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 will now review some intimate spots. Part 3 will offer a few suggestions that combine slickness with intimacy (which is actually harder than it sounds).
Mountain Cove Vineyards
When the blogmasters pulled up to Mountain Cove Vineyards, between Charlottesville and Lynchburg off route 29 and not far from DelFosse Vineyards, the sign said OPEN, however the tasting room was locked and no one was in sight. We actually called their phone number and the owner Al Weed greeted us and treated us to the most casual wine tasting we ever experienced (he apologized that he was out in the vineyards checking the buds). We had the place to ourselves the entire time. Mountain Cove is literally in a “cove” nestled in the Blue Ridge, a vast property with acres to roam and free your mind. No live bands (unless you visit on a festival or wedding day), no limos, and just the sounds of the occasional hawks flying above. This is the oldest operating vineyards in Virginia; growing grapes since 1974, and they continue to make fine, affordably priced table wines and fruit wines with pride. Fans of off-dry wines will love the Skyline White and dry red folks will savor the Tinto, a blend of Cabernet Franc and Chambourcin.
Further down route 29, about 20 minutes from Mountain Cove Vineyards, lies a location that makes some of the greatest wine in the Commonwealth. Lovingston Vineyards started as a hobby by Ed Puckett, who runs a business in Texas full time and left much of the marketing aspects of his winery to his daughter. Employing “gravity flow” techniques, which reduces some of the mechanical aspects of winemaking, Lovingston doesn’t have much of a tasting room or picnic area, but if you bring your own chairs, you’re welcome to stay as long as you want. And with their incredible prices, it will be hard not to leave their tasting room without a case. Merlot is the red star here, smooth and toasty with notes of plum, but you really can’t go wrong with any of their product.
Continuing down route 29, towards Lynchburg, Rebec Vineyards is known throughout the state for their yearly garlic festivals. Interested in trying garlic cookies? This is the place to do it. The owner hails from Bulgaria, so most of the wines have an Eastern European angle to them. Rebec is one of the few wineries in the country that works with Rkatsiteli, an intriguing white varietal that fares will in Russia, and has notes of apricot mixed with spice (and goes extremely well with a garlic dish). Other wines that make outstanding complements to garlic foods include their Gewürztraminer and Riesling. The location is very remote and there is not an ounce of slickness to be seen here; in fact the farm equipment used in the vineyards is exposed for all to see who linger around the small patio facing the rolling hills after enjoying a tasting.
Flying Fox Vineyard
Driving back north towards the Waynesboro/Charlottesville area, Flying Fox appears on the left side of highway 151; a small cottage with the familiar "flying" fox weather vane. The tasting building may look small outside but the tasting room is surprisingly roomy, complete with a fireplace. All wines here are excellent and well-priced, our favorites being the Viognier, Rosé, and Trio, a blend of Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot. They also offer a pure Petit Verdot, with that distinct leathery feel you can only get from a pure Petit Verdot. Visit Flying Fox and discover why it's one of the blogmaster's favorites in the entire state.
Next up: "Hybrids," which combine the best elements from slick and intimate.