”, according to Wine-Searcher. The French version, Ugni Blanc, is grown mostly in the Charentais (Cognac) and Gascony (Armagnac). On this Atlantic side of France, it is used to produce vast quantities of light, crisp, white wine which is distilled into brandy. So what is the big story on the other parent, Seibel?! This grape is another mutt (or if you want to jump back on the goldendoodle train - a “designer” grape). Seibel was hybridized by Albert Seibel in the 1950s. His creations went on to hybridize French varietals all over the world. 

Back to Vidal: Vidal Blanc is best known for the hardiness of the vines, and is usually grown in locations that are too cold for "well known" grape varieties. Here at Williams Gap, we don’t struggle with the cold temperatures as much but this varietal does brilliantly on our estate. Our bone dry Vidal Blanc showcases herbaceous aromas which translate to bright citrusy notes on the palate. The stainless steel aging regimen allows for this grape to sing - we only focus on the Vidal with this wine and I love that. We also fermented this wine so that no sugar was left - just that beautiful, citrus heavy white wine. This vintage provides mouthwatering acidity that begs me to take another sip. As for pairing this crisp wine with brunch, Chef Marium recommends pairing this wine with a homemade biscuit with local ham and local cheese. This creates a “contrasting pairing” which is a pairing that creates balance by contrasting tastes and flavors. The creamy cheese and salty ham balances the bright acidity in the Vidal wonderfully.

Next on the list is our 2019 White Blend. This is my favorite white wine on our current lineup and is a blend of 75% Petit Manseng and 25% Vidal Blanc, but we will get to the Petit Manseng in a bit. With 1% more alcohol than the Vidal Blanc and a touch of French oak, this wine showcases a bit more weight and a lot more complexity. 75% of this wine is aged in stainless steel and the rest in neutral French oak barrels. As to not dive into the barrel discussion this blog, I will just give a quick note on why we used a neutral barrel here. Neutral simply means that we have used it a few times so the oak will not impart as much flavor to the wine. Aging wines in neutral oak tends to soften wines without adding the extra flavors. For this specific wine, we chose neutral oak to maintain the fruit qualities while still getting some of the other benefits of aging in oak. If a wine is aged in 100% new oak, it will likely be very bold, rich, spicy and of course, oaky. We did not want this profile for the White Blend, as we wanted to showcase those fruity, floral characteristics. Back to neutral oak - wines pull these flavors out of barrels relatively quickly. After the first year of use, a barrel loses much of its flavoring ability and after three vintages, the wine has extracted most of the oak's flavors, thus it is considered neutral oak. Our 2019 White Blend showcases aromas of melon rind, which translates to crunchy white peach on the palate. This wine is smooth and complex and Chef Marium recommends pairing this wine with a pomme avocado toast, which is a crispy, savory potato pancake topped with avocado, seasoning, and an egg. Again, you will notice some contrast with this pairing - this vegetal, herbaceous dish contrasts the floral, fruity flavors of the White Blend. 

On to the beloved 2019 Petit Manseng. Petit Manseng has always been very interesting to me. I have visited over 130 Virginia wineries and I love to see their vineyard and cellar’s expression of this grape. According to the Virginia Wine Marketing Office, “Quickly gaining critical acclaim in Virginia, Petit Manseng makes distinctive dry white wines and, due to its loosely packed clusters, is also well-suited to survive late into the growing season to make fine off-dry and dessert wines." As you have probably seen right here in Loudoun County, our region produces this wine in so many different styles. A little history on Petit Manseng: this grape is a variation of the black Manseng grape, Manseng Noir and it gets its name from its small berries. Most Petit Manseng feature rich aromas of candied fruit and spice which are often complemented with flavors of honey, nuts, and pineapple. This varietal originates in the Southwest France regions of Gascony, Jurançon and Pacherenc du Vic-Bilh. It’s perfectly suited for the climate in these parts of France and across much of Virginia due to its naturally high acidity that helps to maintain flavor and balance in the warmer late summers and fall. Petit Manseng is naturally very high in sugar, which lends to a bit more alcohol, residual sugar after fermentation and luscious, vibrant tropical flavors. This grape is one of our most hands-off grapes in the vineyard with loose bunches that help with airflow and prevention of mold and mildew, especially in wetter growing seasons. In fact, sometimes wetter seasons are best for this grape variety, especially later in the season as wetter days help to balance some of the grape’s natural high sugar content and acidity. While 2019 was pretty dry in Virginia resulting in a 2% residual sugar in our Petit Manseng, 2020 was a little wetter towards harvest. Spoiler alert: our 2020 vintage has much less residual sugar, which we are excited about in the tasting room. Our 2019 Petit Manseng is off-dry and showcases aromas of tree fruit, which translates to tropical pineapple on the palate. This vintage offers lively acidity to balance the sugar and Chef Marium recommends pairing this wine with chicken and waffles with a spicy honey drizzle. The ideology here is for the wine to offer relief from the heat. The Petit Manseng will almost cleanse your palate with this pairing. 

