Making Virginia wine is no easy feat and this year, Purcellville resident Jennifer Tribino is getting a chance to learn first-hand just what it takes to get the grapes from the vine and into a glass of Loudoun wine. As the winner of the Ultimate Winemaker Experience at Epicurience Virginia 2014, Jennifer is working with Bluemont Vineyard’s Co-owner and Co-winemaker Bob Rupy and Co-winemaker Jennifer Trovato Shailor to produce a blended wine expected to debut at Epicurience Virginia 2015. Jennifer’s behind-the-scenes look at winemaking began with the harvest and will continue through everything from fermentation and blending to tasting and bottling.
Below, get a glimpse into her experience and stay tuned to Epicvirginia.com to find out how you can win the ultimate winemaker experience by participating in the blending competition at Epicurience Virginia 2015.
Bluemont Vineyard is located on the eastern side of the Blue Ridge Mountains, at an elevation of nearly 1,000 feet. With the breathtaking views and some of my favorite wines, it has always been one of my most cherished places to visit, so I was very excited that this was the direction that my winemaking experience was taking me.
Once I arrived, I was paired with the amazing Jennifer Shailor who let me know that this experience was hands on from the very beginning. We jumped on a "GATOR" to take an incredible tour of the vineyard. As I looked down the mountain, the rows and rows of grapes that lined the landscape were just gorgeous!
Jennifer walked me through some of the rows then handed me cutters, which is when my "Vine to Wine" experience truly began. We tasted delicious Merlot grapes, helped the workers cut grapes and talked about what they look for before removing them from the vines. One of the most fascinating things that I learned was that they do not cut the grapes immediately after the rain because the flavor is not as desirable. Isn't that interesting?
What I found so intriguing about the winemaking process is how much science is involved. When pressing and fermenting the grapes, the specific gravity and temperature are taken to ensure the process continues as needed to get the best flavor from each type of grape. Details are so important, even down to the kind of barrel that the grapes ferment in. Another interesting tidbit is how much investment the winemakers have in the process. So many of the steps are looking, feeling, tasting and knowing what needs to be done or added at each step. Bob and Jennifer seem to have mastered the process!
Since we blended red wines during the wine blending competition at Epicurience Virginia 2014 and I have followed the Merlot grapes through the process, I will be making a red blend, which is perfect because I love red wine! Come to Epicurience Virginia 2015 to possibly try my blend and test your winemaking skills during the blending competition. Maybe you could be the next one to have this wonderful winemaking experience. Hope to see you there!
Special thanks to Bluemont Vineyard, Bob Rupy, and Jennifer Shailor for welcoming me to the vineyard and taking time during their busy schedules to teach me all about winemaking. Thank you to my husband for his love and for giving me his seat at the blending competition, which lead me to this unbelievable experience!