Check out my latest post on Virginia Wine in my Pocket’s blog in which I covered my recent visit to Stone Tower Winery. I had a lovely time and was lucky enough to check out bud break up close and personal.
Bud break in VA wine country
As much time as we all spend shopping for wine and enjoying the fruits of a winemaker’s labor, it’s so interesting to get a behind the scenes look at the vine to bottle process- and this is precisely what Stone Tower offers its guests- in a golf cart led tour, no less!
Head on over to Nancy’s site to read more about my time at this trailblazing winery and check out other fantastic posts in her learning issue.
I first met Nancy, an authority on the VA wine scene, at Frank Morgan‘s Annual Sparkling wine tasting. The VA wine world is a small one, and I enjoy running into (and drinking wine with) Nancy at various Virginia wine events.
Enjoying VA wine with Nancy at last week’s Great Grapes of Loudoun event.
In addition to her blog, Nancy has created an essential app for all VA wine fans- VA Wine in My Pocket. It’s currently the only app offering a comprehensive and interactive guide to navigating your way through Virginia’s wine country. It includes information on Virginia wineries, wine trails, nearby inns, dining, and GPS mapping (let’s face it, who hasn’t gotten lost on those country roads?!)
© Virginia Wine in my Pocket
So the next time you’re planning a visit to Virginia’s Wine Country give Nancy’s app a try! It will be a great help when you inevitably get lost in the backwoods.
Have you visited Stone Tower Winery? Do you have a favorite wine app? Do tell!
Tasting in the Barrel room
One of the first things that strikes me at North Gate Vineyard is the sense of hospitality and warmth- something this Georgia girl often misses dearly in a time when the little things seem to mean less.
This hospitality (or lack thereof!) is the first quality I notice when scouting potential wineries for custom excursions for Bon Vivant DC clients- even before tasting the wine.
I first experienced North Gate at the intimate rehearsal dinner of some dear friends in 2012, and was delighted to experience it again as a guest on a recent tasting visit. The tasting room manager, Dave, puts everyone at ease and is quick with a smile, a story, or even an original recipe to go along with your tasting.
Dave is quick with an anecdote, or even an original recipe to go along with his favorite wines!
A case of locally sourced chocolate truffles greets you at the door- available for purchase as gifts, or a custom pairing with your wine tasting for an additional $5.
Viognier with white truffle pairing
North Gate has an overwhelming commitment to operating a “green” winery. The Leed Certified property produces all of the energy they consume, thanks to careful planning and solar panels. The materials used to build the winery are green too, right down to the beautiful bar imbedded with recycled wine bottles (pictured above).
The owners, Mark and Vicki Fedor, are at the forefront of the “green” wine making movement, stating on their website, “From the tasting room to the wine production to the vineyard, we strive to be the most environmentally friendly winery on the planet.”
Vicki told me that it’s important for she and Mark to “live off the land, to sustain us, to be respectful of the land.” They are also in touch with viticulture specialists at Cornell University who have produced the first hybrid grape varietal with the ability to be grown organically in Virginia’s notoriously difficult climate.
North Gate produces reasonably priced and quality wine- their 2011 Meritage landed a coveted spot in the Governor’s case this year at $22/bottle! This Bordeaux blend is well-balanced and easy drinking, despite being a notoriously difficult vintage for Virginia wine. I enjoyed it so much, a bottle came home with me!
2013 Governor’s Case Cup Winner
It’s the little things that go a long way at this small winery in Loudoun County- their commitment to sustainability, hospitality, sourcing local products, and even supporting community charity.
$1 from the sale of each bottle of Apple Wine goes to the local Greyhound Rescue Organization, where they adopted their own dog, Josie. Crisp and refreshing, the Apple Wine is quite similar to a hard cider, produced from locally sourced fruit. At $14 a bottle it’s a “taste good, do good” treat for animal and wine lovers, alike!
Mark and Vicki’s rescue greyhound”Josie” running through the vineyard. Photo Courtesy of Vicki Fedor.
North Gate is open Thursday through Monday, from 11:00 AM to 6:00 PM. Their tasting fee is $7/person.
Have you visited North Gate yet? What was your favorite wine?
A Visit to Breaux Vineyards
As I suss out my favorite Virginia wineries for Bon Vivant’s New Virginia Wine Concierge Program, I’m continually surprised. Pre-conceived notions and even the most well-intentioned recommendations are often wrong or out of date, which is why I make it a point to visit each vineyard myself.
One of the most difficult things to find in a Virginia vineyard is a property that “checks all the boxes”. Although I aim to offer my clients tailored itineraries, sometimes you’re just on the hunt for a property that hits the Big Four:
2. Customer service
3. Quality wine
4. Good Value
You may be wondering why I list wine third? I’ve had more than one good glass of wine sour to vinegar on the palette if the atmosphere and customer service just aren’t there.
It can be especially hard to find this elusive combination at a property that accepts large parties. Breaux Vineyards does so graciously, in addition to offering perks like behind the scenes tours of the barrel room, tank room and vineyards, paired with a private group tasting of 8 wines for just $25!
Favorites from the tasting were the Equation Red Blend- a wine that drinks easily and tastes more expensive than it’s $17 price tag.
