Sunday, March 25, 2012

Village Wine Stop #2: Delaplane

"Where, exactly, IS Delaplane?" Long-time northern Virginia residents will recognize the name Delaplane - one time home of Willard Scott and Robert Duvall; some "place" near Marshall and The Plains on the way to Skyline Drive; the name that appears on GPS systems along route 66. But where is the place? It's a crossroads, near the railroad tracks, right off Exit 23, and offers a general store, a post office, and an antiques shop. But Delaplane also offers a bonafide wine loop - some call this area the "mini Napa" of Northern Virginia. TEN wineries, all unique in their own ways, within seven miles of each other.

A list of these ten wineries can be found under this blog entry, but we will spotlight four of them, for a nice cross-section of this mini Napa.

Barrel Oak Winery, affectionately called "BOW," is a northern Virginia favorite, and despite only being open for about five years, is already an institution in the world of Virginia wine. Owner Brian Roeder is the always upbeat host, his wife Sharon is the head winemaker, and the place is always buzzing on the weekends (visit during the week for a more intimate experience). This winery has gone to the dogs. In a good way. A visit to this vineyard is like a Best in Show dog contest: You'll see dogs of every shape and size. The wines aren't too shabby: Our favorites remain their "pizza wines" (table white and table red--named Bowhaus White and Red). Their petit verdot is a bold award winner (for the other side of the wine spectrum). Their wines are a bit pricey compared to other wineries in the area, probably due to the constant improvements Brian makes to his property. And despite how busy the location is during the weekend, you can always be guaranteed a picnic table on the sloping hill.

A few minutes away from BOW is Three Fox Vineyards, up a steep grade near the railroad tracks and Goose Creek. Three Fox is home to some wonderfully dry white wines, as well as a smooth merlot (silver medal winner in the 2012 Governor's Cup). Three Fox has a great property for spreading out--name your pleasure. Relaxing on a hammock? Check. Picnic by the babbling creek? Check. "Unwined" near the tasting room on the patio? Check. Grab their famous "table in the sky" (a picnic table perched on a hilltop)? Check. Become their Facebook friend for special deals.

Further down the road, past the village of Delaplane, lies Vintage Ridge Vineyards. This location is unique in that they specialize in sit-down tastings where light food is paired with their vino offerings. On a warm day, take your seat on their patio overlooking the Blue Ridge foothills, and mellow out with a glass or bottle of the blogmasters favorites: "Summer Night" (vidal blanc) or delicious syrah.

Delaplane Cellars is the final spotlighted location in this "winery congested" section of Fauquier County. The tasting room is on a slope overlooking the mountains, and the whole location is environmentally friendly and airy. The stars here are the viogniers: A light one (LoCo Viognier) and a bolder one (Maggie's Vineyard Viognier). The Williams Gap red is a true meat lovers red, a blend of Cab Franc, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Petit Verdot.

No longer just a crossroads, Delaplane is the heart of the Fauquier County wine trail and rumor has it a white oval bumper sticker is on the way: DELA.

Barrel Oak Winery
Three Fox Vineyards
Vintage Ridge Vineyards
Delaplane Vineyards

Additional Delaplane-area wineries:

Miracle Valley Vineyard
Cobbler Mountain Cellars
Aspen Dale Winery
Naked Mountain Winery
Capitol Vineyards
Linden Vineyards

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Village Wine Stop #1: Middleburg

Middleburg is one of those northern Virginia villages featured in nearly every tourist guide and regional magazine at least three times per year. It is the center of northern Virginia horse and fox hunt country. The Safeway in the middle of town is the poshest Safeway you'll probably ever visit. Gridlock on a typical spring weekend day is nearly as bad as Old Town Alexandria. For our money, Middleburg the town is overrated. But there's hope as Middleburg features a few winning wineries a stone's throw away from town.

The first stop is arguably one of the most unique locations in the state (as far as Virginia wineries go): Quattro Goomba's Winery. This winery brings grapes in from California, Italy and Chile, and makes the wine in Virginia. Evidently Quattro Goomba's will be acquiring grapes from Breaux in the future, so a Virginia-grown product will be offered as well. The wines currently offered were a bit on the sweet side, but adequate. Like other wineries in the region, Quattro Goombas usually has a live band during the weekend, which continues to spoil the wine tasting mood for the blogmasters. We would rate Quattro Goomba's high for those just getting into the Virginia wine scene - you get the vistas of the Virginia countryside, the friendly staff, the generous tastings, but you don't get Virginia wine (yet).

Drive westbound on U.S. route 50 and follow the signs to Chrysalis Vineyards, the home of Norton, Virginia's original grape. If you want to experiment with this unique red, there is no better place to do it. Chrysalis is one of the original Virginia vineyards, and boasts a pictureseque setting amid the hills of fox hunt country. The tasting room and process is a bit small and confusing (respectively), and some of the wines were too sweet for our tastes, but for a Norton experience in Northern Virginia, Chrysalis Vineyards is worth a stop.

Swedenburg Estate Vineyard has its property right outside the town limits of Middleburg. This is our favorite winery in the region - wines are dry, Old World-style winners. Juanita Swedenburg was a pioneer of the Virginia wine industry, and fought long and hard for the state's now-flexible wine laws. Her spirit lives on as her son and grandchildren carry on with managing the vineyards. Despite being so close to the town, the vineyards and picnic area seem to be miles away. This is definitely a better warm weather spot as the tasting room is small and offers few tables (our only gripe about Swedenburg Estate Vineyard). The pinot noir itself is worth a visit, but stay to enjoy the mountain views and quiet vineyard setting.

Piedmont Vineyards, south of Middleburg (on the way to Delaplane), is another Virginia wine original. This is one of the oldest wineries in the Commonwealth, established in 1973. The owner/winemaker is a German gentleman who may put some off with his gruffness at first (he's all about his wine and making sure his guests have an intimate experience), but he warms up as soon as you start asking questions. Try the unoaked Hunt Country Chardonnay and the Hunt Country Red, a perfect sangria base.

The final stop on your tour could very well be Boxwood Winery, which the blogmasters have not visited. The slickness and formality of this place turns us off (you need an appointment to take a tour and try their wines at the winery). However you can try their wines at their satellite tasting rooms in downtown Middleburg or Reston Town Center. Their signature red, Boxwood, is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Petit Verdot, and is incredibly good, but not better than many other more affordable wines we've had in the region. But due to its location near Middleburg, and the fact that the property (gated of course) is so impressive, it deserves a mention.

There is no shortage of restaurants in Middleburg to find food to soak up your vino experience (although we were sad to see our favorite restaurant in the area, the Hidden Horse Tavern, closed on the last visit). Pick your spot, or tour all of them, and enjoy a daycation away from the Beltway madness.

Quattro Goomba's Winery
Chrysalis Vineyards
Swedenburg Estate Vineyard
Piedmont Vineyards
Boxwood Winery