An Unanticipated Visit to Virginia’s Valley Road Vineyards

This was not a planned stop on this particular Winery Adventure in the Charlottesville, Virgina region. But when we were driving down the road and saw a big “OPEN” flag flying outside of a winery, we couldn’t help but stop. I hadn’t actually heard of Valley Road Vineyards before, so we pulled into see what they had to offer.

After parking we approached the winery and found a station where we could pick up a brochure containing their COVID-19 policies, as well as the various tasting flights they were offering. At this time Valley Road Vineyards was only offering outdoor tasting flights and no one was allowed in the winery for tasting or sales. Everything was being conducted outdoors. There was a large tent set up with tables and chairs for guests to sit outside with their wine.

There was also a table outside for customers to order and pay for their tasting flights. They were offering three flights: Classic Flight (a mixture of reds and whites), Summer Flight (light warm weather wines) and a Red Wine Flight. Since it was a 95 degree day, I opted for the Summer Flight consisting of their Rosé, Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Viognier, Destana and Mountain Glen. Once seated I have to admit that I drank through these very quickly. Because we had to stay outdoors on such a hot and humid day – not only was I already sweating but the wines were not going to stay cool long enough for my usual leisurely tasting. Here’s an overview of the varieties I sampled:

Rosé 2019: A dry rosé with a bit of acidity and a pleasing finish.

Sauvignon Blanc 2019: A bright and lively estate-grown wine. I detected hints of green apple and honeysuckle. Nice crisp finish.

Chardonnay 2018: Also 100% estate-grown, this medium-bodied wine is aged in French Oak and finished crisp and clean.

Viognier 2018: A full-flavored white with with fruity aromas of peach, lime and pear. Finishes with a slight hint of vanilla.

Destana 2017: A refreshing blend of Viognier, Petit Manseng and Chardonnay. This is a great summertime porch wine. Dry, yet flavorful with a nice crisp finish.

Mountain Glen 2019: A blend of Petit Manseng and Vidal Blanc. This wine has a just bit of sweetness with some hints of peach. A lovely warm weather white.

As I mentioned before, it was so hot outside that I breezed through these fairly quickly. According to their website they are now open daily, but reservations are required. The winery is now offering indoor seating during inclimate weather and for private parties.

You can visit Valley Road Vineyards at 9264 Critzers Shop Road in Afton, Virginia. Visit their website for more information at https://www.valleyroadwines.com/

 

 

Enjoy Incredible Scenery and Wine at Pollak Vineyards

My visit to Pollak Vineyards was probably my favorite wine experience on this trip to the Charlottesville area. Although I have been to this region a few times before, there a so many wineries to choose from and this is one that I hadn’t explored yet. Even though their website said visitors by reservation only (due to COVID-19) I took a chance and decided to simply stop by. It was early on a Wednesday and I was hoping for the best – and I’m glad I took the chance. They were not busy at all and welcomed us with no reservation.

Although the tasting room itself was closed for sampling, guests are allowed to enter with a mask and place wine flight orders. Currently you can choose between a white or red flight. My friend ordered the red flight and I ordered the white on this warm summer day. All wine is to be consumed outdoors – either on the porch or the patio. Our flights were quickly poured and we were given a table number on the covered porch and once seated there we could remove our mask and enjoy our wine flights.

We thoroughly enjoyed our tasting flights on the porch. It was still fairly early in the day, a bit overcast and slightly breezy so we were able to comfortably enjoy our samples before the extreme heat forcast that day arrived. There were a few other parties sprinkled throughout the porch area and on the lovely patio – some with flights and others simply enjoying a glass or bottle. Everyone seemed to be relaxed and enjoying the wine and beautiful scenery.

My friend was extremely pleased with all of the wines in the red wine flight that he ordered. I’ll tell you a little about the wines I tasted in the white wine flight:

2019 Sauvignon Blanc: This wine is aged 50% in French Oak and 50% in Stainless Steel, which concerned me a bit because I don’t care for oaky whites, but I was pleasantly surprised. It still had a nice acidity, but had a fuller mouth-feel. Sauvignon Blanc has always been one of my favorite white wines, and this one didn’t disappoint.

