Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Winery Spotlight: Flying Fox Vineyard (9/28/10)

Flying Fox Vineyard, in the heart of the Monticello/Nelson County wine region, is one of those "look...a winery we didn't even know about!" spots. Their presence at festivals, compared to other big, well-known Virginia wineries in this area of the state (Veritas, Kluge, Cardinal Point, White Hall, DelFosse), is limited due to their production. And Flying Fox hasn't been around as long as the other spots. But they are a must-visit; an utterly delightful little spot that hugs the state highway (route 151) going towards Wintergreen (the resort, and the winery).

The tasting room looks tiny from the outside, but it's more spacious on the inside than many other Virginia wineries we've visited. The winery gets its name from the weather vane on the roof of the tasting building (cottage is a better description). As the owners boast, the fox on the weather vane looks like he's flying after a glass or two, or a bottle or two, of their fine recipes (and we must call them "recipes"--this is Waltons country, after all).

The nicely paced, entertaining tasting allows visitors to try a bit of everything.

Chardonnay, aged in steel tanks (all hail steel tanks!). Crisp and delightful. Viognier: Winner of both Silver and Gold medals at the 2010 State Fair. Dry and hints of pear and melon. Delicious. If you prefer a hint of sweetness, Flying Fox has another Viognier that's also an award-winner: Fox White. Stock up now for sipping during the inevitable Virginia Indian summer that's on its way.

As for the reds, not a mediocre one in the bunch. In addition to the Virginia staple (Cabernet Franc--velvety with just the right amount of oak--oak notes belong in reds, not whites, according to your trusty blogmasters), Flying Fox has a pure Petit Verdot (on that esteemed list of Virginia spots offering a pure Petit Verdot), and two excellent blends: Trio (Cab Franc, Merlot, Petit Verdot) and Fox Red (Cab Franc and Merlot). And the prices are right - all bottles under $20. They also have a fruit and cheese plate that is beautifully presented, for $10 (this plate would be $25 at some of Northern Virginia wineries).

The labels on several of their bottles are whimsical and add a fun touch to the wines and the location. Their mascot (a fox), in various modes of air travel. Several years ago, he was in a World War I-era bi-plane. Currently, he's in a hot air balloon. According to our pourer (Becca) during our visit, next year's label will have him shot out of a cannon.

There is a small porch outside the tasting room, but space is limited. If you have your own picnic chairs, you'd be in good shape. The view of the vast meadows and mountains at Flying Fox will make you forget you're a stone's throw away from a busy state highway.

Winemaking is a science. It actually draws on three sciences: Biology, chemistry and geology. The owners, the husband and wife team of Rich Evans and Lynn Davis, are a retired medical doctor and UVA biology professor, respectively. Their quality control measures, along with their winning partnership with their grape growers (family members Jane and Jon Zieman) in the Shenandoah Valley, guarantee fine vintages in a region dotted with large mass producers. So the next time you're pacing back and forth at Veritas or Cardinal Point, patiently waiting for a tasting, hop in your car and drive south for a few miles. The pleasures of Flying Fox await you.


Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Virginia Winery Photo Album, Vol. IV

More of the finest in Virginia's liquid assets:

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Winery Spotlight: Fincastle Vineyard & Winery (9/14/10)

Tucked in the mountains, twenty minutes north of Roanoke, on the The Botetourt Wine Trail (three terrific and rustic wineries in Botetourt County), lies Fincastle Vineyard, a charming family-run B&B and winery. This is one of those "GPS Wineries;" those rural Virginia places far, far away from civilization, where the only sounds are the cows in the distance and the occasional cicada buzzing in the trees. Northern Virginia has a few of these spots. Southwest Virginia wineries are all about this nature vibe. Luckily in the case of Fincastle, the wines are just as great as the natural atmosphere.

Drive up the dirt road at Fincastle, and you'll pass an elegant batch of vineyards. Turn the curve, go up the hill (actually the foothill of a mountain), and you'll see a Virginia home right out of the Waltons, complete with a sipping porch. The tasting room is housed inside their home, and the Bed and Breakfast is on the other side of the house (the owners do a nice job keeping the B&B guests, who may not necessarily be looking for a wine getaway, separate from the winery guests).

David and Georgia, the owners, will welcome you with a smile (David may have a hose or shovel or a bucket of paint in his hands). Their son Richard conducts the tastings and is extremely knowledgeable about the craft of winemaking, but as casual as a drinking buddy.

Fincastle's wines are good to excellent. Their Viognier was a bit too oaky for our tastes, but if you don't mind oak, you will enjoy it. Their stand-outs are their reds: A fantastic Cab Franc (Virginia's red), and a very good to excellent (depending on the vintage) Cab Sauv. Their rose is made for drinking on their sipping porch---a blend of Chambourcin and Vidal Blanc. Drink it cold - the colder, the better. Especially on one of those late summer Virginia nights, with the cicadas chirping at full blast. Their Chardonnay, like the Viognier, was also too oaky. There is a romantic reputation surrounding oaky wines that works for reds, but not quite for whites (at least in your humble bloggers' opinions). Steel barrel all the way for whites---steel sounds like something from Pittsburgh (versus oak from Sonoma), but steel aging brings out the best in white wine, particularly Chardonnay and Viognier.

Despite the oaky quality of Fincastle's whites, their wines are all winners. The porch overlooks a large meadow that the owners use to host festivals. Local musicians (including some from the nearby Galax/Floyd Bluegrass Trail) perform here during the warmer months. And as the case with other "faraway" Virginia wineries, the prices are right. You could pick up a case here and not feel broke.

If you're not on a romantic getaway (that is, you're just a bunch of average straight guys looking for a wine trail on the weekend), check into the Red Roof Inn in Troutville (a truck stop paradise off I-81 north of Roanoke), and visit Fincastle Vineyard and Winery, along with Virginia Mountain Vineyards and Blue Ridge Vineyards (the other two wineries on this wine trail).