Saturday, July 19, 2014

A Creek Runs Through It (Part II)

Continuing with our creek/stream/river running through it theme, we visit another creekside location, this one a little closer to home base (Washington DC suburbs...): Creek's Edge Winery, in north Loudoun County near the town of Lovettsville.

We have been waiting for Creek's Edge to open its doors for nearly a year. They were listed prematurely in last year's Virginia Winery Map, and a visit to the winery last fall was met with a disappointing chain across their driveway and an "opening soon" sign.

The creek in the winery's namesake is Catoctin Creek, which flows through the county before emptying out into the nearby Potomac. The creek goes through a tiny historic village adjacent to the winery property: Taylorstown. Currently Taylorstown is made up of narrow, hilly roads (adored by cyclists), and an old general store. Creek's Edge's owners Tedd and Dana Durden, two more examples of former DC-area "office jockeys" who craved an outdoor-based business in Loudoun County's booming agricultural industry, have plans to acquire, renovate, and re-open this general store, making Taylorstown a go-to spot for curio shopping and wine imbibing, similar to the now hip (and larger) village of Hillsboro in the western part of the county.

The driveway, "opening soon" chain now removed, meanders to the winery grounds and once you arrive, you instantly forget you're in highly populated Loudoun County. One complaint we have about some wineries in the county (even the best wineries in the county) is the presence of multi million dollar mansions (don't call them, ahem, "McMansions"). You see these grand estates while enjoying a glass or bottle of wine. Because of this, the fact that you're in densely populated Northern Virginia is ever-present. This is not the case at Creek's Edge. The tasting building (built by Tedd, whose background is in the construction business) resembles a lodge with an adjoining silo. This building sits on an incline between the parking lot and the sloping vineyards. And surrounding the property: Nothing but trees. Granted, we visited in the summer, in full foliage; a trip in the winter may reveal some huge houses behind the trees.

Due to the sloping vineyards, gravity flow is the name of the game here. Their varietals include Chambourcin, Pinot Gris, Merlot, and Cabernet Sauvignon. Ben Renshaw, one of the Loudoun County wine pioneers (along with Doug Fabbioli, Mark and Vicki Fedor, Stephen Mackey, and Clyde Housel), is assisting Creek's Edge with perfecting their craft. Because of Renshaw's expertise, the wines here are mature and complex, despite the newness of the winery.

Probably due to Renshaw's influence, we view Creek's Edge as more of a red wine destination. The Merlot, particularly their 2009, was our all-around favorite; medium bodied yet intense, and not somewhat watery due to the rainy harvest seasons that have plagued Virginia over the last few years. We also enjoyed their Cab Sauv, slightly lighter style with notes of plum and licorice.

As for the whites, the crisp Vidal Blanc (touch of sweetness) and Pinot Gris (touch of dandelion) should satisfy the white fans in your group.

Every time we visit a new winery, we are astounded how unique the tasting building is. Creek's Edge boasts one of the most innovative tasting rooms we've seen; that must be due to Tedd's background. The Amish-built building is appointed with wood - wood, wood, everywhere. The best noise-absorbing material is wood. There is a fireplace for colder days, and the entire room resembles a wine chalet you'd find in the Rocky Mountains. The highlight of the tasting room, something that has already provided hundreds of photo ops (the Notebook included), is the silo. A spiral staircase leads from the tasting room both up and down the silo. Go up, to a loft space that could be a future wine club member area. Go down, to enjoy a bottle at the table under the silo, or visit the barrel room. Plenty of tasting rooms are housed in barns (actual restored barns, or mock barns) - this is especially true in Loudoun County. But we have never enjoyed great wine while looking up at the inside of a farm silo before until we visited Creek's Edge.

The silo from outside:

The silo from inside (looking down):

From the loft:

The winery also offers a nicely appointed deck overlooking the property and the woods. The Notebook pretty much had the place to ourselves when we visited, but word has gotten out. Enjoy Creek's Edge this weekend!

Winery URL:

Friday, July 4, 2014

Red, White and....Pink

Happy July 4th!

What better way to celebrate Independence Day than with several bottles of red, white and (sitting in for blue) pink? One of these days, we'll come across a blue wine during our drunken explorations of Virginia's vinos, but until then.....

We toast the Nation's Independence with a favorite from these three colors, and hope you toast with us.


Cabernet Franc, Meritage, Merlot, Malbec, Chambourcin, Norton, Petit Verdot, Tannat, Syrah, table many to choose from in the state. Nearly every winery in Virginia offers a Cabernet Franc, Chambourcin and Petit Verdot are clipping at Cab Franc's heels as the signature red for the state. So, we'll go with something more unique this year: Touriga Nacional. High tannins and notes of blackberry, black cherry and vanilla characterize this unusual varietal, with origins in Portugal. Because of its home country, Touriga is used for blending in ports. This is a hardy wine that will sit on your rack nicely for several years, but tonight we're breaking it out. This touriga is from Grayhaven Winery, between Richmond and Charlottesville off I-64.


Continuing with the July 4th traditional of imbibing with unusual wines (for Virginia), we next uncork Chardonel, with its off-dry and fruity notes is a perfect chilled summer wine. Chardonel, as the name indicates, is a cross of Chardonnay and Seyval, and has its origins at Cornell University. Oddly enough, this wine is relatively scarce in Finger Lakes tasting rooms. The grape thrives in slightly more humid climates, so Virginia (as well as Missouri, another state that excels with Chardonel) is a natural fit. Notes of citrus and fig dominate the typical Chardonel, and the wine is a perfect match with crab dishes. Our Chardonel is from The Hague Winery, in Virginia's Northern Neck.


Filling in for Mr. Blue is Mr. Pink, and "pink wine" can only mean one thing: Rosé. Virginia is working valiantly to build credibility with rosé. Virginia's rosés are not Kool Aid sweet "white zins" that were popular cheap wines in our college years. These are some dry (some extremely dry) white wines that happen to be pink in color, because the grape skins were left on the grapes during the processing. There are many wineries in the Commonwealth that offer stellar rosés; our favorites include
North Gate Vineyards, near Purcellville in Loudoun county; Fabbioli Cellars, also in Loudoun county (off route 15, north of Leesburg); and
Flying Fox Vineyard, southwest of Charlottesville in Nelson County.
This year, we celebrate with a dry rosé from Glen Manor Vineyards, near Front Royal and the entrance to Skyline Drive. Blended with Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon, this pink starts with a burst of red fruit and finishes crisp and dry. Their 2013 Morales Rosé is the best rosé we've had all year, although the offerings from the other aforementioned wineries are very close runners-up.

We hope you uncork (or unscrew) some of Virginia's best this 4th while taking breaks from igniting your Chinese fountains, sparklers, snakes and glow worms. Cheers!