Happy New Year! As 2013 gets off to a typically cold and dark start, never fear: Local (for Fairfax County/Arlington/Alexandria/DC residents) wineries are here!
Three wineries within Fairfax County, or very close to the Fairfax County border, are open for business during the cold months and welcome visitors to escape the winter doldrums, if only for a few hours.
Two spots are relatively new: The Winery at Bull Run and Cana Vineyards.
The third has been open for a little over two years: Paradise Springs Winery.
The Winery at Bull Run
Not many Virginia wineries (or wineries in the entire country, for that matter) can lay claim to being located on a battlefield. With the Manassas Battlefield surrounding the winery on nearly every side, and the historic Stone Bridge and Stone House a stone's throw away, The Winery at Bull Run offers not only terrific wines (particularly impressive since they're new on the wine scene, and not even listed in the 2012 Virginia Winery Map), but a history lesson. The tasting room resides in a centuries-old log cabin, which seems to double as a battlefield artifact museum. The wood absorbs the sound nicely (being the closest winery to Washington DC means this winery gets extremely busy, in all seasons). The wood floor includes several window panes that look down to the barrel room - a nice touch.
As for the wines, Chris Pearmund, a Virginia vino master, oversees the winemaking. That would explain why they are so sophisticated and balanced (despite the youth of this winery). Being a new and already expanding spot, the wines are priced a bit higher than the norm (being so close to recession-proof DC helps). Not a bottle under $28 as of this writing, but all are worth trying (most are dry, so if you come expecting a lot of whites or sweets, you may go away slightly disappointed). The Meritage blend and the Cab Franc were our favorites, and both have well-deserved medals. On the white side, the "Delaney" blend (of Traminette, Vidal Blanc, Viognier, and Riesling) will satisfy the sweet fans, but is more of a summer wine. Another sweeter option is a wine not found in many locations in the Commonwealth: Chardonnel, with distinctive notes of peach. Charonnel is a cross between Seyval and Chardonnay, and is quite popular in states north of Virginia, particularly New York.
The owners are rightfully proud of this spot, and are planning for the long haul in the VAVINO business. A "Battlefield Viewing Deck" for wine club members opened last fall.
Cana Vineyards and Winery
The blogmasters were surprised to find this new winery (open since October 2012) on the way to Middleburg a few weeks ago. There is a Biblical aspect to this location (look up the word "Cana"), and if Jesus turned water into wine, maybe it would resemble a fine Virginia Cab Franc? As is the case with the Winery at Bull Run, the Cab Fran was our favorite wine here, with soft tannins and a smooth oaky finish. Cana has more whites and sweeter wines than Bull Run, and the prices are a bit lower.
They also dabble in fruit wines; currently Apple and Raspberry Apple are offered. The winery is already buzzing, perhaps due to its easy to find location directly off U.S. 50, east of Middleburg. Live bands are offered on most weekends, and with so many outdoor seating options, this winery will probably get very crowded in the warmer months.
Tastings are conducted in a cold barrel room - the tastings are very informative and highly entertaining, but wear your coat.
Paradise Springs Winery
Located near the historic Fairfax County village of Clifton, Paradise Springs Winery emerged in late 2010 and conducted its tastings in a small log cabin, which was pretty tight. Several months later, the owners revealed an airy tasting building, complete with a portrait of Thomas Jefferson, watching over the impressive tasting room. The wines have already won numerous awards, including the 2011 Virginia Governors Cup for their chardonnay.
There is something for everyone in your group: From bone dry to sweet. Fans of sweeter styles will love the wine that is slowly becoming popular in the state: Petit Manseng. Winemakers are discovering how this varietal loves the soil in the Commonwealth, and it does especially well on the eastern side of the state.
Our favorites were the chardonnay and viognier, and we've never met a Cab Franc in Virginia we haven't liked or loved. Paradise Springs is no exception.
Paradise Springs does not require visitors to be wine club members in order to use their warm enclosed deck (complete with a wood burning fireplace, although they ask that you don't tend to the fire yourself, unlike other wineries with wood fireplaces or firepits). Actually, as of this writing, Paradise Springs does not have a wine club, but one is coming soon. Hopefully they'll keep the deck open to general visitors.
Since all three of the wineries in this post are located close to Washington DC, events and wedding bookings are common. Unless you visit during the week, expect large crowds at these locations. Be patient and arrive early - secure your seat inside the Winery at Bull Run, Cana or Paradise Springs and drink the winter blues away.