Pollak Vineyards of Monticello, founded in 2003 by Margaret and David Pollak, wine pioneers in California's Carneros region, produces a range of white and red wines on the property west of Charlottesville. I tasted their cabernet franc 2009 Reserve ($40), aged in French oak for ten months. It had an amazing amount of bright cassis flavors and soft tannins characteristic of a varietal that is wonderful to drink with chicken and pork. The 2011 vintage is $22.
So, too, I was delighted with the velvety texture of Lovingston Winery Josie's Knoll 2009 Estate Reserve ($25), with 85 percent merlot, 10 percent cabernet franc and 5 percent petit verdot to buoy the body of the wine. There is complexity from start to finish, and this is very well priced. The property is also west of Charlottesville.
King Family Vineyards' Meritage 2010 ($28) shows a sweeter profile, the merlot up front, the alcohol hitting 14.5 percent, which blunted finesse. King Family is near Crozet. RdV Vineyards' Lost Mountain 2010 Bordeaux blend was even hotter, dense and unappealing. And at $88 upon release this fall, it is aiming for those who like huge red wines with high alcohol, at 14.7 percent. The winery's Rendezvous 2010 ($75), even higher at 14.9 percent, was grapey, without an acid component to tame it. The winery is near Delaplane.
I was much happier with a $50 bottle of Sunset Hills Vineyard Mosaic Red Wine 2010, with 14 percent alcohol. The winery, between Purcellville and Lovettsville, aims to make big reds that will age 15 years, but I found the 2010 quite appealing. Sourced from three vineyards in Loudon County, the Bordeaux blend, with only 186 cases made, may hint at what Virginia terroir can do for a Bordeaux blend of varietals, with a sunnier profile.
Philip Carter Winery, near Hume, takes pride in its tenure of the land for three centuries. The 2010 Cleve is a 50:50 blend of petit verdot and tannat, aged in French and American oak, and "designed for longevity," a decision that makes this very cherry-fruited, big-bodied red highly tannic at this point. It will be at least two years before this really shows any maturity.
Petit verdot all on its own is behind Cooper Vineyards Reserve 2010 ($30), with 13.8 percent alcohol. The grape shows its warm fruitiness without being cloying, and the wine is very smooth from start to finish, which makes it a good match for lamb and Mediterranean dishes like couscous and tagines. The winery is southeast of Louisa, about 40 miles from Charlottesville.
Jefferson, who considered wine "the only antidote to the bane of whiskey," must be smiling under the soil of Monticello.