Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Ankida Ridge Impresses with Virginia Chardonnay and Pinot Noir

Ankida Ridge Vineyard. Credit: Christine Vrooman, Ankida Ridge
Virginia has built its reputation largely on Bordeaux-style blends, Chardonnay and Viognier, but Pinot Noir? At least one producer is making that case.

Last year, Ankida Ridge was the only Mid-Atlantic Pinot producer
invited to participate in the prestigious International Pinot Noir Celebration in Oregon. That’s as close to Legit American Pinot Producer status one can obtain, and Ankida Ridge deserves it.

Dennis and Christine Vrooman, who have a veterinary practice in Virginia Beach, planted a vineyard at their vacation home in 2008. At 1,8000 feet in the Blue Ridge foothills near Amherst, VA, this was not an easy task.

“We totally did not know what to expect,” Christine said during a recent virtual tasting. “We wanted it to be something different than what everyone else was planting, because this site is so different.”

Because of the elevation, Christine said Ankida Ridge stays about 10 degrees cooler on summer afternoons that lower elevation sites. The site is made of decomposing granite on steep slopes, which makes for good drainage in an area that recent bouts of heavy rain. My parents own a mill house property about a half hour east of Ankida Ridge’s vineyards, and I’ve seen what summer rains can do to the mountains in Virginia — it’s insane. But, Christine said, “Our vines don’t get wet feet.” And when a vineyard consultant checked out their proposed vineyard site, they said, if Pinot Noir can be grown anywhere in Virginia, it’s here. So the Vroomans took the leap and planted a few acres.

Sometimes referred to by Virginia wine nerds as Virginia’s Little Burgundy, the Chardonnay and Pinot Noir from Ankida Ridge offer glimpses of Burgundian depth and elegance. The wines are lower in alcohol than many other Virginia wines, and they possess a sense of vibrant acidity that keeps my palate wanting more.

With their son Nathan as winemaker, Ankida Ridge now produces some 500 cases of wine per year, a very small amount, but they’re expecting production to double in the coming years.

Here are my notes on three Ankida Ridge wines I tasted…

2015 Ankida Ridge Rockgarden Vert - Virginia, Northern Virginia, Blue Ridge Foothills
SRP: $ 18
Lemon yellow color with slight effervescence. Aromas of lemon rind, lilies, honey and guava. Crisp and zesty on the palate with lively acidity and juicy tropical fruit (pineapple, guava). Notes of nettle and honeysuckle as well. Tangy finish, this is a simple wine but simply delicious. All Vidal Blanc made in a style as an homage to the wines of Vinho Verde. (86 points)

2015 Ankida Ridge Chardonnay - Virginia, Northern Virginia, Blue Ridge Foothills
SRP: $32
Medium yellow color. Nose shows yellow apples, apricot, lemon curd, along with hay, honeycomb, candle wax and floral perfume. Medium-bodied, only 12% alcohol but lots of depth and texture, and lots of vibrant acidity, so the result is an impressively balanced Chardonnay. Rich yellow apple and apricot jam mix with zesty lime, add in some honey, nougat, chalky minerals, white tea. Wow, this is high up there on my list of Virginia Chardonnays. A real beaut. Half maloactic fermentation, only 10% new French oak. 225 cases. (90 points)

2014 Ankida Ridge Pinot Noir - Virginia, Northern Virginia, Blue Ridge Foothills
SRP: $44
Pale ruby color. Nose shows sweet strawberries, tart cherries and cranberries, lots of rose petals, white pepper, sage and wildflower notes. On the palate I get a nice frame of light dusty tannins, crisp acidity, and a mix of sweet and tart red fruits. Lots of leather, chewing tobacco white pepper, soy, green herb notes, but some vibrant floral tones as well. Finishes crisp and vibrant – a delicious and impressive Pinot from Virginia. 250 cases. (89 points)

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