Sunday, June 17, 2012

The Battle of the Foxes

Virginia is home to three fox-themed wineries, all three unique and blogmaster favorites for several years (and we were tempted to make a "Fox and Friends" crack but decided to keep politics off this board). Fox Meadow, Three Fox and Flying Fox with an honorable mention to Twin Oaks Tavern, which has a fox as its mascot.

The stats: Fox Meadow and Three Fox are both part of the Fauquier County Wine Trail, and both can be enjoyed the same day. Flying Fox is south of Waynesboro, and Twin Oaks Tavern is off Route 7, a few clicks up the road from the very popular Bluemont Vineyards. So which Fox rules the farm....we mean vineyard? Fox Meadow Winery, by a nose. Every visit to Fox Meadow has been special and the view "looking down on the mountains" (their slogan) is one of the best in the Commonwealth. Fox Meadow was the recipient in 2008 of the Governor's Cup, for their outstanding Le Renard Rouge, a meritage-like blend of Cab Franc, Cab Sauv and Merlot. Their elevation is perfect for Pinot Grigio or Pinot Gris, and here they didn't have to pick just one varietal. They offer both. The Grigio is the drier version, although the Gris, with its apricot and honeysuckle notes, is perfect chilled and makes a good summer wine. This is a dry wine spot, although their "Freezeland" options (red and white) were created with the sweet wine fans in mind. The best thing that can be said about sweet wine is it didn't make the blogmasters want to spit the wine out, and that was the case with the Freezeland wines.

Setting: Big balcony overlooking the mountains, with shade provided by umbrellas and a gazebo. Picnic tables under large trees on the lawn for spillover. Inside, an airy tasting room and several tables (reserved for wine club members). The appeal of Fox Meadow is aesthetics. When leaving Fox Meadow, take the right turn out of the lot, and drive through the "Blue Mountain" community on the way down the mountain, for a real treat. This road will end up hugging the Shenandoah River, before dropping drivers off on Route 50.

Follow signs on route 50 to Three Fox, which is our second favorite Fox winery in the state. Three Fox Vineyards is an Italian themed winery named after playful foxes that were on the property when the owners surveyed their newly acquired land. The reds are the stars here, particularly the Cab Franc and Sangiovese (they currently offer both a regular and reserve Sangiovese). Also, their port-like wine "Dolce Chambourcin" is high on character, but surprisingly low on alcohol content. As for the whites, not as strong as the reds, but all with an Italian twist. Their Leggero Chardonnay is a perfect summer chard, with notes of butterscotch. They have more sweeter wines than Fox Meadow, following the "the closer to DC, the more sweet wines they have" principle. And their rosé is sweeter than the drier versions we've become accustomed to in Virginia, but excellent chilled and perfect for taking to Wolf Trap.

Setting: You will be impressed with this place the minute you cross the little bridge over Crooked Run. Shift your vehicle into overdrive to get more tork, and climb up that hill. Rolling Piedmont vineyards and meadows surround you. Crooked Run babbles down the hill, and Three Fox has two hammocks and several picnic tables by the creek. The tasting room is housed in a small barn-like structure, a bit cramped but during the warm months, they have an outdoor tasting tent. Do your tasting under this tent, overlooking the vineyards, for the full wine tasting experience. A few tables with umbrellas are situated between the vineyard rows (a nice touch!), and ample tables with umbrellas surround the tasting room. And then there's the Table in the Sky--you can't miss this table. Hike up the hill, past the beanbag and bocce games, and sit yourself down for a treat. Green Fauquier county fields surround you. Three Fox gets high marks on the "unwineding" scale!

Flying Fox Vineyards is located south of Waynesboro, in a winery populated section of Nelson County (not far from better-known spots like Cardinal Point and Veritas). They're a small operation, easy to overlook on your way to Wintergreen (winery or resort). But the wine are incredibly good; something for everyone. For the sweet fans, a Vidal Blanc called Fox White. Fox Red is a table wine perfectly suited for pizza, off-dry. An amusing label adorns these blends; each year, their mascot is featured in various acts of flight (in a World War I-era biplane; in a hot air balloon; being shot out of a cannon; or this year's image, clinging to a bunch of helium balloons, "sailing over Afton Mountain"). Their artist must love coming up with an image each year! On the more serious wine side, they offer a pure Petit Verdot, which stands up to some bold Old World reds as a prime rib or porterhouse wine, and will age nicely for up to 10 years in the right conditions. At $19, this wine is an absolute steal! "Trio" is a perfect blend of Petit Verdot, Cab Franc and Merlot, and our favorite wine on their menu. Their rosé is dry and refreshing.

Setting: A small garden area with a few tables, and a magnificent vista of the Blue Ridge beyond a large pasture. The tasting cottage sports a weather vane on the roof that gave this winery its name: The fox on the vane looks like he's flying, especially after a few glasses of their Petit Verdot.

The runner up in this battle of foxes is Twin Oaks Tavern Winery, which has a fox on some of its bottles, but appears to be moving away from the fox theme to an oak leaf theme. Still, the winery is young and deserves a shout-out. Located off route 7 on the way to Winchester, this spot offers some incredible reds: Cab Sauv, Norton and Raven Rock Red meritage blends. Their recently expanded tasting room offers a fireplace for colder days, and the decks and patios hug the hillside. The view here is northwest - the Blue Ridge and on a clear day, you can see into West Virginia. And as a final note, next time you visit the Finger Lakes region of upstate New York, say hi to their fox counterpart: Fox Run Vineyards!

Enjoy a short video from Flying Fox Vineyards:

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