So today’s blog brings me off Long Island and across the Mason-Dixon Line. I find myself here in Colonial Williamsburg, VA. I am here with my family for a reunion. We arrived on Thursday, and decided, before the rest of the crazy cousins arrive, let us get out, and explore. So my wife and two brothers took off for the 30-minuet drive west to New Kent.
New Kent Winery is a new winery located off I-64 almost directly between Williamsburg and Richmond, Virginia. When we arrived, we were impressed right away. The view and the setting was beautiful. It was a hot, humid and sunny, typical Virginian weather.
We decided to take the tour and tasting, not a bad deal for $7.00. We had a 20-minute tour and then a tasting of seven wines, one that was just released.
Since this is not going to be my normal tasting, I will report on what we saw and tasted.
The grapes were planted in 2001 and they have 20 something acres of grapes. There is a plan for a total of 50+ acres of grapes. Their tasting room and facility was built almost entirely of recycled materials, civil war bricks, cypress siding, shingles milled from north Florida, after being submerged for over 100 years, lots of heart-pine and floor timbers and columns from century old buildings. The design and details go down to the small detail like the hinges and knobs on the doors that came from the Jefferson Hotel.
We had a tour of the barrel room, where they had six stainless steel vats from Europe and new American oak barrels. It is an American winery so they use American oak. The room is cooled with glycol piping to 55 degrees. One interesting concept was the “Barrel Club”. You can purchase a membership for $650.00. It is a 3-year membership, and you get a “barrel” with your name on it. You also get a case of wine for 3 years, of your choice. In addition, many other offers and first for members.
Now, on to the wine. The first wine we tasted was 2005 Chardonnay. It is a French style Chardonnay. It is cold fermented in stainless steel then gently aged in oak for 12 months. On the nose, fruit elements. On the palate, it was extremely crisp with a lot of acid, very nice acid. I tasted a little tart, like a Granny Smith Apple. The finish was smooth, with just a hint of butter. My wife tasted a touch of toast. This was a hit and a nice way to start.
The next tasting was a 2006 Reserve Chardonnay. This was a California style Chardonnay, meaning that it was aged in oak. They ferment and age this Chardonnay for over 3 years in premium oak barrels sur-lie, meaning on the yeast lees. Surprisingly, it does not have that typical oaky Chardonnay aroma. A little butter on the nose, but you do pick up hints of citrus. The taste is a little buttery, some honey and the citrus is still there. The finish is smooth and creamy. It is a decent chardonnay. My problem is the aging in the oak, you lose some of the grape, and pick up too much of the barrel. This was not too bad, but I preferred the first Chardonnay.
Next, we tasted their non-vintage Mertiage. This is a blended wine of three grapes, two from their estate and one from another vineyard in Virginia. The two that they grow are Merlot and Cabernet Franc. The other wine from outside the estate was Cabernet Sauvignon; this comes from the Shenandoah Valley. This was a beautiful wine, well rounded and delicious. Wonderful aroma of dark berry and cherry. On the palate, it was a little peppery with some hints of black cherry and black berry with just the right amount of acid. It was light body with a very nice peppery finish. This was a very nice well-blended wine. I would recommend this wine to anyone and could find a spot in my wine cellar.
The next wine we all tasted was their 2005 Merlot. This is estate grown. The nose was very earthy, some cloves and spice with a touch of leather. The taste was tannic, it overpowered the wine. According to my brother, there was some smoke and some musk on his palate. It felt like I had a cotton ball in my mouth. I was not impressed with this wine, too tannic, it needed some aromatic elements.
We then went on to the 2008 Vidal Blanc. This wine had 2% residual sugar. It was almost clear in color. Had a nice honey, fruity aroma. On the palate it continued. Not to syrupy, light body feel. The finish was clean. I did enjoy this wine, it was refreshing.
Next was their NV White Norton. This is a rose, but not your normal rose. It does have 3% residual sugar. It is made from the Norton grape, which is native to Virginia. It is very close to the Merlot grape. Thomas Jefferson used to grow the Norton grape. When you get most Norton wine, it is usually red, not pink like this. New Kent uses a secret to get this wine. The grapes are cold fermented in stainless steel without the skins, this way the color does not turn red, but stays pink. There is a heavy aroma of strawberry on the nose. On the palate, there is a nice amount of acidity that makes it very tart, but still shows red berry flavors. The finish is spicy, a little peppery, but it does finish clean. I enjoyed this wine, because I never had a Norton before. I now want to try the traditional Norton wine. Honestly, the only problem I had with this wine was with the name. White Norton reminded me of White Zinfandel, which, well need I describe that wine. I think Rose of Norton would have been a very cool name and would also add to the mystique of this unusual wine.
Finally, we had a tasting of Sweet Virginia. This is a desert wine made of, Cabernet Franc Cabernet Sauvignon and Concord grape. Yes, Concord grape. There is 8% residual sugar and 13% alcohol. It is very sweet, on the nose there was grape jelly, and the taste was grape jelly. The only thing missing was the peanut butter…if you know what I mean. If you like desert wine than this was for you. They called it “Sassy” to target the ladies.
In conclusion, New Kent Winery is a wonderful place to visit. The architecture and design is very impressive. I would recommend visiting this winery to anyone that visits the Williamsburg area. Please do take the tour and the tasting. The guides are very informative and really show their southern hospitality. The wines there are very nice and some I would consider adding to my wine cellar. My top three that I tasted are 1) 2005 Chardonnay 2) Meritage and 3) White Norton. I feel that New Kent needs to work on their red wine a little more. I prefer more aromatic wine, but that is just me. I am not a fan of tannic wine. I would love to see what they could do with Cabernet Franc, since I am a fan, and it is estate grown. I hope to visit them again the next time we are in Williamsburg, most likely the next family reunion in 2011. Overall, this was worth the visit and I would come again.
Nice post. Very interesting about the white norton – that’s a new one on me. I hope you get the chance to try a traditional norton while you’re there (my experience with VA norton was very positive) as well as viognier. Cheers!
great write up – glad you enjoyed it! 🙂
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I am having dinner tonight in Colonial Williamsburg, Va at the Kings Arms Tavern, maybe they will have some Norton on their wine list. I will let you know.
Thanks for the support and the RT! 🙂
Very interesting review. I’m really enjoying your new website–very informative but not over our heads.
Looking forward to your review of the Williamsburg Winery.
Thanks alot for the kind words!
I did make it to Williamsburg Winery, and well…not much to say. But Maybe I can find something.
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Yes, the White Norton is a surprise blush. As for your comment, ~ “Thomas Jefferson used to grow the Norton grape”. Thomas Jefferson never saw the Norton grape, but it is well possible that his grandson did have access to and grew this grape at Monticello. For further reading on the historical timing of the Norton grape, I would suggest reading Todd Kliman’s The Wild Vine.
I just stumbled upon your blog. With regard to the norton grape and wine. It is absolutely unique in flavor. But it is usually only utilized for blending. As a stand alone wine, it can go very badly in the wrong hands. I once drank a norton that could have passed (rather convincingly) for soy sauce. My favorite norton came from Keswick winery. Sadly, they no longer produce it. But I have it on good authority that they still have a stash in the back.
When I went to New Kent last Fall, they were sold out of their white norton. it seems their wine club members went bats for it and bought most of it before it was made available to the general public.