Virginia wine you ask? Why yes indeed. The truth is that my knowledge of Virginia wine isn’t likely to fill the apocryphal thimble. The same can be said of my experience tasting or drinking it. There’s no particular reason for that, outside of the tried and true: too much wine, too little time. So while I’d previously had a couple of wines from Virginia, none really piqued my fancy. On a given day the amount of wine sitting, waiting patiently for me to taste it, is a blush worthy quantity. Put another way, my two kitties, Mrs. Howell and Mr. Furley have no lack of exciting new boxes to climb inside of, or sit on top of every week. What I’m saying is that I didn’t go out of my way looking for more Virginia wines. Eventually, I thought, I’d get to them. Then my friend Frank who writes the terrific Blog, Drink What YOU like invited me to take part in a Virginia Wine Chat (#VAWinechat). He created VA Wine Chat and has been hosting them about once a month for roughly 2 ½ years. Frank identifies VA producers he feels strongly about and travels to them and hosts a virtual tasting with the winemaker. Writers such as me are invited to take part at the specified time. Those of us that agree are sent the wines in advance of the tasting. Having taken part in a lot of virtual tastings (I tend to like them, though I understand some of my friend Jeff’s points in his recent story about them), I gladly accepted since it fit my schedule and I also really enjoy what Frank does.
Three wines were on the itinerary from Michael Shaps Wineworks and I was intrigued from the outset, starting with the fact that I could tell Frank was super excited about the Petit Manseng, a grape I have about as much personal experience with as I do Virginia Wines. Then add the fact that I never, ever, under anything but the most extreme circumstances turn down the opportunity to taste Cabernet Franc. To top it off we would close with a Meritage which would allow me to see what Michael Shaps does with blends too. What I found when we tasted the wines was genuinely eye opening. I enjoyed each of them for different reasons.
Michael Shaps 2014 Petit Manseng ($30)
This wine is composed entirely of Petit Manseng from a single vineyard. It was fermented mostly in French oak (33% new) and a small amount of stainless steel. It’s bottled after about 6 months. The nose is gorgeous with lychee fruit and a bit of toast. Golden fruit flavors dot the substantial palate. A hint of honey shows up on the long finish. This wine has firm acid and marvelous structure. It got more and more interesting as it warmed up.
Michael Shaps 2013 Cabernet Franc ($28)
Made of entirely Cabernet Franc it was fermented and aged in 100% French oak; 50% of the barrels were new. I love the aromatics of Cabernet Franc and this example delivers them in droves. Red and black cherry lead the way along with a dollop of leather. The palate shows off tons of red cherry fruit along with a host of spices. All of those elements continue on the finish where a bit of dusty cocoa and black tea joins in as well. What I like best about this wine is the gorgeous mouth-feel; it’s loaded with texture but supple in weight. If you like Cab Franc, find this!
Michael Shaps 2010 Meritage ($50)
This Meritage blend is made up of Merlot (40%), Cabernet Franc (24%), Cabernet Sauvignon (12%), Petit Verdot (12%), and Malbec (12%). It spent two years in French oak, 50% of it was new. Michael told us during the chat that he’s held this wine back a few extra years as he didn’t feel it was quite ready yet. In fact his 2012 is already out. I’d say he made the right decision as this wine is ready to enjoy now. The Cabernet Franc stands out a bit to me here (big nose) which I really like. Other than that it’s a pretty cohesive wine with all of the varieties coming together to form a delicious tapestry. Red fruits lead the show with tinges of black raspberry in play as well. The finish is long and deep with persistent spice and earth notes reverberating for a long while.
What a great wine chat. These wines all hit the spot for me. Michael’s wines are connected by the freshness of fruit and balance of each offering. The Petit Manseng was a complete revelation. I’m not sure what I’m going to seek out first, more Petit Manseng or more Virginia wines, but I intend to explore both further. If these wines are any indication it’s high time I jump on the highway and point myself toward Virginia. When I do Michael Shaps will certainly be at the top of my list. Hunt for these wines, they’re well worth it.