Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Goodbye to Three Winery Friends

The Notebook was saddened to hear about the recent closures of three VAVINO favorites: Hume Winery, Unicorn Winery, and Wintergreen Winery. The reasons behind the closures are not certain based on our research, but we gathered they relate to owners yearning to retire, and/or the business was more intensive and costly than the owners (or new owners) imagined.

As anyone familiar with the industry in the Commonwealth can tell you, making a lucrative business out of grape growing in Virginia is not the sure-fire recipe for success as it may be in California (that is, when drought and earthquakes do not interfere with growing), Oregon, Australia, or France. Mother nature plays a big part, as do all variety of animal life (mammals, birds, and insects), fickle patrons, bottling and distribution costs, and so on.

Hume Winery was the youngest of the three. They opened in 2011, what planned to be a side project for the owners. However we understand the owners' day jobs increased in intensity. What was meant to be a weekend hobby turned out to be burdensome and costly. Assistance from other wineries was appreciated, and their location in the Flint Hill/Front Royal area of Northern Virginia was striking (especially when lightning struck on this very warm summer day in 2012):

The tasting room was a restored cabin that provided an intimate experience. With a little help from wineries such as Breaux, Hume was crafting fine wines from the time they opened their door to their last vintage.

One of the most memorable experiences the Notebook had at Hume was a crazy hailstorm during the summer of 2012. The storm clouds in the photos above welcomed us, and twenty minutes later the skies opened up. We captured the event on film--click here to check it out.

Not every visit was as unstable:

Hume Winery will be missed. Fortunately for those who live in this area of the Blue Ridge foothills, a winery opened last year close to Hume to fill the gap left with Hume's closing: Winding Road Cellars.

Unicorn Winery was a perennial favorite of the blogmasters. Located about five minutes from busy route 211 between Warrenton and Washington, VA. Several years ago, new owners acquired Unicorn and immediately made improvements to the property, and the wine. A fountain was installed in the pond on the property, which was previously peaceful but rather lily pad and algae clogged. More picnic tables were added along the shore of the pond, and down the hill on the banks of the Rappahannock River. The wine improved as well, particularly the Meritage blend. And we also enjoyed the visits from Franc, their mellow, prize-winning Schnauzer.

Shots from Unicorn over the years:

Unicorn frequently paired up with other wineries, such as Hartwood near Fredericksburg, for mini festivals on their property. Despite being close to a busy U.S. highway, Unicorn was a true best kept secret; a low key alternative to the busier, more bustling wineries further down the highway.

Wintergreen Winery was located in Nelson County, south of Waynesboro, near the entrance to the Wintergreen Resort. Like Unicorn, Wintergreen was one of the Virginia originals; about 15 new wineries (and a few breweries) have sprung up in Nelson Country over the last ten years, but the Notebook always found our way back to Wintergreen, for the wine, the gracious (and funny) hosts and hostesses, and the view.....

Circa 2004 (original Wintergreen logo sign):

Wintergreen Winery had an irresistible picnic area, where you could hear the gentle rapids of the Rockfish River. Rockfish is a familiar name to anyone familiar with the TV show The Waltons. Earl Hamner, the real "John Boy," grew up in the area (the Waltons Museum is about 20 minutes away from Wintergreen). He visited the winery on occasion to give informal talks and sign books.

Circa 2009, updated logo sign:

Every time the bloggers would bring friends to Wintergreen, we would go for the Black Rock Red, kick back by the river, and it seemed as if we were melting into the landscape that day.

We sincerely wish the former owners of Hume, Unicorn, and Wintergreen all the best in their future endeavors. You will be missed.

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