With all of the frost, fungi, and fruit flies that Virginia winemakers have to fret over, it’s easy to forget that they also have some fun along the way. And it was in the name of fun that friends and colleagues Jake Busching, Matthieu Finot, and Emily Hodson Pelton came up with the idea three years ago to make a winemaker’s wine that blended equal parts of wines made at their respective vineyards: Pollak, King Family, and Veritas. They called it “3”—three winemakers, three wineries, three vineyards, three varietals, one wine.
The joint effort was not just the earnest winemakers’ way of presenting the industry as a unified space where they learn and grow from one another, but it was also a reminder to us that they love what they do. In 2010, they produced 150 cases of “3” from the 2009 vintage, each took 50 cases to sell from their tasting rooms, and released the wine at a party in March 2011 as a special edition collaboration. At $33.33 a bottle, the relatively high price tag reflected its limited availability and the craftsmanship of a trio sharing dirt of which they are duly proud.
Both the 2011 and 2012 releases were blends of Busching’s Cabernet Franc, Finot’s Merlot, and Pelton’s Petit Verdot. Something they did differently the second year, though, was submit the back label to the TTB with percentages that added up to 100 since one-third/one-third/one-third didn’t cut it, nor did 33.33 percent/33.33 percent/33.33 percent. Just as soon as they’d perfected their recipe (and math), Mother Nature threw a wrench in the works with a lousy 2011 red vintage. Busching’s transition from Pollak to Mount Juliet Farm (where he’s soon to open Grace Estate Winery) further complicated matters as he didn’t have enough red to contribute his fair share. Being young, enterprising winemakers though, they simply looked on the, um, bright side and made a white blend for this year.
Getting the correct proportions took more experimentation trials than did the reds and the meetings, much to the winemakers’ chagrin, took place in their cellars instead of with pints in hand at Blue Mountain Brewery. “We even had a morning meeting once—and there were beakers involved,” joked Busching.
Still, they had plenty of fun cobbling together this year’s release from last year’s vintage. The Petit Manseng and Chardonnay (16.66 percent of each to be exact) comes from Grace Estate, the Chardonnay and Viognier (also 16.66 percent of each) comes from King Family Vineyards, and the remaining 33.36 percent is Viognier from Veritas.
The label simply got inverted from a white “3” on a black background to a black “3” on a white background and the team couldn’t help but admire it when we all sat down to taste the wine over lunch. Even in bottle shock, the wine still managed to strut its stuff, making no apologies for being a lighter hue.
With time in our glasses, flavors of ripe pears studded with cloves morphed into those of perfect white peaches with hazelnuts and then into juicy pineapple with coconut cream. Out of the six barrels that made up the 1,800-bottle production, only one was new, so the result is an integrated and judicious wisp of oak that adds weight more than it does taste. Then, just when the texture coats the mouth, a swoop of acidity clears the tongue like a Zamboni on ice.
We brainstormed food pairing suggestions while we sipped—everything from shrimp and grits to spicy Asian spare ribs —and basked in this beacon of Virginia spring that’s just around the corner. And since “3” is all about having some fun, the three amigos ask that you come to the 3:33pm release party on Sunday, March 3 at Veritas dressed all in white to match the wine. They promise you won’t be the only one.
A case and a cup
Barboursville Vineyards took this year’s Governor’s Cup for its 2009 Octagon 12th edition in the competition judged at the end of January and announced last Thursday at the Virginia Wineries Association’s Governor’s Cup Gala in Richmond. The Bordeaux-style Meritage (70 percent Merlot, 15 percent Cabernet Franc, 10 percent Petit Verdot, and 5 percent Cabernet Sauvignon) that’s made in only auspicious vintage years topped 377 entries from 93 wineries. It’s the fourth Governor’s Cup that Barboursville’s won, but the first for the Octagon, which Governor McDonnell called “one of Virginia’s most iconic red wines.” The winner, along with the next 11 highest scoring wines (listed below), comprise the Governor’s Case, and will serve as drinkable marketing ambassadors for the local industry throughout the year.
Cooper Vineyards: 2010 Petit Verdot Reserve
King Family Vineyards: 2010 Meritage
Lovingston Winery: 2009 Josie’s Knoll Estate Reserve
Philip Carter Winery: 2010 Cleve
Pollak Vineyards: 2009 Cabernet Franc Reserve
Potomac Point Vineyard and Winery: 2010 Richland Reserve Heritage
Rappahannock Cellars: 2010 Meritage
RdV Vineyards: 2010 Rendezvous
RdV Vineyards: 2010 Lost Mountain
Sunset Hills Vineyard: 2010 Mosaic
Trump Winery: 2008 Sparkling Rose