Thursday, November 29, 2012

Video Clip: Rockbridge Vineyard

Rockbridge Vineyard is located north of Lexington, VA, about two minutes from Interstate 81 (the vineyards are well marked on the Interstate). But it feels like a hundred miles away. You hear no traffic noise and no cars are in sight.

A quick drive through the village of Raphine takes you to Rockbridge, named after the county and the famous Natural Bridge about 30 miles south of here (the bridge adorns the bottle labels).

Rockbridge is one of the oldest wineries in the state - and they have plenty of good to excellent options for every taste, including a few unique options for the Commonwealth: Regular Pinot Noir, Vignoles, and an off-dry "Blanc" (white) Pinot Noir. Their "Jeremiah's Blush" is probably their most popular wine; 4% residual sugar, perfect for wine newbies as well as those looking for affordable wine to go with their spicy Thai meals or barbecue ribs. A bullfrog is featured on the label (babyboomers will get the reference).

The tasting room is located inside a barn, and there is a real "settled" feel to this location. Plenty of outdoor seating options, as well as a party room in the barn for indoor imbibing.

Watch our short video clip taken in October 2012 at Rockbridge Vineyard:

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Slick Vs. Intimate: A Virginia Winery Study (Part 1)

A cursory glance at the Yelp reviews of several Virginia wineries is revealing. You can discover so much about not only the wineries, but about the people who write the reviews.

Four star points to one reviewer, such as the lack of a live band or the rustic interior of a tasting room, may be one star points to another. Some people are totally turned off by corporate slickness, while others embrace it.

The blogmasters like to compare the winery experience to the personalities of a dog and a cat: Sometimes we want to be noticed in the middle of a big party (dog), and other times we want a quieter, more intimate experience (cat). Most humans have both dog and cat traits to their personalities (although devout cat haters will deny this), and there are plenty of Virginia wineries that satisfy both personality traits.

We will focus on the wineries in the Charlottesville (aka Virginia’s Napa) area for this study. Read the descriptions, visit the wineries, and tell us if you agree with the analysis. We’ll start with the slick spots, move to the other side of the spectrum and review some intimate spots, and then offer a few suggestions that combine slickness with intimacy (which is harder than it sounds).


Barboursville Vineyards
We call it "the Smithsonian of Virginia wineries." Barboursville put this tiny village north of Charlottesville on the map, along with its famed ruins. They've been making wine since 1976 (third oldest winery in Virginia), and Luca Paschina is a VA Vino star - consistently voted one of the best winemakers in the state, and the East Coast. One sip of their famed Octagon red, and you'll be a fan. But the place is touristy - the crowds at the multiple tasting bars tend to be three rows deep on weekend days. And the restaurant on the premises, as good as it is, doesn't quell the slickness factor that much. Visit during the week, if you can. Or try their wines at numerous restaurants in the state (they also sell them at numerous supermarkets in the state, as well as the stray gas station).

Veritas Vineyards
A favorite in the Monticello AVA, Veritas adds a slightly rustic touch, but driving up the impressive driveway to this winery is proof positive that they move wine here. (Slick is not necessarily a five letter word to the blogmasters, despite the tone of this entry). The tasting room has a library quality to it, complete with books and sofas. The wines are rock solid, particularly their Viognier and Claret (red blend). Ample places to sit outside, and the tasting room is always buzzing.

King Family Vineyards
Most Virginia wineries don't boast about their polo field and helicopter used to keep bonfire heat circulating during early spring nights (to prevent freezing). King Family is an institution in the Monticello AVA, and they have the medals to show for it. Rosé may be an unusual choice but our favorite wine here is just that: Crosé (a combinations of the words 'rosé' and the nearby town of Crozet). This is a fantastic dry Merlot-based rosé that is probably the best of its kind in the state. Napa-esque wine in a Southern gentleman-like setting. Definitely worth a visit.

DelFosse Vineyards
A drive to this spot off U.S. highway 29 is deceiving: The gravel road is long, narrow and twisty. Skunks, chipmunks and box turtles will move out of your way. Expecting to see a small cabin amidst rolling meadows and foothills, you come across a scene that seems more fitting for southern France (it's no coincidence that the owner is French). Their vineyards are terraced, one of the few vineyards in the Commonwealth employing this technique. Mountain trails surround the property, and there's a 100 year old log cabin, fully furnished, that you can reserve for the night (or week). As for the wines, Chardonnay and "Cuvée Laurent," a blend of Cabernet Franc and Chambourcin, are the stand outs here.

You really can't go wrong with any winery in the Monticello AVA (Charlottesville/Waynesboro). If big and eye-catching is not your thing, Part 2 of this series will provide some quaint, rustic alternatives.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Fauquier County Winery Spotlight: Delaplane Cellars

Our continuing coverage of wineries in that most winery-unfriendly county in Northern Virginia......

Delaplane Cellars, perched up on a hill with an irresistable view of the mountains on the western horizon, is another winner in the Delaplane/Marshall/The Plains section of the county (also known as "Crooked Run Valley," named after a creek many visitors will cross at least four times in this part of the county).

This is where wineries share the landscape with cattle ranchers, "old money" grumps, and antique stores. Employing sustainable practices similar to Cooper Vineyards and North Gate Vineyard, the airy interior of the tasting room meets expectations created while driving (and then walking) up the steep hillside. And the wines are stellar. This Fauquier location reminded the blogmasters of spots in Sonoma County.

The long tasting bar guarantees a tasting nearly as soon as you walk in, despite how busy they are. Viognier is the winner here; yet another Virginia winery working wonders with the official white grape. Maggie's Viognier is aged in French oak, versus American oak (which is the norm for many other Virginia wineries). The resulting wine is smooth with notes of butter rum and tangerine. Delaplane also ages its Chardonnay in French oak, resulting in a pleasing, dry white that pairs beautifully with trout or perch.

Of the reds, Delaplane is now working with Tannat, which some predict could be Virginia's new unique red, alongside Petit Verdot and Norton. Delaplane offers a 100% Tannat, as well as a blend (blended with Syrah, Petit Verdot and Cab Franc). Both make great cold weather reds, for pairing with stew or chili.

For warmer days, Delaplane Cellars has several picnic tables along the sloping hillside, looking down on the tasting room, as well as a patio offering a view that is one of the finest in Northern Virginia. The tasting room is encased by windows that boast these views for the colder months ahead.

You could make a day at Delaplane Cellars, or move on to other spots a stone's throw away in the Crooked Run Valley:
Three Fox Vineyards, Barrel Oak, and Vintage Ridge Vineyards, to name just three others.

Delaplane Cellars