My mom and I did a short weekend tour of Northern Virginia wine country this past weekend as our belated Mother's Day get-away. I just want to make a few notes now so I don't forget everything from it. We stopped at a total of 8 wineries, 4 on the way out to Front Royal and 4 on the way back. We both ended up buying wine even though we hadn't planned on it. So the biggest "note to self" for future wine trips is to plan on buying. We were both surprised at how open we were to the sweeter wines since generally we turn our noses up at them. Virginia seems to be good Chardonney country and not so hot for reds in general. Also, let me make it clear that I am no wine afficianado by any stretch of even a colorful imagination. I'm not even a regular wine drinker, so I just sort of know what I like and what I don't. These are more notes for me than anything. Mayhaps Mom will chime in with her two cents as well.
The wineries (in order of visiting), wines bought and overall impressions:
CHRYSALIS - Middleburg, VA - Mom got Sarah's Patio White
Looong gravel road up to the winery. This made me nervous since this was my car's first trip out after the damaging cabin week that ended up costing a chunk of change for steering and suspension work. The road was in pretty good shape, I just drove like a sissy. Mom was patient and didn't get out and try walking faster than I was driving.
As for wines, from memory here, they had a very nice Viognier. Neither of us had encountered this before and we were both pleasantly surprised because neither of us is a white wine fan. We also liked Sarah's Patio White, which mom ended up buying. It is a sweeter white (but not a dessert wine) that made me think of cheesecake as the perfect companion. They are big proponents of the native Virginia Norton grape but we weren't quite sold. It had a sort of sharp, tart attack and not much in the way of finish. They also had a nice peppery, Spanish-style red called Rubiana that mom almost went back for.
PIEDMONT- The Plains, VA - none bought
Piedmont had lots of stuff for sale and a nice copper bar. They are known for their Chardonney and we tried the Reserve. It really was very good, but we balked at spending over $20 on a bottle so we both declined to take one home. Nothing else really grabbed us.
THREE FOXES - Delaplane, VA - none bought
Three Foxes is relatively new and so they didn't have quite as wide a selection and many were still quite young. This was the first one to have any reds we were interested in but they were still too young. Not quite willing to jump for something to lay down, we passed. I think their 2004 Sangiovese will be quite yummy in a year or two though. It was one of three reds from the whole trip we even considered buying and all of their reds showed more promise than most.
LINDEN - Linden, VA - I got a Claret, Mom got the Rose and Seyval
Well Linden is one of the most highly recommended wineries in the area for good reason. The view is great and the atmosphere is very professional yet relaxed. They also make great wines. We were surprised by the quite dry rose. Enough that mom had to buy it. Claret is a light red but they still had lots of flavor in it. This was one of the top three reds for us.
SHARP ROCK- Sperryville, VA - 2 Chardonney Reserve
This was the first winery of day two. Quite a drive out compared to the others, but a beautiful drive. The Chardonney Reserve really was great - and this from non-Chardonnay drinkers. The prices were also very reasonable comparitively and we both picked one up. The reds made an effort but not quite enough for us.
SMOKEHOUSE - Sperryville, VA - 2 Braggots
This is actually a meadery rather than a winery. Unfortunately they only had two samples to taste and only one for sale. We both bought some Braggot (an ale/mead cross) and would have liked to have bought the Cyser we tasted but they were sold out. The owner was planning to have his latest batches available for sale sometime early fall, so maybe another trip out would be warranted. It would also be more comfortable in the fall because the log cabin tasting room doesn't have AC. In 90+ F weather it makes for a short visit although we did stay to jaw a bit since I know a bit more about mead than wine and the owner is a brewer as well.
GRAY GHOST - Amissville, VA - Adieu
Let me just start off by saying that I do not generally like sweet wines and I especially do not like dessert wines. I was surprised to taste Gray Ghost's Adieu and find myself slain. It is the only dessert wine I have ever purchased. It really is just that delicious. It brought to mind a liqueur without any alchohol bite. Turns out that they are nationally renowned for this wine, so I guess I'm not the only taken under.
UNICORN - Amissville, VA - 2 Viognier
Our last stop on the way home and way-station during a fierce summer thunderstorm. They were another with a Viognier and we revisited how much we really like the grape. We finally broke down and bought it and I would say that it was the best Viognier we tasted next to the first one at Chrysalis. Their reds were sporting and gave us the best Merlot of the trip, but we ended up deciding Virginia is not a terribly strong red wine country.
Well, that about sums up our little adventure in brief. It was a good time and definitely something I would do again. Virginia actually has some decent wine coming out of it and it is so close to us that even a day trip is easily done, so I think I may see more Virginia wines in the future.
And some notes from MommaBerry (7/19/05):
* Eat before the first tasting. We discovered that it's important to not feeling even the small quantities of wine ordered. We never had a full glass, but on an empty stomach still felt more effects that when we started well fed. It might work if you started the tour with a winery that serves cheese or sandwiches of some kind. This will not be in the web summary, but may be in the details.
* Take bottled water with you. The tasting is apt to make you dehydrate. Although some water is available at wineries for rinsing glasses, the quantities may not slake your thirst and the water quality varies widely.
* Four wineries in a day is probably near the maximum, unless you have at least 1 hour between wineries.
* There's nothing to do in Front Royal! Good thing we had books, computer, and quilting to do in the evening.