We are impressed by a number of Virginia's vineyards and wineries. But among the impressive stand out the world class: an elite few whose wine we'd consider when choosing from the very best in our collection, who have really driven Virginia's emergence as a (under appreciated) wine making region to be reckoned with. Delaplane Cellars is one of them.
Delaplane Cellars sits on Lost Mountain along U.S. Route 17 in Delaplane, VA. Situated in the Middleburg AVA (American Viticultural Area), the immediate locality is home to a number of other wineries of which several rise to what we'd think of as cream of the crop status. The winery itself seems almost cut into the hillside, its big windows towering above the vineyard and the road below to boast spectacular mountain views from its patio and tasting room. In the distance you'll notice three mountain peaks that inspire the elegant labels that adorn each bottle.
On driving up, you'll see a sign with posted rules that distinguish Delaplane from some of the other more commercialized wineries nearby. Guests younger than twenty-one years, parties larger than six people, buses and limousines are not allowed. Though decidedly not a family venue, the setting is anything but snooty, with live music often wafting through the open floor plan and the most friendly people pouring glasses at the bar. Reservations are not required.
We recommend you join the wine club. It's straightforward without any weird variations or options, requiring a commitment of three bottles per quarter that can be picked up in person or shipped to you, and offering a generous discount on all wine, free tastings for up to four visitors (otherwise $9 per person), and access to the quieter club room on the second floor. It's a no brainer if you drink more than twelve bottles of a wine a year.
Owners Jim and Betsy Dolphin "have worked together on every phase of the development of Delaplane Cellars". We love their blend of variety and consistently high quality, a combination that many winemakers find difficult to achieve. They've done this by meticulously growing much of what they make right there at the winery, supplementing those varietals from other nearby vineyards. We understand that Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Petite Verdot, Petite Manseng, and Sauvignon Blanc are estate grown, and that 100% of their grapes are grown in Virginia.
Rather than schlepping out every last thing in the cellar, the list available from Tasting Room (and club) Manager Jessica Huseby and team is a curated list. All of the current releases are available by the bottle, but this limited tasting menu approach allows for a focused yet well rounded sampling every time. Our notes below are from early February 2016.
Vidal Blanc 2014
The Vidal needed a quick minute to breath in the glass, but quickly opened up with notes of pear and golden delicious apple. It's more dry than what you might expect from a Vidal Blanc, a good quality in our book, this characteristic is by design. We recommended this one several months ago as part of our Wine pairings for each course of your Valentine's Day dinner, writing:
Melange Blanc 2014
A real crowd pleaser, the Melange Blanc is a beautiful gold color in the glass, with a nose of jasmine that also reminded us of Gewurtztraminer "all over". It has a downright voluptuous mouthfeel, and gives us some honey, honeydew, and lemon zest. Again, from the winemaker, "This wine will pair well with poached sole, chicken primavera pasta, and an array of cheese... but will also shine on its own!"
We generally love Traminette as a perfect pairing with spicy food; it tends to go very well with Thai food. That said, we also found this Traminette to have a touch of nice acidity and even a little brine to it that kept us on our toes. Trivia here is that the grape itself is a hybrid created in the 1960's at the University of Illinois. We're thankful for the creation, and folks just starting to try good wine should be as well. The characteristics that make it a great pairing for experienced wine drinkers to try with spicy Asian dishes make it just sweet enough for beginners to try on their own.
This year's Rose is a blend of Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Syrah, and Cabernet Sauvignon. The Cabernet Franc is the big standout here, though, with the nose offering notes of pencil lead and graphite that, while atypical in a Rose, are key to the complex charm of many a Cab Franc. Winemaker notes suggest pairing with strawberries, summer salads, grilled chicken, and fresh baguettes. We say serve this sophisticated Rose cold, and stay sharp for the nice mint finish you might catch as it goes down.
Benevino Cabernet Franc 2014
We were surprised by how quickly this 2014 Cabernet Franc had found its way into our glass, having only been bottled in mid-December 2015 after being blended with about 2% Petit Verdot. Though absolutely phenomenal in early February 2016, we suspect that the Benevino could experience a little short term bottle shock so is best held until at least late 2016 (note, we tried a bottle in March and it was great!). An elegant wine with a soft nose, there is more vanilla here, with a little pepper so characteristic in a Cab Franc. That vanilla makes for a smooth drinker, giving it a velvety texture throughout.
Left Bank 2013
The Bordeaux-style Left Bank from 2014 is a blend of 43% Merlot, 36% Cabernet Sauvignon, 14% Cabernet Franc, and 7% Petite Verdot. This is one of Jim Dolphin's heavy hitters, available for purchase at $53 per bottle, and really representative of what he's seeking to do in an Old World French style. It is gentle, less tannic, and is a wine and chocolate lover's dream. From the winemaker himself: "On the palate, this approachable wine is very smooth, with aromas and flavors of blackberries, cassis, plum, and tobacco together with some dark chocolate and toasty oak." This is one you can age nicely for several years to come.