Jefferson Vineyards Wine Blog
Peach, apricot, and lychee on the nose, a delicately balanced palate precede a round and lengthy finish. This is our golden-toned Viognier. Pronounced "vee-ON-yay", this French grape has found a home as the state grape of Virginia. Crafted from vines cared for by hand, aged for months, and created with the artisan expertise of our winemaking team, it is Jefferson Vineyard's flagship white, our most consistently awarded wine.
With decades of Viognier production and accolades, we're ready to share the secret behind this delicious white wine. Curious to learn more? Read on.
In the Vineyards
We designate nearly a quarter of our twenty-two planted acres to Viognier grapes. These fickle grapes are challenging to grow, but for us, the risk is well worth the reward. These bright green grapes flourish with strong sun and heat and more water than other varietals; a perfect complement to Virginia rains and summers. For over a decade, Hector and Nora Guzman, with the help of their family, have cared for these vines.
Though labor-intensive, the Guzmans prune, hedge, and pick the fruit by hand, ensuring each bud, shoot and grape receive personal attention. Viognier in particular cannot compete with other growth - be it grass or weeds - and must be tended to accordingly. Shoots that grow laterally instead of horizontally (known as ‘lateral shoots’) are corrected. Hector and his family keep watch for the early signs of pests or disease, meticulously maintaining our vineyards' health. And when the end of August rolls around, they harvest only the healthiest and most robust of fruit.
In the Winery
Great wine cannot be made without great fruit and of course, great winemakers. Chris Ritzcovan, our winemaker, and David Woodside, our assistant winemaker, have been working together in our winery for nine years. Throughout their tenure, the two have approached production with a steady commitment to both quality and creativity.
Before our Viognier is harvested, our team tests the fruit for particular sugar levels that will bring forth the apricot or peach flavors and floral aromas that epitomize the viognier varietal. Once in the winery, they begin the stylistic processes that distinguish our viognier. They inoculate the wine with commercial yeast, ferment it in oak barrels and stir the barrels on their lees to build the body and weight you sense in a sip of our final product.
To age the Viognier, again consideration is given to the precise barrel type. On the wine, their selection gives way to a toasted influence, carefully curated to complement the fruit and structure of Viognier.
In the Glass
Nearly eight months after the fruit is picked, our Viognier is bottled and shared through our tasting room. It is championed by people like Heather Lavelle, our Retail Operations Manager, who will tell you our Viognier, though different from those of other regions, is consistent. Attila Woodward, our owner, will tell you he fell in love with Viognier because it is so beautifully balanced and pairs wonderfully with the South East Asian cuisine he spent over a decade enjoying while living in Vietnam. Both work to share their passion for this wine, submitting it to competitions across the country and encouraging those who visit us to try it for themselves.
In the 2020 San Francisco International Wine Competition, our Viognier 2019 received a Double Gold award, judged amongst thousands of other wines. Vinepair dubbed this same vintage one of the 28 Best White Wines for 2021. Savor Virginia Magazine Reader's Choice 2021 honored it with a Gold. Most recently, our Viognier was awarded a Gold by the 2020 Virginia Governor's Cup.
So, what is the secret to our Viognier?
It is the passion and dedication of the people who care for the vineyards, who craft the wine, and who advocate for its place among the top wines in the world. With every award, we are proud to advance the reputation of Virginian wine, with Virginia's own state grape.
"Jefferson Vineyards has been a big part of my life for over 20 years. I have seen many changes and enjoy seeing how each wine changes from vintage to vintage. One of my favorite Virginia reds has been Petit Verdot, which Jefferson Vineyards has been producing for many years now. It is a red that I like to sip on alone or with some hearty foods. After opening Petit Verdot for a while, it softens and the rich dark fruit flavors are revealed. Recently, I opened a 2017 vintage and had it with some full-flavored cheese, it was a great pairing."
- Rodger Patzig, Tasting Room Ambassador
To celebrate our 40th Anniversary and enjoy our Limited February Release, click here.
February, the last full month of winter. We face a mere handful of weeks until we can at last trust that the sun will shine. As we at Jefferson Vineyards approach our anniversary in the spring, there seems a no better time to move slowly, honey slow, and delight in the joys of these past forty years.
Valentine's Day in particular seems the day to celebrate all that we love. We of course will be celebrating our wines. Though there have been trials and tribulations over the years, none could undermine the beauty of watching our wines develop, the richness of each nuance unfolding in the glass. To savor this special time, we're filling our glasses with a bold and intricate red - Petit Verdot.
Now a darling of Virginia, Petit Verdot was known first as a blending grape from Bordeaux. We’ve loved this varietal from our beginning, grafting it as early as 1984 and bottling it in 2001 - making us one of the first in Virginia to do so.
If Viognier is the star of our white wines, Petit Verdot is our headlining red. To this day, you'll recognize Petit Verdot as a principal part of our portfolio. With it, we produce three wines: an Estate Reserve, a single varietal, and a reserve single varietal. Our Estate Reserve is not always made singularly from Petit Verdot, but when our estate's Petit Verdot fruit is undeniably perfect we cannot help but make an Estate Reserve to treasure this complex red. Our Meritage wines too manifest our adoration. Petit Verdot plays a uniquely prominent role in our Meritage program, frequently comprising the largest percentage of the blend, a blend distinct to Jefferson Vineyards.
