We took to the hills this weekend for an epic wine-tasting adventure that brought us to five local vineyards in one day. Virginia wine is growing at a fantastic pace right now, so the industry is diverse and confused and there is still no “right” way to do it. Lucky for us as travelers and customers, we get to sample wine made from a range of grapes that aren’t normally found on grocery store shelves, in magnificent estate houses or humble tasting rooms, poured by directors of hospitality or the vineyard owners themselves.
Tip for visiting a lot of wineries in one day: You don’t have to swallow. You shouldn’t get much wine per pour anyway, and you don’t need very much just to have a taste. There’s no need to be acting like the tasting room is a mosh pit by 5 p.m. because you can’t find your knees.
King Family Vineyards
Our tour of King Family Vineyards was one of the most personal we’ve enjoyed so far, so it was the perfect star to a long day. The tasting room was cozy, done up like a hunting lodge decorated by . When we got there at noon, one of the bars was already well-surrounded by customers, and by the time we finished our tour, a big group had taken over the coffee table and piled it up with all the fixings for an indoor picnic, perfect for an unseasonably warm January day. We enjoyed their wines so much we had trouble choosing our souvenir, but ended up getting their port-style Seven (2009) because we liked the fortified wine as much as the unique bottle. We’re most excited about coming back for the free polo matches they host ever Sunday after Memorial Day. Our tour guide described it as “a party like tailgating, but different.” I love horses and we both love wine, so I can’t think of a better way to spend a Sunday afternoon.
After enjoying their 2010 Viognier at home, we were really excited to get to White Hall Vineyards. Their tasting room was elegant and the grounds were beautiful. Our tour itself was pretty standard, but the wines were just as amazing as the reception was unremarkable. We left with a bottle of the 2006 Edichi, a port-style wine positioned as a dessert wine, and vowed to buy the sold-out Viognier wherever we see it in town.
To be honest, we wouldn’t have even made it to the recently-opened Stinson Vineyards if our tour guide at King Family hadn’t been so generous as to recommend the Turk Mountain Vineyards table wine sold there. Since it was almost right next to White Hall, there was no reason not to stop. And I’m so glad we did. The ambience in the tasting room was as comfy as a downtown deli. The owner himself was pouring and I am pretty sure the lovely ladies on either side of him were his wife and daughter. Even the dog was helping out, greeting customers as they walked in. We really liked everything there, but were sold on the Turk Mountain petit verdot (Afton Rouge 2010) because of its overwhelming specialness. This is kind of winery that I get most excited about visiting: A “reconverted garage winery”/”family-run boutique vineyard”, the tasting room just opened in July, but they are already making a name for themselves. It’s not the kind of place you would consider for a wedding venue, but if you want good wine made by someone who gives a shit, stop in.
We enjoyed everything here except the actual experience. It was late afternoon by the time we arrived, and everyone else that had hit the wine trails that day had hit it pretty hard, and there’s nothing like a herd of drunk and pretentious winos to make wine tasting unpleasant. Still, we suffered through and our pourer remained pleasant and unflappable even as he simultaneously led five groups through the tasting menu. We went for the easy to enjoy Vin Blanc since we already had a couple of reds and we weren’t feeling the Chardonnays.
This place was a joke, but to be fair, we’d been warned before we went there that we should go just to experience what a joke it was. Buddy tried to sell us on the overpriced tasting (everything else was from $5-$10 and two of the wineries we’d visited included glasses in the price) by telling us that every sample was at least two ounces, which was a lot more than we’d get anywhere else. Considering we were on a wine trail and not a bar crawl, I was not impressed. My first instinct was to run back out the door we’d come in, but in the end, we ordered two different tastings to share.
Maybe it was all the other wine we’d been drinking, but the little plastic ice cream cone cups of wine we were served just made us laugh. We’d spent all day carefully swirling, sniffing and sipping our wines, but here the only thing we could do was try not to drop our silly cups. Honestly, I was embarrassed for the tasting room manager. To make matters worse, while I’d enjoyed my three sparkling wines, my partner had opted for what turned out to be three of their lesser varieties and we were really dissatisfied. Ultimately, however they were the only vineyard we’d visited with a tasting menu printed in color, and that’s what really counts.
After having had such good wine everywhere else, it was a bummer to end on a bad note, but we salvaged the evening with dinner at Peter Chang’s China Grill. We ordered mostly from the appetizer and snack menu so we could try as many different dishes as possible without spending a small fortune on what would end up as takeout, but we really enjoyed the meal. Except for the soup dumplings/小笼包. Those were really disappointing. But still, I am definitely going to have to make some lamb skewers for dinner one day day soon.
|As tasty as I remembered them from Shanghai,
but with less fat and about ten times as expensive.
What did you do this weekend? How was the weather where you live?