Sunday, September 23, 2012

Video Clip: Villa Appalaccia Vineyards

Located near the Hokie Wine Trail, directly off the Blue Ridge Parkway....a perfect fall getaway!

Sunday, September 16, 2012

The Hokie Wine Trail

With a growing viticulture education program and its location in one of the few AVAs (American Viticulture Areas) in the state, wine and Virginia Tech go together like football and orange colored beer. The AVA in question is the North Fork of Roanoke, which compared to other AVAs in the Commonwealth (especially the Monticello and Shenandoah Valley AVAs) has been winery scarce. Until now. While not as rich in commercial wineries as its long rival UVA, the Virginia Tech region is close to two new, outstanding wineries, and a short drive from other excellent spots. Why not visit on the next “away game” weekend? We’ve maped out a route that will take you two the new Christiansburg/Blacksburg area spots, as well as three along the way down, not far from I-81.

ON THE WAY DOWN: Blue Ridge Vineyard is perched in the hills, surrounded by the Blue Ridge and Alleghenies in all directions. An old barn houses the tasting room, and you’ll feel as though you stumbled onto an antiques store hid up in the mountains as you make your way for your tasting. The altitude of this winery allows Blue Ridge to dabble in varietals not common for Virginia, such as Riesling and its cousin, Gew├╝rztraminer . Compared to Northern Virginia spots, this is not a busy location – after your tasting, you will pretty much have the run of the property to enjoy a bottle and soak in the endless mountain vistas – picnic tables are positioned randomly on the inclines, and their gazebo can create perfect Virginia memories. Not far from Blue Ridge Vineyard, a little closer to civilization (and the village of Fincastle), lies Virginia Mountain Vineyards. Another winery that features the entire family on the premises, welcoming visitors and pouring their surprisingly wide range of whites and reds (a terrific Traminette that goes well with spicy Asian dishes stood out) plus their most memorable creation, “Holiday Spice,” sweet wine with spices, which can be served warm and is a winter treat. This winery looks a bit slicker in operation, but the wine is well-priced and unique.

Fincastle Vineyard is your final stop on your way to Blacksburg. The GPS in our car took us on a wild goose chase, so we highly suggest mapping this winery out using “old fashioned” Google maps or Mapquest. The tasting room at Fincastle is located in the owner’s home, which is also a B&B. To allow privacy for the guests who may not be that interested in wine, the house has two patios – one for winery visitors and another for B&B guests. The wines are a bit on the sweet side, but excellent and also well priced. Our favorites were the chardonnay, a bit oaked but low in acidity, and their hearty cab franc, earthy with notes of blackberry and black licorice. Fincastle has a big lawn in front of the house that serves as festival grounds during the warmer months.

NEAR VIRGINIA TECH: Attimo Winery is located about 10 minutes from downtown Christiansburg, and reminded us of a winery in Loudoun County; proof that other metro areas in Virginia are growing in population, not just the Northern Virginia “metroplex.” As the case with many other wineries in Virginia, Attimo was started as a side business, but owners Rik and Melissa Obiso hope for an early retirement to settle full time in Christiansburg and make wine full time. Despite their young age, their wines have already won numerous awards in the country. Their Chardonnay, with hints of honeysuckle and butterscotch, stood out on the white side, and the Cabernet Sauvignon was pucker-inducing and very pleasing.

The last stop is another location that doubles as a bed and breakfast: Beliveau Estate Winery. Like Blue Ridge Vineyard, mountains surround the spot in all directions. The new winemakers welcome guests and treat them to very leisurely and generous pourings inside their country store-like tasting room. Another location that seems to favor wines on the sweeter side, including another excellent Traminette. There are hilltop seats and pondside seats scattered throughout the property, including a gazebo over the pond. Yet another rural Virginia winery that is damn near impossible to leave. And if you plan ahead of time, you won’t have to--stay in their B&B, or take the winding road to Blacksburg.

For part two of the trip, if you feel like an hour drive, visit the wineries southwest of Virginia Tech, dotted along the Blue Ridge Parkway:
Chateau Morrisette (home of several “Hokie label” wines, some of which you can find in grocery stores) and Villa Appalaccia.

Winery URLs:
Blue Ridge Vineyard
Virginia Mountain Vineyards
Fincastle Vineyard & Winery
Attimo Winery
Beliveau Estate Winery
Chateau Morrisette
Villa Appalaccia

To whet your thirst for great wine and views, here’s a video clip from Beliveau Estate Winery:

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Video Clip: Grayhaven Winery

Grayhaven Winery: Truly unique in a pure Virginia way.

Winery Spotlight: Grayhaven Winery

Located midway between Richmond and Charlottesville, a few minutes from I-64, Grayhaven Winery is one of the most unique wineries in the state. Unique, not only for its wine (spotlighting intriguing white and red blends), but its location. Driving into the vineyards, you think you've gone back in time to the Woodstock era. The tasting room is a curious little building that you'd see in Lord of the Rings, and it's tight inside, but that adds to the tasting experience you'll have at Grayhaven. You may be greeted by "Jiggy Pig," a French bulldog who won the esteemed "Virginia Winery Dog of the Year" award last year. Deon Abrams, the winemaker from the wine country of South Africa, or his wife, will guide you through a slow-paced, sit down tasting. They have a few typical Virginia offerings - a nicely balanced Chardonnay, a lively Seyval Blanc - but the wines they poured for us were mostly blends with "table wine" labels. And these are not your typical table wines. Every one was unlike anything we've had in Virginia. On the white end of the spectrum, "Voyager" was our favorite, a blend of grapes you're more likely to see in upstate New York, or California: Vidal Blanc, Cayuga White, Golden Muscat and Chardonnel. Evidently the climate and soil in this part of the state allows for growing these varietals. All of their wines are made from grapes grown on the property. On the red side, Grayhaven is rightfully proud of its signature grape, Touriga, a varietal from Portugal and mainly used for Port wines. That should give you an indication of this varietal's richness, and alcohol content. It reminded us of the Tannat offered by Chateau O'Brien, albeit not as complex (or pricey). A perfect prime rib wine. Two red blends were offered: Trekker, with its notes of wild cherry and spice, and Rendezvous, a claret style blend, with less tannins and a lighter body than Trekker. Outside the tasting cabin, you can sit on the patio surrounded by their koi pond, and watch the butterflies and honing in on the numerous flowers (including a potted lime tree). There are horses on the property and the horses are allowed to run free. The large property includes a pond and several benches. There is a rustic vibe here that reminded us of Wisteria Farm Winery near Luray. Ask the owners about a low budget movie made here (or as they told us, "lowest budget"): Attack of the Vegan Zombies. The title describes the plot to a tee so let your imagination run wild. Grayhaven Winery is worth a pit stop on your next drive down U.S. highway 522, which is the easiest way to get there from northern Virginia. Catch highway 522 near Culpeper and just follow it down to the Mineral/Cuckoo area.