Wednesday, August 3, 2011

More New Kids in Town

The Virginia wine industry is thriving. One analyst believes Virginia will easily top 200 wineries by the end of the year, 106 less wineries than New York, which has held the #4 spot for several years (after California, Oregon and Washington). It may be tough for Virginia to overtake New York; that state's winery count is growing too, especially in the north fork of Long Island, which has been discovered as a great chardonnay growing region.

But in late 2010, early 2011, more wineries have arrived in the Commonwealth. And as the case with all Virginia wineries, no two are alike.

Wisteria Farm and Vineyard:
Located between the Shenandoah Valley towns of Luray and Stanley, this unique winery employs sustainable practices, and as its name indicates, is a working farm. Grassy paths criss-cross the large property, through vineyards, groves of trees, and a creek hugs the property. After the tasting, the owners invite all guests to wander the expansive property, soak up the mountain views, and relax on their many picnic tables. Roosters and sheep call in the distance.

We discovered that the rich soil caused by drainage in the Shenandoah Valley, plus the high elevation in some spots, allows for growing varietals not found elsewhere in the state: Pinot Noir, Riesling, Gew├╝rztraminer. Wisteria offers several typical Virginia whites, all good (but a bit on the sweet side): Pinot Gris, Chardonnay, Viognier, Traminette. Their reds include a fine Merlot and a wine we haven't seen anywhere else: Carmine. Apparently this hearty red is growing in popularity in California. It reminded us of a cross between Norton and Cab Sauv.

The location of this winery, near Luray, makes it a good destination for daytrippers visiting the town or the caverns. It's a bit hard to find (visit their website for directions), but well worth the effort.

Cobbler Mountain Cellars:
There is a section of Virginia we call the "Virginia Wine Highway;" state route 55, which runs parallel with I-66 in the Marshall/Delaplane/Linden area. Many wineries dot the landscape here, and two of the newest are Cobbler Mountain Cellars and Capitol Vineyards. Cobbler Mountain is one of the foothills of the Blue Ridge, and in its shadow is this irresistible new spot, tucked away deep in the hills, with a winery that also serves as the couple's home built into the slope of a steep hill. Like many other Virginia winery owners, Jeff and Laura escaped the Office Space world of Northern VA (Springfield, in their case) to pursue their dream: Grow grapes (and apples, in their case) and make great wine.

Cobbler Mountain Cellars has been open for several months, and they intend to keep their doors open all year long, even in the winter (their basement will serve as a tasting room and room to "unwine-d" in). Interestingly enough, both Cobbler Mountain Cellars and Capitol Vineyards favor reds over the whites. Cobbler offers a chardonnay and hard apple cider (you can't taste the alcohol--watch out!), both crisp and refreshing. Their winning reds are a Meritage, one of the best red blends we've had in ages, and their Cab Sauv (not many Virginia wineries offer Cab Sauv and this one is a treat). On the day we visited, a group of kids (19 to 22 years old) arrived carrying ukuleles and mandolins...."Fooly Kooly." The landscape of the property seems lifted from a Tolkien story, and the owners agree. Fooly Kooly played ear-pleasing and slightly haunting acoustic Irish folk songs that echoed throughout the property.
A great addition to the Virginia Wine Highway.

Capitol Vineyards:
Capitol Vineyards, near Linden, is operated by probably the youngest couple we've met (can we see their IDs?) The tasting room resides inside a cabin that served as a Post Office, and then a general store, in the early 20th Century. A bit crammed (we presume they will be using the farm house at the end of their driveway when word gets out about their winery), but intimate. Another red-heavy winery: Their sole white is a Traminette (a bit sweet and spicy). The reds are nearly identical to Cobbler Mountain. The Cab Sauv was our favorite; a little lighter than Cobbler Mountain's. The farm house at the end of the driveway may serve as a B&B in future years (the couple has high hopes for their little getaway for wine lovers). The freshly planted vineyards hug the side of a mountain foothill. At least four deer (including a fawn) treked through during our visit. No live bands, no traffic noise, and far from the wine buses and vans. Hopefully Capitol Vineyards will remain quaint.

Visit these new spots and tell 'em VAWINENB (and the Eagles) sent you!

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