I’ve visited a ton of Virginia wineries over the years. I’m gradually revisiting favorites, not so favorites, and new wineries so I can share the experience. According to Virginiawine.org, there are over 300 wineries in Virginia. Visiting all of them is starting to sound like Mission Impossible. But I’ll do my best.
My favorite time to visit Virginia wineries is smack dab in the middle of the week. Why? Because there are no crowds! I don’t have to share wine tasting space with a platoon of drunk bridesmaids who just stumbled out of a Hummer limo! My husband and I used to visit Virginia wineries all the time on the weekends. Not anymore. Virginia wineries have been discovered . . . and they can be über-crowded on the weekends (great for the wineries, not great if you don’t like crowds). I realize not everyone can slip away to visit a winery during the middle of the week, but I consider it one of the perks of being a stay-at-home mom. Plus, I get to call it continuing education.
Earlier this week, my girlfriend and I drove out to Paradise Springs Winery in Clifton, Virginia. Neither of us had been there before . . . uncharted territory!
Here’s the tasting room. Even on a cold and rainy Tuesday, this says, “Come in, taste our wines, and sit a spell!”
And here’s the wine tasting bar . . . I love the stone work and warm, wood-paneled walls. And I love the wine barrel tables with pub stools!
Ahhh . . . see what I mean about the crowds? I’m seeing more and more of these types of signs showing up in Virginia wineries.
There’s a beautiful, glass-enclosed barrel room that serves as the centerpiece of the tasting room:
I’ve never seen pink bands on a barrel before . . . points for pizazz!
On to the wines! We belly up to the bar and there’s a $10 tasting fee. And it’s not refunded with purchase. Sigh. And I don’t get to keep the tasting glass. Well, I can keep it if I want to pay an additional $2. The last thing I want is another blasted winery tasting glass, so I wouldn’t take it with me even if it was “free”, but the extra $2 on top of the $10 tasting fee feels a little chaffing.
2011 Chardonnay — Barrel aged “sur-lie” (with a portion of the dead/spent yeast remaining in contact with the wine) in lightly toasted French Oak for 8 months. A leaner, more Burgundian style Chardonnay, as opposed to so many of the plush, oak-marinated New World examples. I definitely get a burst of green apple flavor. Lemon citrus on the back end. A good, not great wine. $29.
2011 Viognier — Viognier is what Virginia does best. I’m petitioning the Virginia Board of State Slogans to change Virginia’s slogan from Virginia is for Lovers to Virginia is for Viognier. Seriously. We should get t-shirts made. Viognier just works here. The Paradise Springs Viognier is simultaneously floral and fruity. Like a vase of apricots. It’s lacking some of the depth and softness I expect in Viognier, though. Not the best Virginia Viognier I’ve ever had, but still a lovely expression of Virginia terroir. $29.
2011 Petit Manseng — This wine was the star of the visit for me. The tasting bar guy told us that Petit Manseng works particularly well in Virginia terroir because it grows in loose clusters and tolerates our Virginia humidity. I wish I could figure out a way to tolerate Virginia humidity. Refreshingly dry in style . . . I loved it. Pear, pear, pear. I took a bottle home with me. Very good, approaching excellent. $27.
2011 Sommet Blanc — A blend of 43% Petit Manseng, 31% Traminette, and 26% Riesling. Ever so slightly sweet, but with enough acidity to keep it from being cloying (and annoying). I see visions of this on my patio this summer. Bought a bottle of this, too. Very Good. $23.
2011 Nana’s Rosé — A dry Rosé . . . in Virgnia. Color me surprised. And delighted. Bottled in a tall magnum format for $21. Loaded with grapefruit flavors. A citrus rind bitterness on the back end was pulling my focus a little, but overall a good, solid Rosé.
Vino Caveat: My relationship with Virginia red wines is a strained one. I really struggle with Virginia red wines. I don’t want to, but I do. I’ve found a handful of VA red wines that I enjoy, but it’s a tiny handful. Mostly, I find VA red wines to be green and aggressive. Like a banana that you’re really looking forward to eating, and it’s still a little too green, but you eat it anyway and then . . . disappointment.
2011 Tannat — Tastes way too young to be out of the barrel, let alone out of the bottle. Very aggressive, even angry, up front. Reminds me of a stewed raspberry on asphalt. Would love to revisit this wine after it’s had a few years to relax, and then see what it’s up to. But for now, it’s unapproachable for me. $32.
2011 Meritage — 31% Cabernet Franc, 29% Petit Verdot, 29% Cabernet Sauvignon, 14% Malbec. Again, green and aggressive up front. Smells like a horse barn on a summer day. That’s not always a bad thing, but without the fruit to soften that blow, it’s distracting. Completely OK, but I wouldn’t spend $35 to take it home with me.
2011 Norton — Ah, Norton. Virginia’s native grape. And my personal I’m-just-not-that-into-you grape. The nose reminds me of a cigar store, which I like. But it tastes like a smoky grape jelly. I keep trying to find a Norton I like. I’ll keep looking. $28.
On the way out, we snapped a couple of pictures of the circa 1810 log cabin on the property. The cabin served as the original tasting room until the larger more modern facility was complete. It makes me want to know more about the history of this wedge of land that’s now home to a winery. After all, we’re in Virginia, and you can hardly go an acre in any direction without running into some kind of Civil War ghost!
Overall, a great winery visit. A beautiful and peaceful setting, tucked into the hive of activity that is Fairfax County. An equally beautiful tasting room, with friendly and knowledgeable tasting room staff. The property has lots of room for picnics inside and out. And some impressive wines, too!