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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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