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Virginia’s Barboursville Vineyards: Southern Hospitality with an Italian Accent

We’re fans of Virginia wines and the region itself and made our third visit to explore the state in October. The weather was perfect and fall foliage was just starting. We spent three nights staying at the 1804 Inn at Barboursville Vineyards, located in Central Virginia’s Monticello AVA.

This was our first visit to Barboursville, and we produced a live show with general manager and winemaker, Luca Paschina, who shared the estate’s history over a dinner he prepared for us with a selection on Barboursville’s wines.

 

Luca Paschina has been the winemaker at Barboursville since 1990.

Barboursville’s America-Italy Connection

Barboursville was the 19th century estate of Virginia’s Governor, James Barbour, a colleague and good friend of Thomas Jefferson. The two were practically neighbors- in rural Virginia that can mean several miles away which many may still say is “up the road a ways.” Jefferson’s historic home, Monticello, is about a 20- minute drive near Charlottesville, home to the University of Virginia.

Barboursville Estate (photo from winery website www.bbvwine.com

)

Historically, Barboursville was a farming estate for sheep. Like many centuries-old farms, it changed hands over time. In 1976 Italian vintner, Gianni Zonin, acquired the estate to create Barboursville Vineyards, the only winery for the Zonin family outside Italy. This was a bold move for the Zonins, whose family dates back seven generations, and it marked a major milestone in then-sleepy Virginia wine history. The Zonins happen to be the largest privately family-run wine company in Italy. By selecting Virginia over locales like Napa and New York’s Finger Lakes to start a U.S. winery, the Zonins made quite a splash in the wine news world.

First grape plantings at Barboursville Vineyards in the 1970s
Gianni Zonin pictures at the first grape planting at Barboursville Vineyards in the 1970s. Photo courtesy of Barboursville Vineyards

Luca Paschina has served as general manager and winemaker at Barboursville Vineyards since 1990. Paschina is from a Piemontese winemaking family and is doing some amazing things with Italian varietals in this area of Central Virginia, notably Fiano, Vermentino and Nebbiolo. Barboursville’s selections also include Viognier and Cabernet Franc, which both flourish in this area. Most well-known of the estate’s wines is Octagon, Barboursville’s signature Bordeaux style blend.

There is also an onsite grape drying facility to make passito.
The inn itself also offers some smaller houses. When we were there it was quiet aside from two or three other couples staying on-site. However, the tasting rooms, inside and out, were busy with day trippers enjoying wines and a light lunch from the on-site Palladio restaurant. The tasting room team did a great job managing safe social distancing. Throughout our Virginia winery visits, everyone was incredibly careful about this.

What’s left of James Barbour’s home, designed by Thomas Jefferson and destroyed in a fire.

Paschina noted that the tasting room is open every day except three holidays, and one can visit the property and the ruins of Barbour’s house, which was designed by Jefferson. Sadly, the house was destroyed in a Christmas Day fire in 1884. The estate also has some stunning gardens and a patio to relax with a glass or two of wine and gaze at the Blue Ridge Mountains in the distance.

Barboursville Harvest Toast
Luca Paschina and Fernando Franco toast the end of harvest.

On our final day at Barboursville, harvest ended as we were saying our goodbyes. Vineyard manager, Fernando Franco made the final “victory lap” through the vineyards and up to the tasting patio in the big blue harvester. Out came the cameras and a bottle of Barboursville sparkling wine which Franco sabered. Glasses were raised in celebration to toast the end of a harvest that, many local vintners admitted to us, has its challenges thanks to a frost in May which had everyone scrambling to protect the buds. Paschina made a speech and thanked his team for their hard work. What a special moment to capture and savor in the vineyards among friends!

The Connected Table Live at Barboursville with Luca Paschina.

Here are the show notes and link. You can also hear it anytime on your favorite podcast platform.


 

Photos not provided by Barboursville Vineyards were taken by The Connected Table.

 

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Lavender Fields Forever: Sipping Luberon Rosé in the Rhône Valley

When July rolls around we’re longing for Provence and the chance to see first-hand the lavender fields in bloom. It’s still on our bucket list; we are not there, yet, despite having spent many lazy, late summer days visiting friends with a house in the Luberon, usually end of August.

Lavender fields in bloom in the Luberon during summer The wines have timeless appeal year-round.

But we did have the chance to visit the Luberon in May for a wine tour of  the southern Rhône Valley.  The weather was warm and dry, and the buses of tourists were still thankfully sparse. May is a great time to visit before the summer crowds descend. While no lavender was in bloom, there were other blooms a’plenty. Numerous bright yellow wildflowers and orange-red poppies dotted the fields, and orchards were filled with blooming cherry and apricot trees. 

We’ve always been fans of Luberon rosé and tasted several during our visit. The styles of rosé in the Luberon can range from crisp and dry to fresh, floral and fruity. Rosé wines make up 52 percent of the wines produced in AOC Luberon  which was established in 1988. Vines are cultivated on both sides of the Luberon mountain range at altitudes of 200 to 350 meters above sea level, which adds to the wines’ freshness and purity. The primary red grapes are Syrah, Grenache and Cinsault. Soils vary from limestone to clay and red sand. The climate can range from Mediterranean warm to very cool nights.

It was a busy market day when we visited the Maison de la Truffe et du Vin du Luberon in Ménerbes to taste a few wines with three producers:  Lionel Bourgue, Domaine de la Citadelle,   Nathalie Margan, Chateau La CanorgueChristian Ruffinatto, Domaine Ruffinatto –  and Thomas Montagne Chateau de Clapier.

At Maison de la Truffe et du Vin Menerbes with Christian Ruffinatto, Domaine Ruffinatto; Nathalie Margan, Chateau La Canorgue and Thomas Montagne, Chateau de Clapier

Later in the afternoon, we visited Château la Canorgue, a 200-year-old family-owned estate in Bonnieux and the first organic winery in the Luberon.  The winery is run Jean-Pierre Margan with his daughter, Nathalie, who represents the fifth generation of winegrowers. The wines are recognized around the world.

Vineyards at Château la Canorgue in Bonnieux.

Visitors may recognize Château la Canorgue from Filmmaker Ridley Scott’s “A Good Year,” with Russell Crowe and Marion Cotillard. The estate was a setting for the movie. The Margans remain nonplussed when tourists arrive to snap fan photos. While at Château la Canorgue, we sat down with Nathalie Margan to discuss  styles of AOC Luberon rosé, which range from a light pink grapefruit citrus squeeze to an embrace of fresh wild strawberries.

AOC Luberon Rhône Valley rosés possess terrific minerality, complexity and freshness. These are not one-size-fits all rosés; a sense of place is evident from the first sip. You just want to reach for a salad chèvre chaud, fresh grilled seafood with vegetables drizzled with local olive oil.

 

Simple, fresh-grilled vegetables are perfect with Luberon rosé wines

 

Listen to our visit with Nathalie Margan on The Connected Table SIPS. Click image below or visit iHeart.com at this link

For more information on AOC Luberon and its wines, visit: www.vin-luberon-fr

 

 

We love the Luberon! With Nathalie Margan at Château la Canorgue