Thursday, May 2, 2013

NEW WINERY SPOTLIGHT 1: Valerie Hill Vineyard

At least 15 new wineries are opening in the state this year, several in Loudoun County alone. For this post, we'd like to introduce you to a winery not in Loudoun, but Frederick County (Winchester area). Valerie Hill Vineyard is the first vineyards/winery to open in Frederick County since Deer Meadow shut its doors about five years ago.

Valerie Hill Vineyard is named after the house where the tasting room and events rooms reside. This house was built in 1807 and one of the family members working behind the tasting bar happily answer any questions about the house, and its history. Phil Newcome and his wife and sons preside over the proceedings. Currently the wines are made at nearby Veramar Vineyards, but the Newcomes have plans to undertake the winemaking in the next year or so.

Phil welcoming us to Valerie Hill:

The current star of their lineup is their 2011 Viognier, crisp and border effervescent. Two chardonnays are offered, one from 2010 (bone dry) and the other from 2011 (a more difficult vintage due to weather, thus more fruit forward). As for the reds, the chambourcin/cab sauv blend was intriguing and hearty. A few sweeter wines are offered as well (including a dessert wine). We can honestly say that we enjoyed the wine here more than the current base of Valerie Hill wines (Veramar Vineyard, which slightly disappointed us during our last visit in December).

The outdoor area borders the Allegheny mountain chain and is peaceful to the max. There is a chimney remaining from an old burned down house on the property which Phil intends to build a patio around.

Several tables and firepits have been set up behind the house, which makes Valerie Hill a great option for warm summer evenings (plus they are open until 9 PM on Friday nights - another big plus!) For cooler or rainy weather, an indoor seating area exists as well.

Now, more about the house. Valerie Hill estate served as a makeshift hospital during the Civil War. The Battle of Cedar Creek was fought nearby; this battle was not as famous as other Civil War skirmishes but it did have its share of gory casualties. And many victims were taken to Valerie Hill for treatment, and many died. The stories Phil told us about some of the operations that took place in this house are not for the squeamish and there are actual faint blood stains engrained in the main level hallway floor.

Of course the house is haunted, and a paranormal investigative team from Pennsylvania has visited the house on more than one occasion. It has been speculated that the house has at least three independent hauntings. One stems from Benedict, a child who lived in the house in the early 19th Century but was locked away for most of his life in the attic for being "socially undesirable" (he was mildly retarded).

The staircase leading up to the attic:

Other incidents have occured in the parlor room where many wine tastings are held. In fact the winery dog Buddy is a beagle and border collie mix; those dogs are usually feisty and friendly. But Buddy was high strung and actually growled at us a few times during our visit. Phil explained that Buddy tends to get edgy if he spends too much time in the house.

The parlor and Buddy:

We didn't expect to get a ghost tour during our visit, but it was fascinating. And the wine wasn't too shabby either. The family does not live in the house (for obvious reasons), and to date they have no plans to offer a Bed and a Breakfast inside Valerie Hill (for the daring or skeptical guests). We mentioned the idea to Phil, who pondered it carefully. Maybe some day......

In the meantime, enjoy this historic location with delicious wine.

Valerie Hill Vineyard

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