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

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