I hope this blog helped you plan your next Sunday Brunch and for our Wine Club Members, make sure you purchase your Flights & Bites: Brunch Edition tickets before July 6th by visiting this link: Wine-Club-Events. If you have any issues purchasing your ticket, send me an email directly at bsmith@williamsgapvineyard.com for assistance. 

Bridgette Smith

Tasting Room Manager

Bridgette Smith
May 28, 2021 | Bridgette Smith

Rosé Boarding Pass: A Tasting Blog Featuring Rosé From Around the World


Hi again! Thank you for visiting our Williams Gap Blog. If you follow us on social media, you probably are already very excited for our Rosé Boarding Pass Event in June. We are getting “on board” with the rosé craze across the planet and releasing our first Williams Gap Rosé and featuring 5 rosés from around the world, too! For much of the 20th century, rosé was dismissed as an unserious wine, but that view began to shift in the 1970s when cult importers like Kermit Lynch started introducing dry rosés to the United States market. The rosé style didn’t become popular among Americans, however, until the early 2000s, when French rosé started becoming popular. In the past four years, consumption has spiked dramatically, transforming both the perception of rosé and its marketing. American sales of rosé wines grew to 18.7 million cases in 2018, an increase of 1.2 million cases since 2015, according to Shanken’s Impact Databank. While the category has been seeing impressive growth, some may wonder if rosé wine’s upward trajectory will continue.

Today, we are not talking about the rosé you once knew - the dreaded White Zinfandel. We are tasting 6 dry rosé wines from around the planet. As I sit at the vineyard typing this blog post, I am tasting our Rosé Boarding Pass lineup. This is a great time for you to grab a glass of rosé too, as we taste together and pull out some of those amazing summer-like flavors and aromas from the wonderful wine category - rosé! 

First stop - Sobrado, Portugal! I am currently tasting the 2020 Arca Nova Vinho Verde Rosé. This wine is produced in the Vinho Verde DOC region in Minho (northwest Portugal) where the quality of the wines made here are so fresh and light that they earn the moniker verde (“green”). This wine is produced with 50% Espadeiro and 50% Touriga Nacional and is beyond fresh in nature. I can tell from the aromas, that this wine will be super fruit-driven - tons of candied watermelon on the nose that also translates to the palate. This wine is slightly effervescent, a trademark of Vinho Verde, and leans more on the fruit than anything. For me, rhubarb and papaya are speaking the loudest on the palate and I cannot stop sipping. This wine is really fun and exciting. Chef Marium Caternolo who is our featured chef for our rosé club event recommends pairing this wine with a chilled green gazpacho. 

