Friday, June 29, 2012

Wines from Idaho, Hawaii, Michigan, and Virginia--In One Spot

Little Washington Winery is a unique spot on the Route 211 Wine Way (home of other well-known spots, such as Unicorn Winery, Gray Ghost, and Narmada Winery). Named after the nearby yippie-dominated town of "Little" Washington, VA, this winery has none of the pricey pretention of the town of its namesake. In fact, the owners are incredibly down to Earth people, serious about their new venture, eager to talk about their plans and their wines, and happy to have their guests enjoy their mountain vistas from an assortment of multi-colored Adirondack chairs scattered along their numerous hillsides. What makes their winery unique is their "Dirt Road Wine Club." They wanted to bring something different to the Virginia winery experience, so they dispatch their sommelier Andrew to other states to seek out small batch wineries (and not just nearby states, although he was in North Carolina visiting vineyards when we visited).

Their goal is to bring these wines, which you cannot find in even the best wine shops in Virginia, to the Commonwealth. They offer what appeared to be random samples from their extensive "Dirt Road Wine Shop" when we visited; they change their offerings each day. We tried a semi-dry riesling from Michigan, which seemed very dry to us despite its location in the middle of the dry--sweet scale on the back of the bottle. Next was an interesting, very dry, and perfect summer rosé from Italy, followed by a crisp chardonnay from Long Island, and finally a pineapple and passion fruit wine from Hawaii - no grape base. We thought we would have to spit this wine out, but served on ice cubes, it was very refreshing, not as sweet as it could have been, and tasted a bit like a vineyard version of a pina colada. On their racks are wines from up and coming grape-growing states like Idaho and Arizona, as well as some international offerings from smaller vineyards in Austria, New Zealand, and Spain. You can literally travel around the globe with their wine options. As for their own wine, they have two chardonnays they love to serve back to back, in paper bags, during the tasting process. They call it the "fork in the road" tasting, and ask guests to pick which one is aged briefly in oak, before returning to steel, and which is aged completely in steel (the owner and winemaker is not a fan of what he calls "Parkay buttery wine from California").

In the end, we picked the pure steel variation as our favorite, and it was so crisp it had effervescent bubbles - the true sign of a bone dry wine. Little Washington also makes their own red, something called "George" (an appropriate name given their location). It's a smooth, soft tanins blend of Merlot and Cab Sauv. They have no highway signs yet - they just opened several months ago. But keep a keen eye out for this spot on the way to Skyline Drive or Luray Caverns (or Gadino Cellars, which is about a quarter mile down the road from Little Washington Winery.)

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