As we usher in another year of hopping through Virginia's finest, we embark on a series of blog entries focusing on (relatively) new wineries that have sprung up over the past 12 to 18 months. Some of these locations have been listed in the past two annual Virginia Winery maps; others were open "by appointment" only, and just recently established regular business hours.
As we await the publication of this year's Virginia winery map, which will most definitely list new wineries to explore in the coming year, we focus on some spots that have been open for some time now.
Winding Road Cellars
A few weeks before Christmas, we loaded up several Beatles CDs and decided to pay a visit to a few favorites around Front Royal, including some new spots. As we passed Philip Carter Winery on the left, traveling near the village of Hume, we inserted the Let it Be album and turned left into Winding Road Cellars. The road leading to the tasting building was not exactly long, but it was a bit winding, as the gravel driveway led us down the incline to a tasteful holiday-decorated building.
We were greeted by one of the owners, who seemed a bit reserved at first but friendly. She led us through a tasting including the requisite bites of chocolate to pair with the wines. Although they have promise, we don't think Winding Road is quite there yet, compared to other mainstays in the area like Philip Carter, Chateau O'Brien and Fox Meadow Winery (although the wines were all decent to good.) Sometimes it takes newer wineries a few years to find their way, to determine what grows best in the vineyards, as the soil in the Commonwealth is so varied from region to region. We felt the same way about two other wineries near Winding Road, which opened in 2011 and have since locked into varietals that they're confident in creating: Cobbler Mountain Cellars and Capitol Vineyards.
The tasting included two off-sweet styles that would work well with extremely spicy dishes like spiced crab dip or Thai food: Vidal Blanc and Semi-Sweet Chambourcin. Both styles are favorites of wine "newbies," so Winding Road will do well with the scores of young people who descend on the winery scene throughout the year (and not just in the spring, summer, and fall anymore...) The Vidal Blanc was a touch too sweet for us, with some honey notes, but would work well with the aforementioned foods.
The 2010 Chardonnay was quite good, offering notes of butterscotch. The big guns were their reds, all of which have potential: Chambourcin (regular, not semi-sweet), Cab Sauv and Cab Franc. We understand that the owners are going to grow styles quite unusual to this part of Virginia, namely Pinot Noir and Riesling, because "my husband is a little crazy" (exact quote from his wife, who led us through the tasting with dry wit).
The interior of the tasting building is mostly wood, which is perfect for sound absorption. Although there was not a live band when we visited (thankfully), we understand from their website that bands do perform here. At least the wood will buffer some of the sound, unless the band is acoustic (and acoustic bands get a pass from us; they actually work very well in a tasting room).
Outside, a deck overlooks the large pond (bordering lake in its size). We asked about the decrepit little boathouse on the pond's shore, and she told us the previous owners of the land kept canoes and kayaks (and even a small sailboat) in the boathouse. The boathouse looks like a true fixer-upper and we envision another seating area or tasting room in that location.
All in all, Winding Road Cellars is a solid addition to the region. We were sad to hear Hume Vineyards, which also opened in 2011, closed its doors last year, due to a myriad of issues. We visited Hume several years ago during a crazy mid summer storm and documented the event (click here).
Some pix to get you inspired for a long and winding afternoon at this winery:
Additional photos - during this pre-Christmas jaunt, we visited a few other spots in the area. As it was a Friday before Christmas week, we had the normally very bustling Rappahannock Cellars almost to ourselves!
And on a less positive note, we pulled in to the infamous Oasis Vineyards, to look at their sad property. These vines will have to be completely pulled up and the soil turned over, before new vines can be planted. This would explain why the nearby wineries are not interested in this land. It's such a sad story - the original owner made such fine wine, but he turned the operation over to his son, who was more interested in entertaining celebrities, operating a limo business, and crashing White House galas: