This was the question that Brian Roeder asked his wife Sharon while on a business trip in Key West. After thinking for a minute, Sharon responded that she didn’t know, but that she kept having a recurring dream of waking up in the morning with a steaming cup of coffee and going out to check the grapes. After giving this answer to the same question two years in a row, Brian deciding to do something about it, and started the process of building a top notch family winery and vineyard in the rolling hills of Northern Virginia (Delaplane).
Picture of the winery taken from the main house
This past Saturday Megan and I got the opportunity to meet Brian and Sharon at their home. We were able to sip some of the wines from their first vintage and were given a guided tour of their winery, which is currently under construction but will be ready for their grand opening of Barrel Oak Winery on Memorial Day weekend.
The Roeders jumped in feet first, garnering information and expertise from some of the big names in the Virginia wine industry such as Chris Pearmund, Jim Law, Chris Hill and Tom Payette to name a few. Brian is focusing on the business side of things, while Sharon has focused her attention on learning vineyard management and winemaking skills – working with the school of thought that the winemaker needs to be as connected to the grapes as possible.
The winery, designed by the Roeders with the help of acclaimed winery architect Kristofer Sperry, is truly amazing. The expansive 4000 sq ft tasting room will feature a stone fireplace, spectacular views and an upstairs loft for special wine dinners and educational tasting sessions. The goal of the tasting room and its well-trained staff will be to provide a unique and memorable experience focused on wine, fun and learning. Below the tasting room is a 9000 sq ft underground processing and storage facility, which will include tank rooms, barrel caves and case storage with a total of 5 different temperature zones. In addition, the winery will house an underground wine library and a supplemental tasting area for large groups. The entire facility was designed for optimal flow from grape to bottle, and every detail has been meticulously planned in order to maximize wine quality while minimizing energy usage. The Roeders designed the winery and tasting room using high efficiency building materials and geothermal heating and cooling systems. In addition, clerestory windows bathe the tasting room in natural light and can be opened or closed to control air flow and to maintain a comfortable temperature.
The Winery – patio in the forefront with the entrance to the production area to the right
The first vintage of Barrel Oak wines will not be estate wines. Rather, the Roeders purchased wines from several other highly regarded vineyards from the Northern Virginia area and blended and manipulated them in order to create finished wines in their own signature style. Barrel Oak Winery will have a 3-tier wine program consisting of the BowHaus series, the Bow Wow series, and the Barrel Oak Winery Reserve Series. The BowHaus series will be the house bottling and will feature artist-designed labels, while the Bow Wow labels will feature small paw prints of different colors to help sippers remember their favorite wines by color association. The varieties to first grace the tasting sheet will be Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Norton, Petite Verdot, Viognier, Seyval Blanc Late Harvest Viognier and a Chocolate Lab dessert wine (made with real chocolate!). Look to 2009 for the first estate bottlings of Traminette, Petite Manseng, Vidal Blanc and Chambourcin.
Brian and Sharon shared three of their upcoming wines with us as we sat around and chatted about the wine industry and the exciting things that Barrel Oak Winery has in store for it. We tasted the 2005 BowHaus Red, the 2005 Norton and the 2005 Cabernet Franc – here are my notes.
BowHaus Red – (the kitchen sink blend of Cab Franc, Merlot, Petite Verdot, Malbec, Touriga, Norton) – Nice cherry and cranberry aromas, darker fruit flavors with a hint of blueberry and a spicy finish.
Norton – blackberry and cocoa powder on the nose with the typical “grape” flavor profile of the Norton grape and a little green bean thrown in towards the finish. I am not usually a fan of Norton but this one did peak my interest.
Cabernet Franc – (80% Cab Franc, 20% Chambourcin) – Cherry, anise and chocolate on the nose with a wonderful green pepper and raspberry flavor on the palate. Very Nice!
In addition to her passion for wine, Sharon has a passion for cycling and in particular the Lance Armstrong Foundation. Even though she wears her yellow wristband proudly on her ankle, she is taking her passion one big step further. The winery will offer a Tour Ga Franc (play on Tour de France), which will be a blend of Touriga and Cabernet Franc. The bottles will feature the signature yellow of the Lance Armstrong Foundation, and $2 of every bottle sold will be donated to Lance’s foundation. How cool is that!!
You may have noticed the doggie theme that runs through the Barrel Oak Winery, thanks to the Roeders’ love for the canine species. We got a chance to meet Barley, the family’s winery dog, who was a bundle of energy and, as you can see, very photogenic. Also keep your eye out for a new addition to the doggie family on opening day!
Opening Day will be Friday May 23rd for Memorial Day weekend, so mark you calendars to check out Brian and Sharon’s awesome new winery. With a great line-up of delicious wines to taste, the fantastic views of the mountains, the neighboring John Marshall Oak Hill estate and the grazing horses at the farm next door, you are sure to have an excellent time in Virginia Wine Country.