Wine Reviews: Virginia and Maryland

Posted by | Posted in Wine Reviews | Posted on 12-05-2021

I moved to rural Maryland in 2006 – my first job after leaving New York City after college. There was a ton of wide-open space and I needed things to do. So, I set out to find two things: places to hike, and wineries… if there were any I had no idea. I found some fun spots in Montgomery and Frederick Counties to start, and discovered places like Elk Run Vineyards and Linganore Wine Cellars, both of which had long histories. I worked at some harvests and crushes, volunteered at the state’s wine festival, and really developed a respect for the people who invest their lives into making wine here. Linganore has been doing it since 1972, and they put out a dizzying array of wines.

Now, living in DC for many years, I hike and climb a lot in Virginia, which involves a lot of time passing through some of the Commonwealth’s classic winegrowing regions. It’s an endlessly fascinating place to explore. If you’re ever traveling on Route 29 north of Charlottesville and want to taste some really good wines in a beautiful place, Early Mountain is the spot to do it. I’ve stopped by a bunch on the way home from time in the woods, and the wines, food and service have always been top-notch. But, putting my personal biases aside as best I possibly can, I think these wines are really something.

So, this week, I have some new releases from Maryland’s Linganore and Virginia’s Early Mountain. These wines were received as samples and tasted sighted.   

Early Mountain

2020 Early Mountain Vineyards Five Forks USA, Virginia
SRP: $26

Rich yellow color. Nose shows bold pineapple and lemon curd, with white flowers, honey, a mix of rich and breezy elements that offers a lot to enjoy. Gorgeous acidity and plush texture creates a live-wire balance. Papaya, white peach and lemon fruit mix well with tones of minerals, seashells, saline, crushed saltine crackers and white flowers. This is delicious and seems like an across-the-board crowd-pleaser. Petit Manseng with Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay and Pinot Gris. (89 points)

2019 Early Mountain Vineyards Chardonnay Quaker Run Vineyard USA, Virginia
SRP: $42

Medium yellow color. Wow, the nose shows beautiful cantaloupe, lemon, yellow apple, fresh but nice depth, too, with this honeyed tea, raw almond tone. Gorgeous texture on the palate with vibrant acidity, very well balanced with flavors of lemon and pineapple. Notes of honey, white tea, sea salt and flowers add complexity. Pure, vibrant and invigorating stuff, I feel like all Chardonnay lovers could find something to love in here. 12.7% alcohol, aged on the lees 12 months in 25% new oak and then five months in stainless steel. (90 points)

2019 Early Mountain Vineyards Cabernet Franc Quaker Run Vineyard USA, Virginia
SRP: $40

Light purple color. The nose boasts deep cherries and tart plums along with a lot of spicy, savory tones, like tobacco, tar, mint, tilled soil and graphite. The tannins support the wine nicely, while the acidity is crisp, blending well with the tart currant and plum fruit. The notes of charcoal, tobacco, tar, dried roses and dark chocolate add a lot of complexity, and there’s this meaty, mineral combo on the finish that is lovely. Really impressive stuff that will age nicely. If you’re new to VA Cab Franc, start here and get the good stuff. (90 points)

2020 Early Mountain Vineyards Foothills USA, Virginia
SRP: $27

Bright purple color. Such juicy aromas of raspberries, red cherries and pomegranate, with notes of spicy pepper, leather and some cola. Zesty and fresh on the palate with dusty tannins and tangy raspberries and cherry fruit. This is crisp and fun, an accessible wine but one that shows some complexity in terms of floral tones, some woodsy, pine tar, cola and leather. This is just a ton of fun. A blend of Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Petit Verdot and Petit Manseng. (89 points)


2020 Linganore Wine Cellars Seventh Rosé USA, Maryland
SRP: $17

A medium salmon color. The nose really pops with strawberries, white cherries, some dandelion, hay and new tennis ball. There’s a punchy texture on the palate with bright acidity and some nice depth, here. Watermelon, white cherry and strawberry fruit, tangy and zippy, with notes of white pepper and dandelion. There’s some chalky, honeyed tones on the finish. This is a lot of fun. Mostly Chambourcin picked specifically for rosé with some Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc saignée. (88 points)

2020 Linganore Wine Cellars Albariño ­ USA, Maryland
SRP: $32

Light yellow color. The nose has that floral, perfumed, inviting appeal with peachy, lemon-infused, cantaloupe goodness, a steely and fresh appeal. Bright acid and a nice creamy texture mix with lemon and melon fruit really well. The honeysuckle and rose blossom tones mix well with chalky, flinty and white pepper elements. I’ve long thought Mid-Atlantic Albarino has a unique niche and a bright future, and I think wines like this support my argument. (90 points)

2020 Linganore Wine Cellars Vignoles USA, Maryland
SRP: $28

Light yellow color. Steely and bright on the nose with yellow flowers, ginger, honey, nettle – a cool mix. Zippy yet creamy with lemon bars, orange marmalade, and notes of butter, white flowers, sliced cucumber. Has some elements that remind me of Chardonnay, but maintains its own unique flare. Fun stuff. (85 points)

2020 Linganore Wine Cellars Chardonnay Reserve USA, Maryland
SRP: $31

Medium yellow color. The nose shows pineapple, honeyed pears, with cinnamon, yellow flowers and some walnut and circus peanut elements. The palate is creamy with a voluptuous feel and moderate acidity. Yellow apples and lemon bars mix with cinnamon, graham cracker, hazelnut. Some sea salt tones. Fun stuff, rich but shows nice balance as well. Aged a mix of new and used French oak and stainless steel. (87 points)

2019 Linganore Wine Cellars Cabernet Franc Reserve USA, Maryland

Medium ruby color. Really spicy on the nose, with tobacco, black pepper, paprika, roasted red pepper and grilled steak over top of juicy plums and cherries. Smooth on the palate with a velvety, fun appeal, moderate acidity, and flavors of raspberry and saucy cherries. Notes of pepper, sage, tobacco and mint are woven in nicely, and this has an accessible, fresh but balanced approach. (89 points IJB)

2019 Linganore Wine Cellars Petit Verdot USA, Maryland
SRP: $45

Deep purple color. The nose is saucy and dark with tart plums, blueberries and fig paste, along with charcoal, anise and tar tones. Smooth, moderate tannins, medium acidity, and the fruit is a mix of zesty black currants, smoky figs and chewy prunes. Notes of tar, tobacco and campfire add complexity. Not too dense, this stays lively and fun but could use a year or two to unwind. Aged 18 months in 60% new French oak. (87 points IJB)

2019 Linganore Wine Cellars Exposure USA, Maryland

Light purple color. The nose shows tangy raspberries and plums, along with notes of bay leaf, spicy tobacco, sage, a lot going on. Crisp acidity, dusty tannins on the palate along with sweet plums and wild raspberries, along with saucy cranberry relish. Notes of spiced black tea, pepper and sage, along with nuanced roasted chestnut, cedar and coffee grounds. Interesting, tasty stuff. Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot. (88 points IJB)

<85 points

2019 Linganore Wine Cellars Saperavi USA, Maryland
SRP: $23

Deep purple color. The nose shows dark currants and super tangy blueberries, with lots of magic marker, incense and charcoal. Grippy tannins on the palate, medium acidity, with flavors of roasted currants and mulled blackberries. Lots of floral perfume, incense, chalky tannins and spicy tea. Stays true to the variety, but has a bit much of its austerity as well. Interesting, though!

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