Next, let’s open the Gerard Bertrand Cote des Roses Rosé from Languedoc-Roussillon, France. This is a beautiful bottle with a rose imprint on the punt and the cork is made of solid glass - a definite eye catcher when perusing the wine aisles at the wine shop. This southern area of France is known for rosé production and this wine does not disappoint. They selected Cinsault, Grenache and Syrah for the 2020 vintage which produces a beautiful “ballet slipper pink” hue in the glass. At first sniff, I notice an explosion of white spring blossom and grapefruit. That grapefruit carries over to the palate which is so refreshing. When I think rosé, this is where my mind takes me - easy sipper, balanced acidity and citrus. Chef Marium recommends pairing this wine with a brie grilled cheese with asparagus and crispy prosciutto. 

Now we come to our layover in California - Santa Cruz to be exact. Let’s open the Bonny Doon Vin Gris de Cigare. I have had this wine many times with a close friend of mine and enjoying this wine always takes me back to incredibly fun times with her and her family on their boat in the river. Let’s talk about aroma - for me the aroma is screaming fresh strawberries. That does translate to the palate but this time, it is more of whisper. This wine is so different from the first two - it’s a blend of white grapes and red. So those red grapes are pretty evident and translate their tannin a bit. I am noticing them on the finish as I taste the slightest hint of a hibiscus tea. Chef Marium recommends pairing this wine with a golden beet salad with watermelon and feta on a toasted crostini. 

Now, we are coming home just for a quick visit and tasting our 2020 Williams Gap Vineyard Rosé. This wine is made of 100% estate Cabernet Sauvignon, but you would never know from the color in the glass. The nose is reminding me of orange blossom and mint, while the palate is all about the citrusy acidity. I am tasting this lineup while it is 87°F outside and this wine is what I will be drinking after the blog is completed. Perfect summer day rosé! Chef Marium recommends pairing this wine with a pita topped with grilled lamb, tzatziki, cherry tomatoes and mint. This acid would cut right through the lamb fat to create an undeniably balanced wine and food experience.

Let’s take flight to Yakima Valley, Washington - home to over 120 amazing wineries. I am opening the 2020 Lone Birch Rosé and this wine has a much deeper color than the other 5 rosés with equal parts of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Sangiovese and Syrah. The winemaker at Lone Birch touched on his production method mentioning that after pressing, the juice was settled out for 48 hours and racked clean to begin fermentation. Using carefully selected yeast that allows the four varietal characteristics to shine, this rosé was fermented at low temperatures ranging from 55-58°F. Having a cold and slow fermentation allows for maximum ester production that gives this wine very bright fruit notes and a clean, crisp finish. The aromas showcase an herbal mint and citrusy characteristic that totally changes when you sip. I am tasting more Rainier cherry with this wine, and maybe a bit of ripe crab apple. What I love about this wine is that it totally coats your entire palate with flavor. If you know Allie in the tasting room, she would call this wine a mouth-hug. It’s not often (maybe ever) that I have used that descriptor, but it suits the Lone Birch. Chef Marium recommends pairing this wine with a barbecued chipotle pork shoulder. 

And finally, we are finishing our trip in Marlborough, New Zealand, which you might know for their Sauvignon Blanc, with The Ned Pinot Noir Rosé. This wine is made entirely from Pinot Noir and it shows. The fruit is so consistent from the nose to the palate, I almost thought this wine had a touch of residual sugar - but I was wrong. It is completely dry but very focused on the fruit. For me, it was all about strawberry jam with The Ned. The New Zealand 2020 vintage had a very consistent period of hot, dry weather; the driest Marlborough has seen in 88 years, which lends to a riper style whether we are sipping white, red or rosé. Chef Marium recommends pairing this wine with a savory basil citrus dessert and I can not think of a better way to finish this tasting. 

All month during the month of June, we will have all 6 of the rosés we tasted here by the flight, tasting, glass and bottle. Our educated tasting associates have so much more information about how these wines were farmed and produced, too! I hope you will stop by Williams Gap to taste through this line up and let me know what you think. Let’s keep this rosé trend going this month - cheers!

