076 – Tim Gorman, Sarah Gorman, Cardinal Point Winery
Wine Work. With Oysters. Welcome to Episode 76 and a laugh-filled conversation over wine with siblings Tim Gorman and Sarah Gorman of Cardinal Point Winery. Cardinal Point was the first winery The Hubby and I visited upon moving to Charlottesville a decade ago. Their November Oyster Roast remains my favorite food-related event. One which constantly inspires my food writing, including this humorous anecdote which continues to get reactions and comments even years later.
The seeds for what would become Cardinal Point began way back in 1986 when their dad, Paul Gorman, put in his first grapes, selling them statewide. Tim and Sarah tended vines as teenagers with Tim taking over as Vineyard Manager shortly thereafter. In 2002 Paul’s dream of an established winery was realized at a time when there were no others nearby. Veritas and Afton followed soon after and the seeds of a true agritourism destination on Route 151 in Nelson County were planted. Cardinal Point is a true family-owned business, a family which includes the fine folks hired to keep the vines shipshape. Folks who work tirelessly to grow the best product. Many of whom have been with Cardinal Point for years.
“The idea of opening our own winery was attractive because you’re stabilizing a commodity that otherwise is totally perishable. Grapes will break down the second you pick them up.” —Tim Gorman
These days Tim is not only Vineyard Manager but also Chief Winemaker, one of the few in the area who does both. As a lawyer, Sarah handles legal issues, tasting room duties, as well as managing the many events and weddings which occur onsite, including summer concerts and the incredibly popular Oyster Roast. Projects like their Wine Cooperative, plus new varieties like their Hopped Chardonnay make sure the winery stays successful.
Summer is an extremely busy time, both for events and its growing season. We walk through the seasons of a winery. What needs to happen and when. Did you know birds, deer, and squirrels threaten grapes? Such is life at a winery, essentially a grape farm. A lot is determined by weather. Praying for rain and hoping the rain stops. If you recall, 2016 was abysmal with over 40 straight days of showers. How does 2017 look? Pretty promising. Keep your fingers crossed. Knock some wood.
As recently as a few years ago, Route 151 in Nelson County was a rural route of farms, churches, and pastoral views. Now it’s a tourist destination of wineries, cideries, breweries, orchards, and farms. A true agritourism mecca. Tim is one of the founders of Nelson 151, a group of business owners in the area who hope to use their strengths to not only market more efficiently but make sure development stays within reason. How important is tourism to business in Nelson County? Extremely. Small wineries don’t make enough in volume to make their mark on a national level, so getting folks to come try Cardinal Point is paramount. Without agritourism, many of the farms and wineries in the area wouldn’t be able to continue using their land for agriculture. Tourism dollars help the community. It’s a double-edged sword certainly, but Nelson 151 realizes that, keeping it in mind as they make decisions affecting its citizens. How does the threat of a pipeline affect things? We discuss the possible ramifications.
Tasting at the winery is way better than standing in a wine shop, looking at a row of bottles, and choosing blind based on arbitrary scores which don’t matter anyway. At the first sip, you immediately realize Tim’s approach to winemaking is a little different. When he heard a lot of folks couldn’t handle a bold tannic red, he worked to develop a softer one that’s easier to drink and tastes wonderful. His Rockfish Red is a lovely blend of Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot and goes great with burgers and pizza. It’s a European approach with wine as a dinner beverage rather than a sacred only-to-be-corked at special events rare precious jewel. How did he develop his newest creation, a hopped chardonnay? Something that’s never been done before? Sure it sounds gimmicky. But it’s also extraordinary. A wine expert recently declared it, “A great expression of chardonnay.” The highest compliment.
“I buy by the numbers just like anybody else…but now the numbers are silly…they’re just everywhere…and it usually means you’re getting this boring supermarket 92.” —Tim Gorman
Tim’s process is fascinating a great combination of science, inspiration, inventiveness, and using what you already have readily available. Working with the land rather than against it. This is a Virginia-based winery with Virginia-grown grapes with Virginia-based winemakers who can explain why the 2016 tastes different than the 2015. No big corporations or importing done here. No big investors wondering why there isn’t more consistency year to year. None of the typical white-to-red lineups of varietals like you see at corporate wineries. Again, working with terroir rather than catering to big corporate demands.
“That’s definitely the difference between an Ernest and Julio Gallo and a Cardinal Point. If we can develop a wine simply because it gives us more tank space? We’ll do that.” —Sarah Gorman
What does it take to run a family-owned business? Does every family dinner turn into a board meeting? How do they relate to the slew of awards Cardinal Point has garnered, most recently the 2017 Monticello Cup? How big a factor is terroir? How does Virginia terroir differ from other regions? Is it recognizable as a region? Why do so many ex-punk rockers now work in food? What is the story behind the statement, “These are my credentials,” which appears on every bottle? We cover it all.
“One thing we we’re not going to do is re-enter the 2014 Clay Hill Cab Franc which did very well…we’ll enter it for one season…we’re trying to win a medal to help us sell that wine…but we’re not trying to just keep getting awards.” —Tim Gorman
“You’re here to taste. You tell me which one you’d give a medal to…When you come into our winery, the last thing I want you hear you ask about is the medal…I want you to taste…if the Green is your gold medal, then buy it. It’s your palate, everybody tastes (wine) differently.” —Sarah Gorman
“They do change each year…this is farming…we’re dry farmers, we don’t even have irrigation…vintages matter, especially in Virginia…it matters in the good regions…what I like is I don’t have to be beholden…I don’t have to be that person making Budweiser that has to be the same every time.” —Tim Gorman
We recorded this conversation in the Cardinal Point farmhouse which is available to rent. Did I mention the saltwater pool? We talk beer, hops, and even delve into the subtleties of Charlottesville roller derby. Not only is Cardinal Point the first winery I visited, it’s also the first one I’ve talked to on the podcast! This conversation was dear to me not just because Green is my favorite summer wine but because my Critzer family originated and flourished right there on Route 151 where Cardinal Point is located. So traveling there felt like going home in more ways than one. Enjoy this episode then crack open a bottle or two of Green or your other favorite wine from Cardinal Point. We sure did! Cheers!
SHOW NOTES – Links to resources talked about during the podcast:
- Rent a Farmhouse – It’s at a winery. It has a saltwater pool. What more reason do you need?
- Green – It’s my favorite varietal at Cardinal Point. So much so I wrote about it.
- The Wild Vine – We discuss Todd Kliman’s book and how it relates to Virginia terroir.
- Burnley Vineyard – All of us blanked on the name of this fantastic vineyard near Gordonsville! I blame the wine.
- Help Scotty Recover – My best friend has Stage 3B colon cancer. Bills are piling up. He can’t work. Can you help? Share! Donate! No amount is too small. Thank you and BIG LOVE to everyone who donated and shared the Big Love Bake Sale and Big Love Birthday! Next up? Tee shirts! Look for them soon.
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