Friday, July 30, 2010

Winery Spotlight: Fabbioli Cellars (7/30/10)

Anyone familiar with the Virginia wine industry, particularly the northern Virginia wine industry, will be familiar with the name Fabbioli. Doug Fabbioli is one of the Godfathers of Virginia wine, and opened his earth-friendly tasting room a few years ago off U.S. Highway 15, north of Leesburg. The views from his tasting room (vineyards mixed with typical Loudoun county McMansions) may not be as spectacular as Fox Meadow's, but the wine certainly is.

This is a red wine place. Virginia may be best known for its whites, but Doug Fabbioli is doing some great things with red - Cab Franc and Chambourcin, in particular. Despite his limited production, Total Wine sells several of his reds. But a trip to his small, but always hopping, tasting room is a treat. The pourers are chatty and provide history lessons to go with the wine tastings. Doug himself is usually onsite. Last fall, he dyed his beard blue on the afternoon we visited (Halloween weekend). He's an entertaining fellow, and his passion for the industry is infectious. In addition to growing grapes and making wine here, he consults with other nearby wineries (Notaviva, Sunset Hills and Hiddencroft), and writes a column for the free newspaper, The Old Town Crier.

He also has a few fruit wines that are extremely popular, especially for the chocolate lover crowd: A raspberry Merlot and a blackberry. Perhaps the most unusual in his collection is a pear wine which comes billed as an aperitif.

You get the feeling you are at a working winery at Fabbioli. No live bands, no dog parks....this is a winery through and through. He has a few picnic tables and a fire pit that works perfectly on cool evenings as well as fall and spring days. As for the more extreme months, this winery is better for tasting, buying a few bottles, and moving on to another Loudoun spot, due to the lack of indoor picnic areas.

Must tries: Chambourcin, Rosa Luna (a terrific dry rose), Tre Sorélle
(a blend of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Petite Verdot) and the raspberry Merlot.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Winery Spotlight: Fox Meadow Winery (7/27/10)

The fox seems to be Virginia's unofficial mascot--three wineries in the state are named after the curious forest critter, and a new winery in Loudoun County (Twin Oaks Tavern) features Mr. Fox on their labels. Perched on a mountainside ("looking down on the mountains" is their motto at Fox Meadow) is a great, family-run spot that provides ample opportunties for "daycations," especially for those "lucky" residents living inside the Beltway.

Take I-66 westbound (or, better yet, state highway 55, which runs parallel with 66 and is what we call "the Virginia Wine Highway") to exit 18, and follow Freezeland Road up (and we mean up...prepare for an incline) to Fox Meadow's modern yet comfortable tasting room. The owners, Dan and Cheryl, may be there to guide you through a very informative but lowkey tasting, or one of the friendly staff members (Tamara is our favorite) may be on hand.

Their wines are impressive. The standouts are the Syrah and one of the best reds in the state, a blend called Le Renard Rouge. Their whites are crisp and extremely good too. They are the only Virginia winery we've been to that offers both a Pinot Gris and a Pinot Grigio. The former is a bit sweeter; the latter drier, but both tasty. They do not offer a Viognier, and they explained that the altitude of the vineyards may not produce an above-average, or even average, Viognier. They have intense quality controls and notify their devoted customers and Wine Club members if something "went wrong" during a particular bottling. I find the admission of a "learning curve" by a winemaker to be refreshing. Both Sunset Hills Winery and Barrel Oak Winery have been upfront about their "experiments." Some experiments produce great wine (as in the case of Le Renard Rouge). Others are, well, learning curves.

The tastings at Fox Meadow are paired with foods - mainly cheeses (locally made cheeses---an A+ for that touch). But in one case, they pair the wine with a Rice Krispy treat (something the owners discovered when visiting a California winery).
White wine and a marshmallow treat--who would've thought? But it worked.

They have ample seats inside and outside. Fox Meadow has a large deck, a new gazebo, and several picnic tables under trees, near the vineyards. They also have indoor tables, and Wine Club members have use of an additional room with a cozy gas stove for colder days.

A trip to Front Royal is not complete without a jaunt up Freezeland Road to Fox Meadow. Their wines are served at Houlihan's in Front Royal as well. We bumped into the owners at Houlihan's once - they were drinking beer. Proof that even those surrounded by excellent wine every day of the week need to branch out every now and then too!

Friday, July 2, 2010