Bridgette Smith
April 24, 2021 | Bridgette Smith

April Showers Bring Grape Flowers

Hi everyone and welcome back to the Williams Gap Vineyard Blog! If you came out to the vineyard for opening weekend, you probably noticed that “spring has sprung” at WGV. We had Bud Break earlier this month which means grapes are on the way. The most common question the tasting associates and I are asked in the Tasting Room is, “how is this vintage going to be?” or “how is the vineyard this year?”. So, this month, I wanted to tell you about our vine growing calendar, so you know what you are looking at in the vineyard each time you visit us. 

 Let’s start with the winter. One of the most important activities in the vineyard at Williams Gap, other than harvest, of course, is winter pruning. Our vineyard crew works incredibly hard to cut back the prior year’s canes and they choose the best canes to grow new shoots. The type of pruning system used is determined during the vineyard design. So, for us at WGV, this is something Jack designed when he planted our vineyard in 2006 and he made the important decision to cane prune rather than spur prune. With that being said, it is possible to change the way vines are trained from season to season if overproduction or underproduction is an issue. How could overproduction be an issue? More grapes = more wine, right?! We will get to that, later.

 Jump to spring! During April & May, the first signs of life occur. First, we will see the sap rise and then the beautiful buds or flowers begin to break – this is what we call Bud Break. The buds are extremely delicate during this time, so weather can be an issue, unfortunately. What we see here in Virginia is spring frost or even hailstorms. Both of the mentioned weather threats can destroy the buds or flowers. For example, in 2020, a lot of Central Virginian vineyards lost large percentages of their fruit, if not all, due to the Mother’s Day frost of 2020. So, while Bud Break is very exciting, it is also a bit of a frightening time, as we watch the weather reports and hope for the best. 

 On to the glorious summer! In June and July, young clusters begin to materialize. These clusters will ultimately become berry bunches. Whether you are looking at a red grape, like Merlot or a white grape, like Petit Manseng, they will look very similar at this time. They are small berries, earthworm green in color and very stiff. But that all changes in mid to late summer. The little green berries start to change color and ripen. Those little earth worm green balls turn into gorgeous yellow, pink, red or purple. The color depends on the varietal, or type of grape. This period is called vérasion and is the most beautiful time of the year at Williams Gap. Just before vérasion begins, some vineyard managers will green harvest their vineyard, or “drop fruit”, as most vineyard managers call this process. We do this at WGV to remove additional weight from the vines. We call this weight the superficial grape bunches and we drop fruit so the vines can put all of their effort into the grapes that will make the best wine when we harvest in the fall. So, less grapes = better wine.

 Now onto the busiest time of year for our vineyard manager, vineyard crew and winemaker – the fall! If you have friends and family in the wine industry, you learn very quickly to plan important events way before harvest. The grapes continue to ripen and sugar levels rise through the end of summer and into fall. In Virginia, harvest usually occurs sometime between late August to early October, when the grapes reach their complete ripeness. We measure this ripeness a few different ways including measuring brix (sugar levels) and pH (acid levels), as well as taking a look at the pips (or seeds) of the grape. Green pips = under ripe fruit. Brown pips = ripe fruit. Our vineyard manager and crew work around the clock to pick the grapes in time. Timing is essential with grapes as these lovely, little berries are different than other fruits, in that they do not continue to ripen once picked.

 We will finish off the season very drearily in late fall and winter. At this point, the vine has stopped producing carbohydrates from the chlorophyll in the leaves. The leaves then lose their color and fall to the ground, just as most vines, plants and trees do during this time of year. Guests seem to worry when they see bare vines during the cooler months, as they often ask if the vines are dead. Grape vines are similar to other plants – they go dormant in the winter. When this happens each year, our crew gets right back out there and prunes back the vines and the process starts all over again.

 Now you have a really good understanding of a year in the life of a vine at Williams Gap Vineyard and a better understanding of why our main focus is our vineyard. With every visit to WGV take a look at the vineyards as you drive up Sexton Farm Lane to the Tasting Room. Each time, you will notice a bit of variation in the vines, leaves, fruit and crew activities. 

 Cheers everyone and we hope to see you at the vineyard soon!

