Sunday, February 25, 2007

wine touring in Virginia

On Saturday, Mark and I went on a Virginia winery bus tour sponsored by the Washington Wine Academy. It was, well, a lot of time on a bus (thanks to a bus driver who, relying solely on his GPS device, managed to drive right past 4 out of 4 stops, at one point even taking us on an unnecessary half-hour loop through the countryside). But it got us out of the city for a while, and we learned about some grapes we'd never heard of.

At Chrysalis Vineyards in Middleburg, Va., we sampled wine made from Norton grapes. Thought to be the best (maybe the only?) truly native North American grape for winemaking, Norton grows best in Virginia and Missouri. I liked what we tasted -- it was dry, a little spicy, and fruity (but without any weird "grape jelly" quality, which they say a lot of other wines made from native North American grape varieties can have).

Later, at Unicorn Winery, we sampled Chambourcin, a French/American hybrid grape. It was really, really deeply colored -- purple, really, like petite sirah. Yet Unicorn's website describes it as having "light tannins." And that seems true -- it didn't have that mouth-drying effect that petite sirah sometimes does, and it had a nice, jammy fig flavor going on. But now I'm confused about tannins. I thought tannins were imparted by the grapeskins, and like I said, this wine is downright purple, suggesting lots of contact with the skins, so ... wine expert I'm not. But I know it was tasty!

So it was a long day, but we learned a lot. Tour participants were also allowed to drink on the bus, which means there were some pretty sloshed people on board by the time we rolled back into D.C. I hadn't witnessed a bus singalong since high school, but I'm here to say that you haven't lived until you've heard grown adults segue straight from "Baby Got Back" into "Hey Jude."



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