Virginia Wineworks, or "Wineworks" (their new official name), is unlike any other winery you'll visit in Virginia. No "Keg Buses" full of overgrown frat boys, bachelorette parties, or live bands to be found here. This is a Working Winery. And you're aware of it the minute you pull into their gravel driveway. To enter the tasting room (more like tasting basement) of Wineworks, you walk through the barrel storage and tank area. Wineworks makes wine for other Virginia locations, and some barrels have masking tape indicating the names of those other wineries. We were surprised at the geographical reach of some locations - Wineworks is located south of Charlottesville, yet they evidently make wine for some locations in the Northern Neck.
There are two labels here: Wineworks, and Michael Shaps. Michael Shaps is one of the founding fathers of the Virginia wine scene, and his winemaking skill is well-known by anyone with even a passing interest in Virginia wine. The wines on his own label are a little pricier, but we actually preferred some of the blends on the more economical Wineworks label (we had a similar reaction to Ingleside and their Chesapeake label). Wineworks features wine in a box - the first Virginia location to do this. The boxes hold up to three liters of wine. Currently viognier, chardonnay and cabernet franc are offered in boxes; a good start for the Virginia box market as these are three signature Virginia wines. Wine snobs may be put off by the box concept, but for entertaining at a party, or dragging to Wolf Trap, box wine does just fine. Just make sure it's chilled (even the cab franc). The wines are good to excellent here (the boxed wine being in the good category), and the price is right (all box wines are $30 each). As for the bottled wines, our favorite Wineworks offerings were the Merlot/Malbec blend, "half a Meritage" (it's missing two varietals to be considered a Meritage), at $16 a steal and perfect with red meat, whether it's a filet mignon or burgers on the grill. On the Michael Shaps label, the chardonnay was excellent with faint notes of almond and pear. Viognier is produced under both labels. If you go for the full tasting in the tasting "basement," you can try the Wineworks and Michael Shaps viogniers back to back. Both beautifully done, but we preferred the Michael Shaps viognier (not as acidic).
The location is about half a mile through the woods past First Colony Winery, south of Charlottesville. First Colony makes fine wine and their set up is more conducive to "hanging out" (First Colony has been a favorite of the blogmasters for years). Start with a visit to Wineworks, and buy several bottles to go, and then meander back to First Colony to wrap your afternoon up.
Watch our short video on Wineworks: