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Virginia wineries and wines

Does anyone have a favorite Virgina wine? I've lived in this area for four years now, and have visited a handful of vineyards, tried some great and some terrible wines, and am curious to know what other hounds think? What are your favorite vinyards for their wine? Favorite vineyards to visit? Which Virginia wines do you like/love the most? Thanks!

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  1. I've had some very good "late harvest" dessert wines at Gray Ghost, http://www.virginiawines.org/wineries.... Oasis Winery also had some interesting (in a very good sense) sparklers, plus some nice still wines, http://www.virginiawines.org/wineries.... There were several other wineries that were worth the drive, with the only exception being Meredyth Vineyards. I found the wines showing poorly, and the owner a bit more than eccentric.

    Unfortunately, we only had two half-days and meeting before and after in DC, so we missed most of the state. I was pleasently surprised at the wines that we found.


    1. julialimei - can you post your favorites (and must-avoids)? the in-laws just moved to the northern neck of virginia, so although we haven't made it out to any wineries yet, we're starting a list of candidates. thanks!

      1 Reply
      1. re: thelambchop

        I agree with Bob W that VA whites tend to be better than VA reds (and in general, I'm more of a red person, though VA is slowly changing that).

        As for specifics, I haven't actually been to Barboursville, but I have bought their Cabernet Franc several times from a local store, and have really loved it. I visited Chrysalis (which is a beautiful place to visit--perfect for a picnic and leisurely stroll) and enjoyed their "Sarah's Patio Red"--it's a light red wine best served chilled and very refreshing. I bought 3 bottles, and while most of it was great, one bottle was definitely a bit off...I wish I could put my finger on exactly why.

        For whites, I really liked the viognier and "Doukenie" from Windham winery (another lovely place to visit, with very friendly staff and a nice pond).

        I've enjoyed a few nice wines from Grey Ghost, but unfortunately, cannot remember which varietals.

        I visited Naked Mountain not too long ago and enjoyed a few of their chardonnays. I wouldn't recommend visiting the winery, however, because unfortunately, the man pouring for us was not informative or friendly (though the other woman working seemed wonderful) and the grounds are not the most beautiful and not too conducive to walking around or picnicing.

        I had a great tour at Breaux winery, led by pleasant and informative staff, but unfortunately, did not enjoy any of the wines (red or white).

        As far as being a beautiful place to visit, it is hard to beat Hillsborough winery. They are up on a mountain and the views are stunning. The building where they offer tastings feels like a renovated barn and is stunning. The patios around the building are a perfect place to relax and drink a glass of wine! It also looks like the perfect setting for an outdoor wedding. So lovely. Again, the man pouring for us wasn't the most personable, but the other folks pouring seemed great (must be my luck!). They only had 4-5 wines available for tasting, and I thought all of them were good, though none were truly outstanding. Overall, it is a great place to spend a few hours soaking up the sun, enjoying the view, and relaxing.

        That's all I can think of for now, but visit http://www.virginiawines.org/ for info on nearly all of VA's wineries. It also has info on special events being held at the different wineries, and is a good resource for planning trips. I think my next trip will be to Tarara b/c I've heard positive things about their wines, and I read that part of their winery is in a cave!

      2. In the whites, check out the Viognier from Chrysalis (near Middleburg). This grape is doing very well in VA and that winery produces a nice one.

        I think reds are not doing as well in VA. One grape that a lot of wineries are having some success with is Cabernet Franc. Try Jefferson's (I'd say that's one of the best VA wineries for reds.)

        Some very nice fruit wines being made here too. I'd rather have a good peach or pear wine than a crappy grape wine anyday.

        1. I think that Barboursville is the best in Virginia. I went to Horton (which is just down the road from Barboursville) and liked several of its wines a lot but I think that they offer to great a range of wines.

          1. I have suggestion. You may wish to go to http://www.michaelgreenwine.com/ and ask Michael using the "contact me" on the left side of the page.

            Michael has some terrific insights on wine and I think he some special knowledge of Virginia wines. Full disclosure- I neither work for Michael nor the VA wine industry. I have met Michael before and he has a passion for educating people about wine.

            1. I hit a few in SW Virginia about a month ago. Hands down my favorite was Villa Appalacia.

              1. Thanks to everyone for the great suggestions and for getting this discussion started! I'm looking forward to hearing from you again (and from others) as you discover more good (and bad) VA wines! I'll definitely post an update after my next winery trip. Thanks again to all.

                1. I went with a few friends to Tarara over Labor Day weekend. Although it was very crowded, we had a nice time. They have more wines to offer than most of the other vineyards I've been to. As in the past, I found that I liked the whites better overall than the reds (even though I'm more of a red person). One red, that really did pleasantly surprise me was their Wild River Red (a light red, best served chilled). I also liked the Cameo (another light red). For white, I liked the Charval very much. They made a decent Pinot Noir as well. I wish I had sat down to write this right after the trip, b/c the details of each wine are fuzzy in my memory at this point. I strongly disliked either the viogner or the chardonnay...I can't remember which though.

