Wednesday, December 4, 2013

NEW WINERY SPOTLIGHT 6: THE BARNS AT HAMILTON STATION

The Notebook confesses that The Barns at Hamilton Station Vineyards is not exactly new, especially since wineries in Loudoun County are opening faster than we can keep track of. However we thought for the past two years that The Barns (as they like to be called) was an offshoot of nearby Hunters Run Wine Barn, partially due to its name. We also knew that Hunters Run's owners, Geri and Greg Nolan, were planning to expand their location, so color us confused.

The Barns, like Hunters Run, is technically located in the small town of Hamilton, which has a distinctive yet small "downtown" that straddles business route 7 between Leesburg and Purcellville. Most folks skip the business route in favor of the more familiar bypass, but there are some charming old homes in Hamilton. Postal codes are wacky in Loudoun County. Notaviva Vineyards, a mere 2 miles from the West Virginia border, is located in Purcellville, according to the post office. However the downtown of Purcellville is about 15 miles away from Notaviva. Sunset Hills Vineyards, which is very close to the Hamilton-listed Barns at Hamilton Station, also has a Purcellville address. One day we'd like to see a historic map of the county to see how these town limits appeared; probably similar to the large "townships" found in other states like Pennsylvania (townships are more like mini counties than traditional towns).

Enough geography....on to the location, and the wine. The Barns at Hamilton Station is, big surprise, located inside a barn, like so many wineries in the county. As the case with nearby Sunset Hills Vineyards and Willowcroft, the barn has been lovingly restored, and the builders incorporated artifacts found scattered around the pre-restoration barn (such as old license plates and rusty tools) into the tasting room d├ęcor. While the barn at Sunset Hills received a rather slick upgrade courtesy of crafty Amish carpenters, the barn at Barns at Hamilton Station retains more ruggedness. Plus, a gas fireplace (real wood fire being understandably too hazardous). Wood naturally absorbs sound, so even when the location gets crowded (and the inevitable live band is playing), you can still hear your table's conversation. Needless to say, the interior of The Barns works wonders during the cold months:

The Barn has a lower level that is rented for events (there was a wedding supply "Expo Hall" type exhibit going on the day we visited). Wedding supplies and winery....sounds like a match made in heaven. If there is an event in this space, the parking lot of the Barns at Hamilton Station may look busier than the tasting room itself is, so don't let that discourage you from visiting the winery.

The wine offerings are fairly typical of what you would find in Virginia: Viognier, with notes of apricot and fig; Chardonnay, slightly oaked and a bit more complex than other Chardonnays found in the area; Cab Franc, a bit lighter than other Francs offering notes of cherry; Merlot, a bit light and with a nice hint of oak. Nothing truly remarkable (yet...) about these wines but all good and satisfying. This is a new location and their prices are more competitive than other new wineries, which frequently price their wines on the high side ($25 and up) to make up for initial expenses. You can get away with that pricing in "recession proof" Northern Virginia, so we were pleased with The Barns' decision to keep prices a little lower (however no bottle is less than $20).

Since this winery is in Northern Virginia, expect to wait for a tasting. This is becoming the norm in the area, unless you get out to winery country early (arrive by opening time, 11 AM for most locations). Despite the number of new wineries in Loudoun County, the tasting rooms are always hopping. And Loudoun County now unfortunately suffers from "winery gridlock" on the roads, particularly route 9 (Charles Town Pike) heading from route 7 towards Harpers Ferry and Charles Town, where many wineries dot the highway. The Barns compensates for their busy factor by offering an ancillary tasting table, created with flat piece of wood and two barrels, as well as their regular tasting bar on busy days.

Outside, a deck, with a view of an unusual shaped pond, lets you forget you're only 8 minutes from downtown Leesburg. We were happy to see no McMansions in sight, which is becoming rare for wineries in the county. With such close proximity to the DC area, The Barns make a terrific all-day getaway, and if you crave other wineries, the aforementioned Hunters Run Wine Barn and Sunset Hills Winery are only a few minutes away (relatively speaking, depending on the traffic on route 9....).

The tasting barn at The Barns. Firepits await you outside, but arrive early to grab one:

The deck at The Barns:

Link for winery:
Barns at Hamilton Station

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