Wednesday, May 25, 2011

A Trip to Terroir

After many months of planning a wine field trip to a winery that understood my prerogatives, my efforts are beginning to sprout. I wanted to provide the public with a venue at which they could touch terroir, see it, feel it, and most of all, understand  this most elusive crux us wine-o's like to use in our winespeak arsenal, terroir. I live in Virginia and I must confess, our wineries are low on the todem pole of grand cru greatness. In fact, I will go so far as to say non-existant (for now) in the terroir world of outstanding soils that give the backbone to iconic, age-worthy wines. After emailing a handful of wineries, I was disappointed that I was only being offered a classic tour and tasting, nothing more elaborate to entice my inquiring mind. I wanted a picture painted of how and why their wines were of any interest in the mass conglomeration of wine coffures.

To me, a wine that records a place in time as well as exhibits a sense of place by leaving a footprint of its origins on my palate and ultimately my organoleptic perceptions, is a wine worth savouring. Very few wines deliver these qualifying measures, and scarsely any I can recall from Virginia.

To date, my closest encounter with terroir in the romantic sense greeted me at the doorstep to Quintessa--a phenomenal biodynamic winery I visited in Napa Valley back in May 2009. There I raptured in the meaning of Rutherford dust. I even put a few bits of stone and earth in my shorts pocket while I gazed over vineyards in full bloom to the backdrop of valley haze and a lazy river coiling beneath the terrace on which I stood. Those rocks decorated my nightstand for a few months to come...weird, yes, but the point I'm trying to drive home is that magical moment you can experience when a wine forever imprints upon your memory, leaving behind much more than taste; but, rather the wine envelops every tangible and untangible aspect particular to that moment in time. Now, when I drink Quintessa, my mind evokes much more than flavor, but feelings and memories with greater scope than minerality and taste adjectives.

Besides this romantic side of terroir, the word itself translates to physical attributes a wine encompasses due to every external input the grapes encounter on their journey from vine to wine. This is what I want to see, and this is what I hope to deliver right here on the rolling hills in Delaplane, Virginia. This hope was realized as I spoke to Rutger de Vink on the phone for the first time.

Now I can say, experience Virginia’s newest winery in the limelight. Winemaking maverick, Rutger de Vink, demonstrates why he crafts Virginia’s first iconic wine. He believes the formula to making exemplary wine lies in vineyard site selection, or namely, terroir.  We will travel by bus to his vineyards where de Vink will host a private seminar and blind tasting of RdV wines against globally renowned wines from noteworthy wineries in Bordeaux, Napa, Burgundy and New Zealand. Similar to the tasting Dave McIntyre described in The Washington Post with Citronelle’s Sommelier and Master of Wine, Jay Youmans, de Wink intends on replicating the same experience (http://www.rdvvineyards.com/docs/Washington-Post-3-15-11.pdf). He will then take us outside to conduct a behind-the-scenes tour of his land and winemaking facilities. The soils will be touched and talked over in order for you to experience first-hand its role in quality winemaking and how it distinguishes a wine’s pedigree.  The RdV state-of-the-art facility will serve as the perfect backdrop as he reveals his story of winemaking pursuits in a state that's missed the mark on legendary winemaking. Following tour and tasting, RdV wines will be enjoyed over a gourmet lunch at the winery made with ingredients sourced from the Falls Church Farmers Market.

I believe de Wink truly understands the feat that lies before him. Thomas Jefferson dreamed big for Virginia, hoping it could one day take its place next to Bordeaux. We quietly laugh now, but consider how The Judgment of Paris in 1976 shocked the world when California exited its anonymity and proved capable of producing wines of equal quality to the French grand crus. Before the renowned tasting stifled the world, wine lovers scoffed at California efforts to craft fine wine. Today, Virginia wines draw the same perception as California wines did forty years ago; an afterthought in the world of wine class hierarchy. Wine professionals and aficionados share an unspoken understanding of Virginia winemaking--it attracts more entrepreneurs afflicted by the “wine bug” with money and means than winegrowers with viticultural or oenological expertise.

A handful of mavericks, like Luca Paschina at Barboursville and Jim Law at Linden, successfully craft preeminent wines. Now, the most daring of all, Rutger de Wink, tills the path to producing terroir-driven wines that bridge the elegance of Bordeaux and Thomas Jefferson’s dream of wine in the New World (aka Virginia). I still scoff at the undertaking of Patricia Kluge and her high falutin expectations for her over-priced wines. Her magnificent tale of winery management or mismanagement and her spectacular exiting bow in the throes of bankruptcy leaves a bitter taste with not just me I imagine. But, after reading this de Wink's credentials and merits, backed by Jim Law's endorsement, I am eager to see his venture first-hand. Furthermore, he has managed to entice Eric Boissenot to venture overseas, away from his most beloved land and first-class growth clients, such as Chateau Margaux and Latour.

So, join us Saturday, June 25th for a trip to TERROIR. Meet the man with the vision to produce world-acclaimed Virginia wines, Rutger de Vink of RdV Vineyards in Fauquier County (http://www.rdvvineyards.com). Tour a state-of-the-art winery, participate in an objective blind tasting of wines that exhibit terroir in its truest sense. Pair wines with a gourmet luncheon. Encounter wines that stand up to the classed growths of Bordeaux and Napa Valley’s stars, as demonstrated in Dave McIntyre’s Washington Post article March 16th (http://www.rdvvineyards.com/docs/Washington-Post-3-15-11.pdf).
All inclusive trip package:
Transportation to and from winery in Delaplane, Virginia
Catered luncheon and wine pairing of RdV wines
Blind Wine Tasting
Private seminar and vineyard tour

Experience terroir first-hand. Taste world-class wines blind. Discover the journey of wine from grape to glass.
Saturday, June 25th 9:30am – 5:00pm
$75 all inclusive