                  Tarara is a great place to visit, and it's easy to make a day of it. They offer pick your own fruit, and have beautiful grounds and trails. I had been super excited about their cave, but have to say I was disappointed that it turned out to be a small, man-made cave, and the "tour" consisted of walking down a short ramp and then walking back out. But it is a fun place to visit overall, and they have an outdoor concert series that seems to be very well-liked. Right down the road, under 5 mins away, are two other wineries (I think Lost Creek and Hidden Brook...or Lost Brook and Hidden Creek) so it would be easy to vist several wineries in one trip. It's a truly lovely area.

                  1. I recently visited Hillsborough with a group of 6 other people. (One of my companions was an executive chef and has quite a taste for fine wine) We all found Hillsborough to be one of our favorite vineyards/wineries in the northern VA area. While all of Hillsborough's wines were fairly good, we especially appreciated their GARNET wine. Aside from recommending the wine, I would highly recommend a visit as the view was spectacular!

                    1. michael shaps (who also makes wine in burgundy that is quite well priced--better so than his VA offerings, even) makes EXCELLENT viognier... horton is another good one. i like barboursville okay, i guess...

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: HeelsSoxHound

                        where can one find michael shaps' wine? Thanks!

                      2. A little history, back in the late 1970's and early 1980's several "farm" wineries were founded in Virgina. Although many of the websites say the largest wineries say they were "founded" by families, some certainly appeared to be corporate run enterprises like Williamsburg, Prince Michel/Rapidan, Oakencroft, Tarara, and Barboursville while others obviously true "sweat-equity" family operations such as Swedenburg, Afton Mountain Vineyards, Chateau Morrisette, Horton, Ingleside, Lake Anna, Loudoun Valley Vineyards, Naked Mountain, Willowcroft, Piedmont, and Meredyth. Many of these smaller family operations got their start selling grapes to larger corporate wineries, then gradually began making their own private label wines. Very tired vinters doubled as tasting room staff -- often adding as much education and and "personality" to the tasting experience as the wines. Sometimes you made fast friends, sometimes you felt rebuffed, occassionally you may have even felt insulted. And, occassionaly something really special happened -- you got to weigh in on decisions such as label designs or were invited to come back to help with the harvest. Altogether, it added up to a uniquely memorable Virginia Wine experience!

                        Some of those family-operated pioneers changed hands -- Piedmont was purchased by a corporation -- or otherwise didn't survive the millenium. (Meredyth suffered the indignation of a second generation's eccentricies that ultimately spelled its demise.)

                        My observation is that the oldest surviving wineries often have the best wines -- a testament to why they have made it 20 or 25 years in the business. That's not to say there are not worthy "newcomers" but there is something notable about the wineries that were pioneers. Some of our favorites include:

                        Swedenburg on Rt. 50 outside Middleburg continues to produce terrific wines in the European style. My favorite is the Chantilly (a white table blend) and the Chardonnay (with butterscotch undertones) has been a top award winner for years. They also make a nice red Pinot, having been leaders in cultivating the grapes locally beginning 20 years ago. It is a family owned winery and the one that took the state shipping ban all the way to the Supreme Court -- and won! So, we all should raise a glass to Juanita Swedenburg! Juanita's gone now but her legacy lives on in her very fine wines.

                        Loudoun Valley Winery -- Hubert Tucker who has wine-making roots in upstate New York brought that expertise and talent to bear off Route 9 outside Leesburg. His wines are terrific and hold up over time. You never open a bottle of Loudoun Valley that disappoints you. And, they are always happy and welcoming when you stop in.

                        Afton Mountain Vineyards -- you will feel welcome when you visit Afton Mountain! They have a nice little shop there, are very friendly and serve some interesting and very nice wines.

                        Horton -- this is another winery that has a pleasant tasting room staff and very nice wines. Plus they sell all sorts of fun stuff like beautiful blown glass stemware. We always buy a selection of wine when we visit. And, we own several glasses from there as well.

                        That's just a few of the well-established ones that we most enjoy.

                        There are others we've never visited personally but have drank the wine at festivals and loved it -- those include Chateau Morrisette, Naked Mountain and Oakencroft.

                        Then there are those were we felt dismissed. Sometimes it's just that they are a very busy, corporate-run shop that's catering to what they perceive to be an "elite" clientele, other times it's just that they are gruff but still want you to pony up you money -- if you taste, you better buy and not just one bottle, either.

