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:

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