If you have been following me on Twitter or Facebook, you probably know that Megan and I were up in Northern Virginia Wine Country for the past few days. We visited a total of 9 wineries over the weekend, 6 of which were completely new to me (this was actually part of the point of the trip since Loudon County is a bit of a hike for a day trip).
Day 1 – Barrel Oak Winery, Vintage Ridge and Aspen Dale
I first wrote about Barrel Oak over a year ago, before the winery had even opened. We were invited up by owners Brian and Sharon to talk about their new project and the vision for Barrel Oak Winery (BOW). Now as they celebrated 1 year of being in business, we hung out with Brian, Sharon and Rick Tagg, talking about the past year, the new plantings and sampling both the wines at the tasting bar as well as those in progress in the barrel room. The first vines planted are under their 3rd leaf, and the hills surrounding the winery are now completely covered by vines, but the wines we tasted were produced from purchased grapes. The vibe at BOW was hopping and there was not a face without a smile on it in the entire place, including the staff. Brian and Sharon have a true joy for what they are doing and it is infectious to say the least.
My Barrel Oak wine highlights –
2008 Traminette – tons of rose petal on the nose, apricot, peach and lots of Asian pear on the back of the palate, crisp acidity
2007 Cabernet Sauvignon – blueberry and hot cocoa on the nose, raspberry, cherry, sautéed green pepper with big ripe tannins
2007 Cabernet Franc – raspberry and cherry on the nose, followed up by mint, fresh herbs, red currant and black pepper on the palate; nice acidity and velvety tannins
I didn’t take a ton of notes from the barrel tasting but I loved the Cab Francs, the Petite Verdot and their Viognier was killer. I look forward to seeing how these wines progress into bottle.
Thanks again to Brian, Sharon and Rick for showing us a great time as well as Kim who was our tasting room assistant.
This was my first visit to Vintage Ridge, although I had wanted to go several times but always seemed to be in the area when they were closed. I was really excited about their concept of pairing wine and food together during the tasting, and didn’t realize how “intense” the experience was going to be. I imagined that they would give visitors a couple of cheeses or meats as pairing suggestions, but the actual experience was far more elaborate. The tasting was conducted in more of a restaurant style– you actually sit at a table and the wines are poured one by one along with an amazing platter of cheeses, sauces, mustards, nuts and even a mini Panini (it also came with meat, but we requested our plate sans meat).
Although the experience was fun and I was looking forward to it, I think I would have just rather done a tasting without the pairings (particularly since each tasting cost $12 and you are expected to tip your “waitress”). I don’t think they offer a wine tasting alone, though–we were told “they do things differently here” and weren’t given an option to just taste the wine. They were quite busy, so I won’t complain too much about attribute the time between wine pours (the entire experience took about an hour, with little information or dialogue about the wines). I do have a couple of complaints, though.
First, the foods, although very good, for the most part didn’t highlight the wines at all and actually detracted from most. The most absurd pairing was the hot, spicy mustard with Petite Verdot. Luckily I had tasted the PV before the mustard wrecked my palate, but if it is any indication of the PV quality, we actually chose to purchase the mustard (which incidentally was sold out). While the winery provides a FUN experience which people really seem to enjoy, the pairings were poor and made it difficult to evaluate the wines in and of themselves.
My second complaint will actually be the topic of a separate post later this week, though I feel I should mention it here, as it sparked the issue for us over the weekend. The winery owner actually poured one of our wines, so I took the opportunity to introduce myself as being part of a Virginia Winery, a wine store manager that sells VA wines, and a wine blogger. Surprisingly, the conversation ended there without further dialogue—the owner didn’t ask which winery I was associated with, the name of my wine shop, or about my wine blog. At the time I assumed that he was merely too busy at the moment and would stop back by over the next hour as the tasting room thinned out–NOPE! Not once did he come back by to talk, despite the fact that we work in the same industry, I could possibly put his product on a wine store shelf, and I could write about his winery on my blog, which gets steady readership among VA wine drinkers. I really couldn’t understand this, and was honestly baffled!
Vintage Ridge Wine Highlights –
2005 Cabernet Franc – mocha, boysenberry and raisin with plum, roasted meat, black pepper and a hint of menthol on the palate
I don’t remember the name of the woman doing our pouring but she was very nice, relatively knowledgeable, and had a smile on her face the entire time despite the fact that she was extremely busy.
Aspen Dale Winery at The Barn
We heard about Aspen Dale while we were at Barrel Oak—Aspen Dale was celebrating their grand opening that very day, so the folks at Barrel Oak asked us if we had heard about it (there was little or no fanfare or publicity around their opening). Intrigued, we snagged some directions from an email that Rick Tagg had, and after Vintage Ridge made our way over to check out the new “speak easy”. The place is an adorable old restored barn that has tons of charm and unassuming character. Shay, the owner and wine maker was doing our tasting, and explained her family’s history and her philosophy on simple, extremely small lot wine making. I won’t go into this much, as Megan will be writing more about this on her blog Wine Conscience in the next couple of days. Currently, all the fruit is being sourced and produced at Breaux Vineyards (we visited them the next day) but Shay oversaw the wine making decisions.
Aspen Dale Wine Highlights –
2008 Hildersham Sauvignon Blanc – grassy with apple and Asian pear and asparagus and tons of minerality, crisp but full across the mid-palate
2007 Rockawalkin’ Cabernet Sauvignon – baking spice, dark fruit highlighted by black cherry and leathery notes; full bodied with good acidic structure and dusty tannins
Thanks to Shay for showing us around, we were glad to be a part of their opening weekend and can’t wait to see what they offer in the future.