Bridgette Smith
March 29, 2021 | Bridgette Smith

Your Stem-ulus Check

Hi everyone and welcome to the Williams Gap Blog! My name is Bridgette Smith, and I am the Tasting Room Manager at WGV. I am WSET Level 2 Certified, and I am passionate about teaching others about wine, whether we are chatting about what is going on in the cellar, in the vineyard or right there in your glass. I type that, assuming you are drinking Williams Gap wine while checking out our blog. Not too late to pour yourself a glass - the blog will be here when you get back. I was asked to write a monthly wine blog for Williams Gap Vineyard and am really excited to discuss Wine Glass Selection for our first blog post. When I came on board at Williams Gap, one of the first decisions we made for the Tasting Room was our wine glasses. While this is not the most important decision to make, it is something we are passionate about at WGV. 

I have done so much research on the perfect wine glass because each glass performs differently than others. While wine glass research might seem a little geeky, this research is important for our Tasting Room because we are providing beautiful Virginia wine right from our vineyard and we want to showcase the quality in the best way possible.

Let’s start by discussing wine aromas. Vapors carry the aromatic compounds from the wine to your nose. A wine's "aroma”, or "nose”, is the smell of the wine in the glass. The aroma can be fruit driven (green/red/black fruit, citrus fruit, stone fruit, tropical fruit, dried/cooked fruit, etc.), floral (acacia, honeysuckle, chamomile, elderflower, geranium, blossom, rose, violet, etc.), herbaceous, herbal, spicy, earthy, or any number of familiar scents depending on the grape variety used and the winemaking process implemented.

When it comes to smelling and tasting wine, I am sure you have heard that the nose is incredibly important – some say more important than your tongue. We are gifted, as humans, to differentiate between thousands of unique scents, while the human tongue is limited to sensing the following categories: salty, sweet, bitter, and sour. With that background, we can now understand that we must use our nose first to truly taste a wine.

So, aromas are important – how do we get the maximum aroma from a wine in a glass? A lot of this has to do with the vessel you choose to taste wine from. There are so many glasses to choose from and you will find that certain wine glass shapes are better for enjoying specific types of wine. When selecting stemware, you have to keep in mind that the glass shape collects aromas and deposits them to both your nose and your mouth, so what shape works best? The first, and maybe most important component is space – you need plenty of space above the wine to collect aromas and transport them.

For whites, I have noticed that a smaller bowl preserves floral aromas, maintains cooler temperatures and expresses more acidity in the wine. So, for those crisp, clean, lighter wines, you may want to stick with a smaller glass. But do not forget to leave room on top of the wine. For fuller bodied whites, like our White Blend, a larger bowl better emphasizes the creamy texture because of the wider mouth.

For reds, I like to alleviate tannic bitterness and mitigate spicy flavors to deliver a smoother tasting wine. In my opinion, red wines tend to taste smoother from a glass with a wider opening. Larger glasses with plenty of room between the wine and your nose/mouth tend to deliver more aromatic compounds. When you have a smaller glass, the alcohol burn is more noticeable since it is closer to your nose. A wide glass diameter offers larger surface area to let the alcohol aromatics evaporate. Higher alcohol wines from warmer climates or spicier wines also tend to be softened due to the flavors hitting your tongue more gradually.

With all of this in mind, while at home, you may have glasses for every type of wine, but that is quite the task for a tasting room. We selected the Riedel Degustazione Wine Glass. This glass offers a universal experience for most wines, and definitely the wines at Williams Gap Vineyard. According to Riedel (and we happen to agree), “this glass is the perfect glass to suit a variety of wines. The glass helps to release the aromas of the wines, emphasize fruit and balance compounds”. When you visit us at Williams Gap Vineyard, take notice of your glass and we encourage to take your time differentiating aromas and flavors. Williams Gap Vineyard’s main focus is producing the best grapes and providing an unmatched setting to enjoy them. We work together to make sure everyone has the best possible experience, whether it’s enjoying a glass of wine, tasting through our wine line up or sharing a bottle and board with friends.

Cheers to you and we hope to see you at Williams Gap Vineyard.

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