Random Summer Outings: VA Vineyards (by Robyn)


Robyn last wrote about drinking with pirates.

You know when you order wine at a fancier restaurant and they bring it to you to taste before they pour a glass? Sure I’ll swirl it around, maybe do that slurp thing, but it’s pretty obvious I have no idea what I’m doing. I always choose the one that’s one step up from the least expensive one and hope for the best, and if it tastes like jug wine I probably won’t be able to tell the difference anyway. I personally think that restaurants probably have a box of wine in the back they serve to those that cannot pronounce what wine their ordering.

So a Napa Valley transplant friend of mine suggested we go to the vineyards in Virginia for some wine 101. There are over 37 wineries in Northern Virginia alone, most within an hour’s drive or less from DC. Perfect for a Sideways adventure or just to sip the stuff and hang out in the country. How do you tackle it? Choose couple vineyards from http://www.virginiawine.org/wineries/browse/. Then, if you’re like me, visit each one, go up to the counter and look like a deer in headlights until they offer you a sample. Nod in agreement when they say that what you are drinking has hints of applewood and oak and pear and its dry (huh?). Try not to eat all their cheese and crackers, order a glass of the one you liked the best, and peruse their property which usually has a gazebo, gnomes, fields of green, lazy cats and in some cases a fly fisherman. Drive to the next one and repeat.

Did I retain enough knowledge to become a sommelier? Probably not. But the next time I order at a restaurant I’ll look for hints of the many terms used nowadays to describe wine (herbaceous, smoky, supple, tannin, toasty), and describe it as such. I still have much love for good old Carlo Rossi though.

13 Comment

  • I tend to think that the wine industry is the ultimate example the emperor having no clothes. A certain wine is good because self proclaimed experts say it’s good. A certain wine has a hint of apricot with a smoky finish because the guy selling it to you says it does. And you nod your head and put down your hard earned cash, because you don’t want to seem unrefined. That said, if you’re willing to set aside all the pretentiousness and simply laugh about it all, wine tasting can be fun. Just drink what tastes good. That’s all you need to know.

  • North Virginia Vineyards are pretty awesome – I’ve been to probably 10 of them. So far my favorite is Vintage Ridge – which is right off of 66 before you get to Front Royal. They do a phenomenal food pairing with their wines. It used to be $8 – but I hear it is going to go up this year. It would still be worth the $$. Also it is worthwhile to check out the virginia wine website to see what sort of events are going on. A lot of places do fun activities like grape crushings and have live music. It is very worthwhile to hang outside in the beautiful surroundings and sip delicious wine.

  • dcdude, this is why I like the guys at D’Vines at the CH metro. I go in there, tell ’em what I want and how much I want to spend. They peg me as someone who is not interested in smoky finishes, bouquet, and a certain sassy fruitiness, or whatthehellever, and show me the goods. I’ve never had a bad experience in there.

  • I went to the Potomac Point Vinyards outside of Quantico recently for one of their spring tastings. The property and wine house are very nice aesthetically, however, the wine was not very impressive. I don’t know much about wine but I know what I like and frankly Potomac Point was very hit or miss. The staff was increadibly nice and provided a really nice atmosphere for the date I was trying to impress but the bottle I ended up buying was much less impressive consumed a month later on a dry palette than after a full vineyard sampling (translation – after I was rather tipsy).

  • My fav NOVA vineyards are Breaux and Three Foxes. Bread, cheese, wine, hubby hammock, nap and all the scenery chewing you can do.

  • Doukenie Winery near Purcellville makes an excellent white blend called “Mandolin”, which used to be called “Doukenie” before the winery renamed itself from “Windham Winery”. I wonder if they were sued to change the name.

    Hillsborough near Purcellville has a great white blend called “Opal” – I’d go as far as to say it’s my fave white. Nice tasting room and a great place for a picnic.

    Most reds in NOVA aren’t that great (way too…herbaceous as they add god-awful Cab Franc to keep the prices lower) but Corcoran Vineyards in Waterford and in me mum’s back yard makes a really nice Malbec. Corcoran used to be Waterford Winery, but they were sued by Waterford Crystal to change their name.

    I still keep the Chuck Shaw handy, though 😉

  • I love Chrysalis outside Leesburg – it’s a beautiful property (with dogs and chickens and a particularly snarly bull), and if you’ve got a gal in your life named Sarah, take her there, they have a wine named after her (well, actually after a woman who lived there once. They found her headstone and did some research. It’s not gruesome or anything, though).

    A bit further out is Sharp Rock – smaller operation, but cozier and really nice. Good dogs there, too.

  • My favorite winery is Jefferson Vineyard, right next to Monticello – makes for a great day trip. Near that is Barboursville Winery, which has the added feature of a burned-out shell of a house designed by Thomas Jefferson. As I recall, the Kluge vineyard is out that way as well.

  • I would recommend La Grange, which is an exit or two away from Nissan Pavillion on 66. They make a lot or wines with grapes from other VA vineyards, in addition to growing their own. The grounds are super cool, and condusive to picnicing.

  • I second Chrysalis. I also enjoyed Tarara and Pearmund. If you ever get down to Williamsburg, the Williamsburg Winery is very nice.

  • I further Alaaro with Colonial Williamsburg Wine and Cheese Shop. Uncork a wine of your choice, get some excellent cheese and bread and sit outside. Every now and then one of the reenactors walks by with their cell phone. Priceless.

  • Had some Chateau Ste. Michelle Riesling last night – impulse-buy from Target for 9 bucks. YUMMY! Really. Go get some now!

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