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Tuesday through Saturday.
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Chronicles from The Williamsburg Winery
For the third consecutive year, the Williamsburg Winery has earned awards from the most acclaimed wine competition in the world. Decanter World Wine Awards of London awarded a Bronze medal to the 2005 Gabriel Archer Reserve and Commended” the 2007 Vintage Reserve Chardonnay. This year’s competition drew more than 10,000 entries. Only 160 medals were awarded to New World wineries. The Bronze medal for the 2005 Gabriel Archer Reserve compares to other well-recognized wines from notable vintners, such as the Joseph Phelps Le Mistral 2006 at $48, rated at 92 points by Wine Spectator. The Gabriel Archer Reserve, at $36, scored better than some of the top-notch California wines. The Stags Leap Artemis Fay Cabernet Sauvignon($144), with price points ranging from $66 to $288, only earned a Commended award. The Williamsburg Winery 2007 Vintage Reserve Chardonnay ($24) “Commended” award shares that honor with Beringer’s Chardonnay($28) and the Louis Jadot($42) from Meusault Burgundy France. With these two awards, Williamsburg Winery wines are now officially placed by Decanter World Wine Awards in the category of “The Best Wines in the World”.
For more information, or to discover how you can enjoy wines from the Williamsburg Winery, go to www.williamsburgwinery.com
An Interview with Matthew Meyer
While studying Enology and Viticulture at U.C. Davis, California in the late 1990’s, I was fortunate enough to be involved with Dr. Mark Matthews as a research assistant and to also be part of Dr. Ann Noble’s Advanced Sensory Analysis Lab. After graduating in 1998 I was able to work with some of the best winemakers in the world at Grgich Hills Estate and Heitz Wine Cellar both in Napa Valley. The experience I gained was invaluable but I was ready for a new challenge and to develop my techniques in a new up and coming wine region.
I was especially intrigued as I watched the East Coast grow into a number of exciting new regions and appellations that were showing the potential to produce excellent Old World-style wines. When the opportunity came up in 2002 to be Winemaker for a well-established winery in Virginia, I took the chance and moved my family to Williamsburg. It’s been exciting and rewarding to have the opportunity to experiment with what Virginia has to offer.
Upon arrival at the Williamsburg Winery, the Duffelers and I reevaluated the viticulture and production aspects of the farm to see how we could expand on their successes. The next several years were spent replanting the vineyards with various clones and rootstocks better suited to Virginia climate. We also made upgrades to practically every aspect of the production side to maximize quality and efficiency. As Patrick says “the best is yet to come”. Under that banner we will continue to experiment in the vineyards and winery to always be looking at ways to make the best wine possible.
In addition to reevaluating our own vineyards I also spent many hours on the road searching for Virginias best grape growers to contract with. In 2006 I was fortunate to find Redlands Vineyard on Carters Mountain near Charlottesville from which the 2006 Adagio evolved. Only 100 cases of this Merlot were produced with each bottle numbered for the avid collector. It was released October of last year and has been very well received. Even Steven Spurrier of the famous Decanter Magazine of London rated it very highly and compared it to a fine Pomerol. This wine truly shows the superior quality that Virginia can be proud of. It demonstrates a graceful balance between the fruit, oak and tannins. The first impression is the complexities the oak and fruit play off each other. The oak lends some intriguing notes of vanilla, suede and a bit of meatiness, while the fruit elements show a nice blend of dark and red fruits. Mixed in with the fruit nuances is a soft, pleasant earthiness. The tannins are well rounded and smooth, yet still maintain a backbone which ultimately helps to create a long smooth finish. Overall the wine does not have one element or dimension that stands out, but rather a beautiful balance of all the players, making this a truly complex and captivating wine. The Adagio will age gracefully for many years and will complement a wide array of dishes.
Another significant change was the hiring of Tom Child early last year as Vineyard Manager. Tom has over 40 years experience with some of the top vineyards in California such as Kendall Jackson and Franciscan Estates. Tom’s experience along with the excellent growing season of 2008 has produced 5.5 acres of extraordinary merlot grapes from the Williamsburg Winery. I knew the moment I picked it from the vine that these grapes were special. They were harvested in September and for the first time in its history; the Williamsburg Winery will produce an “Estate Grown” 2008 Adagio.
I have high hopes for all of the 2008 wines produced here because it was an ideal growing season and because the investments made in technology, experimentation, hard work and equipment are paying off with wines of style, grace and elegance from the Williamsburg Winery.
Virginia wines have come a long way during the last ten years and it is exciting to be a part of the fifth largest wine producing state in the U.S. Refined techniques, favorable, though sometimes challenging, conditions, and a bit of luck combined with talent produce quality wines from the Williamsburg winery that have consistently won National and International awards.
