RdV Vineyards has helped raise the national profile of Virginia wine since it offered its first wines for sale two years ago. But vintner Rutger de Vink has always chafed at the marketing side of wine, acknowledging freely that he prefers to spend time in the vineyard. The winery has no tasting room, unusual in a region where the vast majority of wine produced is sold at the winery.
This spring, RdV is offering an exclusive “salon” tasting for groups of up to 10 people, which de Vink describes as “getting our toes into the water on how to integrate the public into RdV.” The first salon was held on on Saturday for food and wine journalists.
After a meet-and-greet over flutes of Thibaut-Janisson Brut, a Virginia sparkler, we were given a brief tour of the winery by office manager Andrew Camp. First stop was the display of a core sample of fractured granite taken from the vineyard. “We call this our French drain,” Camp said, because the fissures in the rock siphon off rainwater and help the vines shift from vegetative growth to reproductive efforts – ie., ripening the grapes – during late summer.
The centerpiece of the salon was a brown bag tasting of four wines: The RdV Lost Mountain and Rendezvous, matched up against a Bordeaux and a California wine, all from the 2009 vintage. The latter two wines will vary from tasting to tasting – for our example, they included Chateau Lynch Bages and Caymus Special Selection. This is similar to a tasting de Vink used when releasing his initial wines from the 2008 vintage. The tastings will be conducted by Kevin Switz, a sommelier at the famous Ashby Inn in nearby Paris, Va.
“Our objective isn’t to say that RdV wines are the best, but to show that wines express their place of origin and to demonstrate that RdV belongs to be among these world-class wines,” de Vink said.
No one in our group was willing to dispute that point. All four wines were delicious, with the Caymus easiest to identify as the Californian because of its ripe, dried fruit flavors. What turned out to be the Lynch Bages was powerful and minerally, with what de Vink described as “purity that floats like an arrow over your palate.” The two RdV wines were light on their feet, spicy with red fruit flavors, and quite elegant. There’s no pressure in these tastings, so we weren’t asked to reveal our rankings or guesses. (I would have mixed up the Lost Mountain and the Rendezvous. I guess I just need to taste them more often.)
RdV just won two gold medals in the Virginia Governor’s Cup competition for its 2010 Lost Mountain and Rendezvous, which won’t be released until late summer. De Vink even acknowledged that the 2010s are not his favorites, coming from an unusually warm and ripe vintage. But he expressed admiration for his fellow vintners in the Old Dominion.
“I’m very proud of what’s happening in Virginia,” he said, noting that the state is increasingly being recognized as a premium wine producer. “I was in San Francisco recently and people weren’t asking me what’s happening with RdV, they asked what’s happening with Virginia.”
The salon tastings will be held at 11 am and 2 pm on Saturdays through June, with reservations required. The cost is $60 per person, or $50 if you are a member of RdV’s “ambassador” program. Details here.