Because of our chilly spring, most vineyards have not yet had bud break. Typically this occurs sometime around the middle of April–exactly when varies by type of grape, weather, location of the vineyard, etc. Despite the fact that we have had a damp, chilly month, many of the Virginia wineries have found ways to celebrate the month with special events, barrel tastings, new vintage releases, and of course, regular tastings.
We began the month at Barboursville Vineyards in Barboursville, in Orange County. It has been owned by the Zonin family, who also have vineyards in Tuscany, since 1976. Thomas Jefferson designed the home of Virginia governor, James Barbour. That house contained a standard Jeffersonian room feature, an Octagon room. (He thought that an Octagon shaped room with no sharp corners, allowed more light into the room.) The house burned down on Christmas Day in 1884. The ruins are still visible today and part of the label design for Barboursville wines. On the weekends, Barboursville has library tastings in the Library 1821. The premier red blend is called Octagon. We each tried an Octagon flight with wines from 2007, 2010, 2012, 2013, and 2014 for $35. We paired it with an excellent small cheese plate. An Octagon wine is only made when the vintage warrants the Octagon designation. Anyone can attend the Library Tasting.
The following Friday we went to Glen Manor Vineyards outside Front Royal for a barrel tasting. The farm backs up to the Skyline Drive with an amazing view from the adirondack chairs scattered across the winey’s lawn. Jeff White, the vigneron, is the fourth generation to farm this land which has been in his family over 100 years. Jeff, started the winery in 1995.
Their tagline “Wine s with a sense of place” suits the winery and the family that makes it.
Today, the estate comprises 212 acres of pastures, forests, and currently 17 acres of vineyard. Jeff’s cellar tasting focused on the red wines. They were blended–some had wild yeast while others were fermented with domestic yeast. You could taste the difference. Jeff had set up 3 different tasting stations where we tasted two wines at each station. Each wine had a delicious tidbit to enhance the taste. Jeff said that the 2017 vintage was the best he had had to date (in 23 years of raising grapes and making wine.) The wine tasted good enough to drink right out of the barrel. (In over 20 years of various barrel tastings, this is the first time I could say that.) Jeff’s premiere blend, Hodder Hill, “is a structured red blend (usually Cabernet Sauvignon dominant), focused on the terroir of our mountain farm. The blend of varieties and nuances of flavor change with every season, just as nature gives us different fruit every season, and we allow the best of this bounty to frame our wine.
In the same way that this wine showcases the structure that our vineyards produce, its name showcases the structure of our family; it is named for Raymond Hodder Rudacille, the second generation of our family to farm and live on this land.”
The barrel tasting was limited to Case Club members. (Case Club Membership is limited to people who buy at least one 12 bottle case a year.)
The following weekend we went to Cardinal Point Winery in Afton Virginia. Cardinal Point was established in 1985, when General Paul Gorman retired from the Army and he and his wife moved to Afton to re-create some of the reisling wines they had known in Germany while being stationed at Bad Kreuznach, Germany on the banks of the Nahe River. Their son, Tim took over the vineyard management in 1989 and the tasting room opened in 2002. They sell a variety of red and white wines. In addition to the regular wine tastings, they had two 2-week old kids from Caromont Farms along with owner/cheese-maker, Gail Hobb Page. One of the goats really liked to be snuggled while the other goat bleated and tried to escape. Adults and children were all beguiled by the young goats. The winery offers live music every Sunday. The event was open to anyone attending the winery that day. Cardinal Point has Wine Co-op that offers free tastings, complimentary tickets to the semi-annual oyster roast and other benefits.
That same weekend we also went to a Rose’ release at one of the area’s newest wineries, Septenary at Seven Oaks Farm. Sarah and Todd Zimmerman (both UVA alumni) bought the farm in 2014, fulfilling a life long dream to own a farm winery in Central Virginia. The winery owns two distinct properties: Seven Oaks in western Albemarle County (7 acres) and the Essex Vineyard near the Chesapeake Bay in eastern Virginia (26 acres). The farm dates back to the 1700s. It has several historic outbuildings on the property, including the re-located Summer Kitchen. (The original Summer Kitchen was adjacent to the main house.) It was relocated some years later. Although anyone could by the rose wine in the winery, the actual release event at the Summer Kitchen, was open to wine club members only. The Rose’ wine was accompanied by fresh strawberries and a goat cheese based roll-up The winemaker, Sabastien Marquet, discussed the new vintage. The event was open to Wine Club members (where you order a trio of wines each quarter).