Saturday, October 15, 2016

The road to Winchester: Part 2

Continuing in our series of the wineries on the road to Winchester....we look at U.S. route 50, which runs 3,000 miles from Ocean City, Maryland, to Sacramento, California (and if you want to experience a honeymoon like no other, take a two week road trip from Ocean City to Sacramento, and stay on route 50 the entire way).

There are a few wineries that dot route 50 on the way to Winchester, mainly near the tourist trap town (and AVA) of Middleburg, and the less touristy, quaint town of Upperville, to the west of Middleburg. Between Upperville and Winchester, there are currently no wineries, although at the rate the wineries are opening in the Commonwealth, especially northern Virginia, that could easily change in a matter of months.

There are 5 wineries in the Middleburg/Upperville "micro"plex......we recently visited three of them.

1. 50West Vineyards
What better way to start the tour of route 50 wineries than a stop at a winery named for the direction of route 50 it lies on (you make a right turn into the property while traveling westbound on route 50)? 50West is the sister property to Sunset Hills Vineyard near Purcellville, and we enjoy the lower key scene here compared to the busier atmosphere of Sunset Hills. As this property is newer (recently taken over from the previous owner - Leaves of Grass Winery - which was the subject of an older post), most of their wines are from Sunset Hills. However our recent visit included tastings of wines on the new 50West label. Of those offerings, which included Chambourcin and Chardonnay, we went for the Cuvee, with its delicate black currant and mild spice notes.

The tasting building at 50West is deceptive. It may look small on the outside, but there are two levels (the second level available for large events, or guests, if there are no events occurring).

Second level of the 50West tasting building:

Their location is up a hill, which means nice views of the Blue Ridge foothills. You will occasionally see a vehicle driving down route 50, but they are not distracting. Realizing the quality control the Sunset Hills crew employ for their wines, we expect some great things from 50West. If their recent 50West label releases are any indication, they are well on their way.

2. Cana Vineyards
A few miles westbound on route 50 takes us to Cana Vineyards, on the same side of the road as 50West, and also situated on a bluff. This spot is larger, and typically more lively, than the other wineries in the Middleburg area. This winery offers several varietals, using their own grapes grown on the property, as well as grapes from other Virginia locations. The tasting process is assembly-line like, not as personable as other nearby locations, but given how popular the winery is, this process is best for efficiency. Cana offers abundant deck and patio tables, as well as picnic tables scattered throughout the property. Our favorites of their vast list of offerings were the crisp Riesling, with citrus notes, and the smooth, light peppery Cab Franc.

View from the deck at Cana:

Cana is a favorite for weddings and other big events, so get there early!

3. Boxwood Winery
Boxwood is a well-known presence in the Virginia wine scene; they've been making wine here for nearly 10 years, and until recently, the tasting room was open by appointment only. Boxwood also operates tasting rooms in Reston Town Center and National Harbor, and we've tried their wines at these other locations in the past. A recent visit to Boxwood was lower-key than both 50West and Cana, and more "California" in vibe - an impressive tasting building, a patio that brushes up to the vineyards, and extremely sophisticated reds (no whites, although they do offer a rosé). Considering how thoughtful these reds are, we were pleasantly surprised to find the wine prices to be lower than many of this winery's neighbors. Red blends vs. straight varietals are the order of business at Boxwood. Of these blends, Trellis (Merlot, Cab Sauv, Cab Franc, Petit Verdot; a classic Meritage-type blend) was our favorite, bold yet easy to drink, with a blast of black cherry notes.

The patio and entrance to Boxwood Winery:

These wineries will give your guests who want to sample VAVINO three unique Virginia winery experiences, and you won't have to drive very far for them.

Additional wineries we did not hit on our recent trip, but are highly recommended: Greenhill Winery and Chrysalis Vineyards, which has a new tasting room.