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Blaufrankisch: Only at Otium

Blaufrankisch: Only at Otium

Loudoun wineAged strictly in oak – as are all of Otium's reds, including a cabernet sauvignon, malbec and the popular German grape, dornfelder – Virginia's only blaufrankisch is firm, with just the right amount of length and acidity. Photo Courtesy/Facebook, Otium Cellars

Stumping the marketing director for the Virginia Wine Board is a fulfilling achievement for someone relatively new to – and relatively in love with – the world of Virginia vin.

This was the case last week when I asked Annette Boyd, director of the Virginia Wine Board marketing office, whether any of the state's wineries, other than Otium Cellars in Purcellville, grows the native-Austrian grape blaufrankisch.

“Wow. You have stumped me. I’m checking with a few folks,” Boyd replied.

There are more than 230 wineries in Virginia – more than 30 in Loudoun County alone. Yet, as far as could be deciphered, Otium is the only winery in the commonwealth offering the characteristically silky and spicy blaufrankisch, one of the oldest wine-making grapes in the world.

While exclusivity is nice, Otium's blaufrankisch is, more importantly, funky and fascinating. Tasting of the Old World, the local blaufrankisch holds some bamboozling barnyard rust, textbook Virginia smoke and subtle dark fruit.

Aged strictly in oak – as are all of Otium's reds, including a cabernet sauvignon, malbec and the popular German grape, dornfelder – Virginia's only blaufrankisch is firm, with just the right amount of length and acidity.

But the blaufrankisch isn't Otium manager Max Bauer's favorite among his wines. That distinction goes to the dornfelder, which his vineyard can't claim sole possession of in Virginia.

“What's really unique about the dornfelder is you can make it a really sweet red wine as well. It's the only grape I've ever run into where you can go any direction with it that you possibly want,” Max Bauer said.

Like the blaufrankisch, Otium's dornfelder is earthy and balanced, but the latter holds a bit more punch.

Producing only about 1,000 cases a year – small even for Virginia – Bauer is looking forward to expansion. His family, along with chief winemaker Ben Renshaw, has purchased land at the intersection of Shoemaker School and Telegraph Springs roads in Purcellville for additional growth.

Renshaw, a veteran Loudoun vintner who heads operations at 8 Chains North Winery in Waterford, is aided in the production process by Bauer and his father Gerhard, Otium's owner.

And the name, where did it come from? A Latin term, “Otium” has various meaning, including leisure time in which a person can enjoy eating, playing, resting, contemplation and academic endeavors, according to Wikipedia.

The Bauers, who also breed German horses at the Purcellville farm on Tranquility Lane, came to the U.S. from Germany in the early 1990s and first planted grapes in 2006.

“Our original intent was just to sell the grapes,” Max Bauer said. “But when we started looking for buyers, no one was interested in blaufrankisch or dornfelder because they'd never heard of it.”

Commonwealth vin nabs some national attention

Virginia wine had a successful July in terms of national media coverage. Check out two in-depth features, one from the New York Times and another from Decanter magazine, here:

-"Virginia Wines: In the Old Dominion, a New Terroir" -- NYTimes.com, July 6
-"Virginia: America's Old World" -- Decanter.com, July 26

Featuring news on the Loudoun County wine industry, the Times-Mirror's “Wine Wednesday” appears the first Wednesday of each month. Contact the writer at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

Read recent Wine Wednesdays here:

-"A fine birthday wine; Diggin’ into vin at Doukenie" -- July 3
-"Boxin’ it up at Village; D.C. Wine Country destination race" -- June 5


Very original!  Can’t wait to try this new wine.

Notaviva Vineyards planted an acre of Blaufrankisch in 2009 with the first commercial harvest in 2011.  That wine was incorporated into our blush, and our 2012 harvest was developed into a dry red named “Vierzig” in honor of Mozart’s 40th symphony in keeping with our wine and music pairing brand identity.

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