Save space in cellar next to bordeaux for Va.'s old reds
© October 8, 2008
By Jim Raper
I KNOW OF VERY FEW people who collect Virginia wines, although there are plenty of wine fanciers in these parts who drink the state's wines and are wowed by a bottle now and again. These folks save their cellar space for wines known to be ageworthy - the stellar bottles from Bordeaux, Burgundy, the Rhone Valley, Tuscany, Ribera Del Duero, Oporto and so forth.
Commercial Virginia winemaking in our modern era only got started three decades ago, so we have not had the time to develop traditions of best practices in the vineyards, or in the wineries, that result in ageworthy wines. The best viticulture areas of Europe, on the other hand, have been building their reputations for a millennium.
Still, there were some very good Virginia red wines - mostly Bordeaux-style blends dominated by cabernet sauvignon - made in the late 1970s and through the 1980s, and I have tasted probably a dozen of them after they had aged for a decade or more. In almost every case the mature Virginia reds have been commendable. As they age, Virginia's best reds often become hard to tell apart from Bordeaux wines.
So it was with great anticipation that I accepted an invitation from the Virginia Wine Board to attend a "Heritage Tasting" of top-tier Virginia wines from vintages back to 1988. Annette Ringwood Boyd, the executive director of the Wine Board's marketing office, invited wineries to submit "award-winning" older wines for consideration, and the tasting ended up with 14 examples. The least of the wines were still very interesting, and the best were splendid. Here are my tasting notes:
Naked Mountain 1993 Riesling A bit of intrusive oxidation detracts from the finish, but overall the wine is an off-dry beauty, with notes of hay and hazelnuts, petrol and peach preserves.
AmRhein 2000 Chambourcin I have never thought this red hybrid grape as having the stuffing for fine wines, but this wine is interesting, especially for its attractive, spicy aromas.
Chrysalis 2000 Locksley Reserve Norton Again, a lovely nose on this fine example of a claret-style red made from the native Virginia Norton grape. I liked the sharp blackberry flavor. Jennifer McCloud, the Chrysalis owner, predicts the wine will still be good 20 years from now.
Linden Vineyards 1988 Cabernet I took a liking to this wine when I drank through a case I bought in 1992. It's showing its age but still is evidence of the fine winemaking of Linden owner Jim Law.
Tarara Vineyards 1991 Cabernet Sauvignon and 1999 Cabernet Sauvignon What a stunning duo of wines! The '91 is still sturdy, with traces of fresh black cherry fruit, and the '99 is a ringer for a nicely aged, mid-level Bordeaux.
Williamsburg Winery 1993 Gabriel Archer Reserve This Bordeaux-variety blend is medium-bodied, with a fetching mix of horse saddle, black currants and tannins.
Rockbridge 1997 Cabernet Shep Rouse, the owner-winemaker of this winery makes some understated, classy wines, and this is definitely one of them.
Ingleside Vineyards 1997 Cabernet Sauvignon Special Reserve Bright, like a cherry fruit tart, this wine would mate well with a juicy steak.
Barboursville 1998 Cabernet Sauvignon A winner, this flawless claret-style wine showcases the craft and care of Luca Paschina, winemaker and proprietor of Barboursville.
White Hall 1998 Cabernet Sauvignon This winery is known for the generous fruit in its red wines, but tannic backbone has helped preserve this solid effort.
Jefferson 1998 Cabernet Sauvig-non Some racy acidity is here but not enough to mar the overall impression, which is of a fine red wine just a tad past its peak.
Rappahannock Cellars 2000 Cabernet Sauvignon Notes of oak and stewed prunes are here, but also of lovely dark berry fruit.
Breaux 2000 Soleil Late Harvest Vidal Blanc A delicious example of how good late-harvest dessert wines from Virginia can be. I loved the candied orange peel flavor.
(By Patrick Duffeler, Owner of The Williamsburg Winery & Wedmore Place)
Even in the mild climate of South-Eastern Virginia, winter is approaching. Since early November, we have experienced a couple of night frosts. But that will augur well for our ability to focus on preparing the farm for the next season. Plenty of work is ahead.But before talking about the future, let us recap on some of the recent news of the winery.
The Williamsburg Winery celebrates 20 years of operation.
On September 27th, we celebrated the 20th anniversary of the winery. A wonderful group of friends from local retailers and restaurateurs to numerous press and business contacts joined us to reminisce about the evolution of the winery since the launch of its first wine in 1988 and its first award two weeks after the first sale of Governor’s White. During the event, Matthew Meyer, opened bottles of our new release, the Adagio, a super merlot from the ’06 vintage. Only 100 cases of this wine were made. The wine was aged in barrels in a blend of French, Hungarian and American oak for some 14 months. The response to this limited release has exceeded our expectations whether in terms of professional opinions or from consumers. Just three days later, Patrick II joined Governor Baliles on the footsteps of the Richmond Capitol for a tasting to commemorate the twentieth October Virginia Wine Month which had also been launched in 1988. The guests were invited to taste a sampling of wines from the various harvests of these two decades. “Save space in your cellar next to Bordeaux for VA’s old reds” wrote Jim Raper of the Virginian Pilot and commended our ’93 Gabriel Archer Reserve.