                        I won't tell you who gets the most surly award because we didn't buy and never went back. (May be it was an off day.) But, I'll tell you some circumstances. Once a woman at a very small winery way out in the country refused to let me bring our then two year old child in to use the public rest room on the other side of the tasting room. Pointing to a sign that said, "no children allowed in the tasting room" she chased me out even as my spouse stood at the tasting bar waiting for her to pour! Another time, at a winery we had visited several times, we asked if we could pay by local check. The owner said, "no f''n checks!" Well, we didn't buy there, either. Finally, there was the guy who poured us wine that had obviously turned to vinegar and then insisted we buy a bottle because "he'd had to open one for us to taste!' Nope, we didn't buy there either.

                        1. I "discovered" wine while living in VA, and learned a lot from visiting vineyards in the Charlottesville and Blue Ridge regions. So I have a great deal of affection for VA wineries, even though I recognize there's much room for improvement in terms of quality and price. That disclaimer aside, the best domestic Cab Franc and Viognier I've had, incidentally, have been from VA.

                          Just a couple quick additions to what's already been listed here:

                          Veritas: Viognier, Claret and Cab Franc reserve are quite good.
                          Horton: Petit Manseng
                          Linden: (hands down, my favorite VA winery) late harvest Vidal, "Bittersweet" (100% Petit Verdot); pay the extra fee for the cellar tasting — it's worth it
                          Cardinal Point: Rockfish Red, Riesling — great tasting room, too.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: hassenpfeffer

                            Glad to hear that Linden is still doing well. That was probably my favorite Virginia winery when I lived in DC. The cellar tasting is worth the extra cost.

                          2. Chateau Morrissette between miles 171 and 172 on the Blue Ridge Parkway is my personal favorite VA vineyard and winery.

                            1. Overall we were very impressed with the quality of the Virigina wines. Rappahannock Cellars is making some excellent wines, especially their Vidal dessert wine and their meritage. Though Linden makes some nice wines, I can't remember ever being treated more shabbily in a tasting room (amazingly, even Joe Heitz himself was less abrupt and dismissive to me in '94 when he poured only his plonk-y Grignolino rose and wouldn't answer questions).

                              Don't forget that Grey Ghost, Linden, Rappahonnock, et al are within 15 minutes of Little Washington, so you could include dinner at the Inn. I'd look into staying at the Foster Harris house, whose owners provide wine and cycling tours in the summer and are terrific and knowledgable hosts:


                              1 Reply
                              1. re: chefdilettante

                                <<Though Linden makes some nice wines, I can't remember ever being treated more shabbily in a tasting room...>>

                                Not doubting this claim at all, but it does run counter to my several experiences in Linden's tasting room.

                                I wonder if you were traveling with a group? Winemaker Jim Law has several rules in place that actively discourage large-scale wine tourism (no buses, no weddings or private parties, no groups larger than 6, no weekend access to the deck or picnic grounds except for "case club" members). While I find the guiding sentiment admirable, I could certainly see where these groundrules could ruffle feathers, especially among earnest enthusiasts who might unknowingly find themselves on the wrong side of them.

                                Linden's recently released 05 late harvest Petit Manseng is a truly marvelous bottle, btw.

                              2. We really enjoyed Linden - friendly and knowledgeable staff and very nice wines. We were disappointed by our first 2 choices, so this was a pleasant way to end the trip. Naked was not very good. Maybe it was the tasting selection, but we did not have fun there. chateau O'brien has a very cute atmosphere and a lovely dog. The wine was decent and it's worth going for the dog and view! These 3 wineries are all very close to each other.

                                1. Sorry to necro a dead post here, but I am planning a trip to VA in the beginning of october, and am going to be tastings some wines there. Last time I went to VA was several years ago and I really liked the Sangiovesse from Afton Mountain and something called Quatro from Cardinal Point (I think it was point, but I know the cardinal part is right).

                                  And on an amusing side note my spell check just suggested angiosperm instead of sangiovesse, hehe

                                  1. We just returned from a wsine tasting trip in VA - we hit the Shenendoah Valley and the CHarlottesville area. we had some amazing wine. we go every year and were pleasantly surprised by the number of new "statre of the art" wineries that just operned up (though unfortunately the prices reflect the start up costs).

                                    While I agree that VA typically has better whites than reds, I have been very impressed with their Petit Verdot, which seems to have recently become popular. Cross Keys and Barren Ridge both had stabnd out Petit Verdot.

                                    Barboursviulle has an amazing blend called Octagon. They also have an amazing dessert wine called Phileo.

                                    I was extremely impressed with Veritas, from their iunexpensive dry rose to their higher end Petit Manseng.

                                    Afton Mountain has a very nice Saniovese, it has a nice peppery quality similar to a pimot noir.

                                    I really enjoy the Trimanette at Rockbridge, it is very floral. They also produce a nice, inky Norton.

                                    We also had some fun experiences at Horton, Burnely, Cardinal Point, Pollack, Del Fosse.

                                    We came home with nearly 4 cases, I can't wait to start drinking it!