Petit Verdot bursts with red fruit and offers a bright, balanced palate. Each iteration gives way to unique delicacies, the gems of which we've curated in our February Limited Release. Our 2017 vintage opens with caramel aromas that lead to blackberry and coffee flavors. The 2017 Petit Verdot Reserve is vibrant and oak-driven, offering plum and raisin flavors before finishing with tart cherry notes. Even our 2016 Estate Reserve (100% Petit Verdot), is distinct in its powerful spice and fig bouquet, plum on the palate, and notes of cedar in the finish.
Bold and tannic, Petit Verdot pairs equally well with red meats as it does with chocolate sweets. Should you find yourself searching for something more to savor in this final winter push, explore an iteration of Petit Verdot in our February Limited Release and delight in its details. Or perhaps you wish instead to relish in the process of taking your sweet time. For you, we've collected a decadent chocolate recipe from our beloved associate, Grandma Bond.
This February, we suggest you move slowly, make something, celebrating something, and savor something special.
Grandma Bond's Frosted Petit Verdot Brownies
For the Brownies
- 1 cup flour
- 2/3 cup unsweetened high-grade organic cocoa powder
- 1/2 tsp baking powder
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 3/4 cup unsalted butter melted
- 1/4 cup Jefferson Vineyards Petit Verdot
- 1 1/2 cup sugar
- 3 eggs at room temperature
For the Frosting (Optional)
- 1 cup unsalted butter, softened
- 3 1/2 - 4 cups powdered sugar
- 1/2 cup dry red wine
- 2 Tbs granulated sugar
Instructions for the Brownies
- Preheat the oven to 350°F. Spray a 9-inch baking pan with nonstick cooking spray.
- In a medium bowl, which together flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, and salt.
- Melt the butter in a medium bowl in the microwave for 30-second increments until the butter is fully melted. Whisk in sugar and Petit Verdot. Whisk in the eggs, one at a time.
- Fold the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients until fully mixed. Pour batter into the previously prepared pan. Bake for 25 - 30 minutes or until a toothpick can be inserted in the center of the brownies and come out dry with only a few crumbs.
- Allow brownies to cool completely.
Instructions for the Frosting
- Add the dry red wine and sugar to a small saucepan, stirring until the sugar is completely dissolved.
- Bring the mixture to a simmer, stirring occasionally. Continue simmering until reduced and is a syrup, thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. (You'll know its ready when stirring starts to form fleeting lines in the mixture, showing the bottom of the pan)
- Remove the skillet from heat; it should yield several tablespoons of syrup.
- With a standing mixer, cream together the powdered sugar and butter until whipped and fluffy. Set to a lower mixing speed and slowly pour in the red wine syrup, mixing until evenly combined.
- Fit your desired tip onto a piping bag and scoop the frosting in. You can also use a plastic baggy with one of the corners cut off.
- Generously frost each of the brownies. Serve and enjoy!
“Terroir”. You'll hear this word as our tasting room ambassadors detail the characteristics of the wine in your glass. Attila, our owner, may mention it while hosting a tour or private tasting. In truth, you'll hear it referenced at nearly every vineyard, or in every wine guide, book, or tasting.
Pronounced, “tare-WAHr”, this French term refers to the imprint a place leaves on a crop. For our purposes, it is the inextricable traits given to grapes by the area in which they are grown. With this term, one references the entirety of variables defined by a location and the consequential traits on the fruit. It is the nutrients a soil holds, the climate, the weather, at what elevation grapes are planted, what else grows beside the grapes, and how the land is cared for. Each will have an influence on the grapes, and ultimately, the wine.
The significance of this influence brands the location of a vineyard as - well, significant. Each grape variety has distinctly defined ideal conditions, and the uniqueness of every planted block within a vineyard will bear its mark. For this reason, we have carefully selected four separate plots of land on which to plant our vines, each chosen for its precise characteristics and each planted with particular grapes.
Our Upper Vineyard, for instance, was planted in 1981 on a rolling slope 608 feet above sea level. The slope of the land dictates how cold air will run off the vines, working to prevent frost. Rainwater too will rush down the angled land. The Viognier planted in the lower block grows on even steeper land. This results in drier soil, prompting the vines to stop their growth early, and though counterintuitive, produce high-quality Viognier fruit. While the Viognier planted in the upper left blocks tends to have more water in the soil, their proximity to the woods has kept them better protected from detrimental frost.
Even in the 1770s, as Tuscan viticulturist, Philip Mazzei, worked to establish the Virginia Wine Company on our present-day property, he took note of the land and climate as he monitored the vines’ growth. In a 1778 letter addressed from Colle, he described the growth of early vine cuttings and wrote that their success “prove in my humble opinion the superiority of this, either soil or climate, perhaps of both”. Though in its infancy relative to the centuries-old growing regions of Europe, the booming Virginian wine region and countless modern-day accolades stand as a testament to Mazzei’s early, glowing assessment.
Tasting food from another place is to step momentarily into a culture, a tradition, or simply a place other than that which you describe as ‘home’. The relationship of place to the final product is magnified in a glass of wine. From color, to aroma, to finish, wine too catalogs a place. What rolling hills, what sun the seasons drank, what flora too grows - all can be sensed.
In celebration of our forty-year anniversary and our varied terroir, our winemaker has curated a special selection of wines that best reflect the distinct differences of our land and climates. So, as you enjoy a glass of our beautifully aged Estate Reserve wines, or savor a sip of Riesling, or Malbec, what you taste is an expression of origin, a connection to a place. To celebrate this connection with us, please visit our Monthly Limited Release page.