(Matthew Meyer, winemaker, pouring the Adagio)
Selected Comments from Top International Wine Critics:
At the May, 2007 Virginia Wine Experience in London
Steven Spurrier, " The Acte 12 Chardonnay was a lovely eye-opener, on a scale from 1 to 20 this wine is a 17+ and for me that is a very good mark. The 2005 Viognier was a real star, well balanced with nice characters."
Hugh Johnson, On the 1993 Gabriel Archer Reserve, " A most elegant wine."
London presentation of Williamsburg Winery’s wines.
As Virginians were picking up their bottles of their favorite wines, Francoise and I had traveled to the UK for a special evening on September 30th at the Institute of Corporate Directors on Pall Mall to feature Virginia wines to a select group of the press. Stephen Spurrier of international fame for his initiative that became known as the “Judgment of Paris” and propelled American wines to the forefront, sampled our wines and gave us the notes he took during the evening. For the comments from Stephen Spurrier, see below. For the second consecutive year, Decanter Magazine of London, probably the most respected wine publication, has just included our Acte 12 Chardonnay in their ’08 list of the World’s Best Wines. That and the recent reports that we received from the Beverage Testing Institute have brought our products to a higher level of recognition. For a listing of our recent national and international awards, see below. (It is almost as good as winning a Formula One Grand Prix. To explain that particular feeling, I will add that in the last weeks, I have been asked to make presentations to a couple of car enthusiast clubs about my decade in motor racing. That was in the seventies and it seems like it was in a totally different world.)
Stephen Spurrier – Tasting Notes September 30th, ‘08
These notes were taken directly from Stephen Spurrier that evening.
"On the Decanter scale 15 = good, 16 = good+, 17 = very good. The range was really encouraging and for the most part the wines were very well balanced and elegant. A good future for Virginia. Thank you very much for the tasting."
- Williamsburg Winery 2005 Trianon Cabernet Franc.
"Very good colour, fresh and deep for 2005, more depth than Corcoran and more tannic, quite a serious wine, just a bit hollow in the middle, but a good effort. ??Young vines?? 17"
- Williamsburg Winery 2004 Gabriel Archer Reserve.
"Good deep colour, a little age on rim, ripe and quite mature, all the grapes blended together, good vineyard fruit, quite good middle palate, falls off at the end, more made in the cellar than in the vineyard. 16 "
- Williamsburg Winery Adagio 2006 Super Merlot.
"Very good colour, really lovely and deep, quite smoky oak, full and fleshy and a really well expressed Merlot, very Pomerol, even with a little iron base, very well balanced fruit/acidity/tannins, still a bit raw with the oak needs six months, overall both charming and serious, drops a bit in the middle but a very good effort. 17 "
Stephen Brook (An Award Winning Wine Journalist) also sent his preferences but no details.
" Many thanks for inviting me to the tasting yesterday. I know you wanted some feedback, so I thought I would simply let you know which wines I liked best: Corcoran Viognier, White Hall Viognier, Veramar Chardonnay, Keswick Touriga, Veritas Petit Verdot, WW Gabriel Archer and Adagio Merlot."
The Harvest of 2008
After several years of exceptional harvests in VA, the ’08 vintage was not as spectacular. As we have since the start of the winery worked with growers from many distinct micro-climates in VA, we end up with grapes from these regions that exhibit different flavor characteristics.
When asked why this has been our modus operandi, I stress the multiple reasons, diversifying agricultural and weather related risks, enjoying virtually the best of all worlds in being able to combine those flavor characteristics to achieve the desired balance and taste profile, and fundamentally my experience has been that whenever a grower tells you that his/her vineyard will produce consistently the very best grapes in the world, I know it to be very much a bit of a stretch. As it is, this year several of our growers experienced excessive precipitation. On the other hand, our merlot that was harvested here on site was at 24 brix in Matthew’s words, the best merlot he has seen and he anticipates with relish the thought of an Estate Bottled ’08 Adagio to be released in 2010.Said Matthew recently at a planning meeting. We have the quality grapes that we need to make the reserve wines we planned. We will have to adjust our production on some of the other labels to reflect what we have crushed this year and consideration will be given to an estate bottled Traminette as well.
Wessex Hundred and its Produce and Herb Garden
Wessex Hundred, the 300 acre farm that is the home to The Williamsburg Winery, the Gabriel Archer Tavern and Wedmore Place,our Country-Hotel with its Café Provençal has added another project to its mission. While we have enjoyed fresh tomatoes, arugula, herbs etc. for our own consumption from a napkin sized garden and a few potted plants, we noted the phenomenal difference between locally grown fresh produce and even the best that can be secured from distributors. Furthermore, the rise in transportation costs gave the impetus to make the decision and move forward with the plan for a 3acre plot on the farm that is being worked to provide a variety of fresh, organic vegetables, herbs and fruits for the guest who enjoy the food at our two dining rooms.