Madeleine’s Chardonnay ($24) was also lovely, with nice apple and pear fruit, a creamy and full mouthfeel from the sur lie aging process, and a crispness from the stainless steel fermentation.
The Cellar Club exclusive Nebbiolo- an Italian varietal not generally seen in Virginia- was also exquisite, a bottle of which made it back to DC.
We were lucky to visit on a harvest day, and happened upon a crew hard at work culling the Cab Franc from the vines to beat the rain- just one winemaker’s harvest nightmare! Luckily, 2013 looks to be a promising vintage for Breaux Vineyards, and much of Virginia’s wine country!
For more pictures, visit my facebook album of the visit.
Have you been to Breaux? What was your favorite wine?
What do you look for when visiting wineries? Have you ever had a great wine ruined by less than stellar customer service?
I’m excited to announce an expansion of services Bon Vivant will be offering to DC area clients! We’re in close proximity to a number of Virginia wineries and vineyards, and I look forward to offering wine country concierge services.
With so many options to choose from, I’ve spent quite a bit of time recently touring Virginia wine country- sussing out the good, the bad and the ugly for myself!
One of the things that’s become increasingly apparent is that not all Virginia wine (and wineries) are created equal! There are a number of quality vineyards that offer guests varying experiences.
The good news is, there is a vineyard out there to meet almost anything you’re looking for in an excursion- whether it’s scenery, world class wines, large group tours, behind the scenes experiences, exclusive wine pairing dinners in elegant settings, bachelorette excursions, as well as intimate and serene getaways (see my recent post on Linden Vineyards!).
With so many options to choose from, I aim to offer my clients highly tailored wine concierge services, custom designed for each client to show you some of the very best of what Virgina Wine Country has to offer- no matter what it is you’re looking for in your excursion!
Checking out the Cab Franc at Breaux Vineyards during Harvest! 2013 is looking like a promising vintage!
What do you look for when visiting vineyards?
As a DC wine consultant, I’m often asked what I think about nearby Virginia wineries. To be honest, I haven’t always had an overly favorable view of the region. A visit to Linden Vineyards changed that.
Jim Law, the owner, is particular about promoting what a Virginia winery can and should be. I found the results of his philosophy and commitment to quality wine-making refreshing. In a region addled by notoriously difficult weather conditions, Law is committed to producing wines to be taken seriously.
Early Chardonnay grapes on the vines.
Despite being in business for nearly 28 years, Linden’s vintners are constantly re-evaluating which varietals grow best on each site and adapt accordingly. They display an overt commitment to the French notion of terroir, loosely translated as a “sense of place.” Terroir is about respecting the land, and letting wine grown in a particular place reflect its unique characteristics. There is a definitive old world sensibility to the wines produced by Linden Vineyards.
You won’t find Linden Vineyards in the Virginia guide to wineries, and they have a strict policy that limits groups to six people. There are no bachelorette parties, busloads of tourists, or even limos (which are prohibited) at Linden. Cell phones don’t work on the Hardscrabble property. The result is a tranquil respite that focuses on serious wines and a feeling of true escape from life’s day to day demands.
When I met the owner, he came straight in from a day tending the vines, extending his calloused hand from sleeves of a wine splotched shirt. Jim takes bi-annual trips to France to taste and learn more about his craft. He’s less interested in the best vintages, but eagerly pursues knowledge about how French vintners contend with difficulties and challenging weather conditions- lessons that have served Linden well during the more difficult years.
Alison and Linden’s owner, Jim Law
Linden Vineyard’s Director, Shari Avenius, gave us a behind the scenes tour of the property and explained that each of the winemakers on Linden’s three properties spend about 90-95 percent of their time outside tending the vines. She described wine growing in Virginia as, “riding the wave the whole growing season, you don’t know what’s coming next.”
Currently they’re contending with the region’s historic rainfall, as well as the emergence of the 17-year Brood II cicadas. According to Shari, the worst threat to the carefully tended vines is undoubtedly, “The H-word. Hail. We try not to say it.”
Long-time Linden employees, two of the cousins Chavez, tending the vines.
Every vine on each of Linden’s three properties is tended to an average of 12 times before harvest- a testament to both the staff’s respect for their product and fickle Virginia growing conditions. It’s this type of vineyard vigilance that allows Linden to adhere to a policy of non-intervention in the cellar.
After touring the grounds and enjoying the reserve cellar tasting, we decided to forego another winery visit, opting instead to finish our afternoon on Linden Vineyard’s scenic porch with wine and charcuterie, a decision we didn’t regret.
2011 Linden rosé with locally sourced cheese and summer sausage.
While the coveted seats are reserved for the vineyard’s most loyal clients on weekends, members of the case club, the tables are open to all clientele during weekdays.
Linden produces around 5,000 cases of wine per year, and while they sell 95% of their wine on site, you can also find their products at high end restaurants and wine bars in and around DC. Visit www.lindenvineyards.com to learn more about their tasting room, reserve cellar tastings, case club, vineyard tours and more!
We enjoyed all of the wines we tried during the reserve cellar tasting, but couldn’t leave Linden without these two standouts!
For more behind the scenes photos, visit Bon Vivant DC’s facebook page!
What do you think of Virginia wineries? Let me know the good, the bad, and the ugly!