2018 Viognier: I’m also a fan of the Viognier grape. This is one wine that I can’t find in my local grocery store so I’m always happy when I come across this variety when visiting a winery. This one has some great peach/tropical aromas and has a vibrant acidity with a nice lingering finish.

2018 Pinot Gris: This is a wine variety that I don’t often search out because I find that most mass produced Pinot Gris is pretty lackluster, but this one had plenty of character. Bright and crisp, but with a fruity finish that had me wanting more of this delicious wine.

2018 Rosé: I’m always on the lookout for a great dry rosé and this was my favorite of the four wines in my flight. It had wonderful berry aromas and a lingering dry, but fruit-forward finish. The tasting notes said a sip of this wine would leave a desire for another taste and it sure did!

It was a perfectly wonderful few hours we spent at Pollak Vineyards sipping incredible wine on the spacious wrap-around front porch while taking in the amazing mountain views. Our experience was topped-off by their friendly and informative staff that was happy to accommodate us without reservations. There are so many wineries in the region to choose from, but if you’re in the Charlottesville area, this a a winery that I would certainly make a point to visit.

If you would like to experience Pollak Vineyards for yourself, you can visit them at 330 Newtown Road in Greenwood, Virginia. You can visit them online at www.pollakvineyards.com

Discovering What’s New at Prince Michel Vineyard & Winery

It has been many years since my initial visit to Prince Michel Vineyard and Winery in Leon, Virginia and so much has changed since then. The iconic wine glasses twirling in the breeze on the front lawn were still there, but once I entered I immediately noticed the difference. Wine tastings are no longer conducted at the counter in what now strictly their gift shop, but they are done in a much larger space (immediately to the left upon entering) which is home to their new Tap 29 Brewery & Brew Pub. Yes, not only do they produce premium wines, but you can also taste the craft brews they now make along with homemade pub grub 7 days a week.

My friend decided to skip the whole tasting process and immediately ordered a glass of his usual style beer – an IPA. I went for a mixed flight with a red and two whites. The wine flights offer a very nice-size pour of each variety, so we there for awhile. My friend even ended up ordering one more beer while I was finishing up my tasting experience. Visitors around us were ordering food from the pub menu, which all looked really good, but we had plans on eating at a nearby German restaurant on our way back to our cabin in Stanardsville and wanted to save our appetite.

Prince Michel has a long history of quality winemaking, and according to my friend their brewing is top-notch too. The property offers plenty of seating (both indoor and outdoor), wine, beer, food and luxury suites for those that want to make their visit a “total experience” and spend a night or two.

You can visit Prince Michel Vineyard & Winery in person at 154 Winery Lane in Leon, Virginia or online at https://www.princemichel.com/

 

Discover a Great Variety at Horton Vineyards

One thing I have recently learned is that when you’re wine traveling during a pandemic, you’re never sure what to expect. Being from Ohio I was out of state on this particular journey and found that the mandates in Virginia were a bit different than what I was used to in my home state. When I left Ohio our wineries were open for both indoor and outdoor seating, and most seemed to be offering individualized tastings at your table. Although wineries (and restaurants) in Virginia were allowed limited indoor seating, the atmosphere seemed more cautious here and most were not allowing consumption indoors. For the most part tastings seem to have been replaced by flights. Though not an ideal situation, this was one of the few wineries we found where we could still get somewhat of a tasting experience.

It had been many years since I first visited Horton Vineyards in Gordonsville, Virginia and I had fond memories of my visit there. Finding myself in the Charlottesville area, Horton is a winery that I certainly wanted to visit again. When we first pulled in we noticed many picnic tables outside. I don’t remember these from years ago, and I am assuming they were just recently added to accommodate guests with more outdoor seating. They were quite busy on this particular Tuesday, and most of the tables were full. The only tables unoccupied were those without umbrellas for shade. It was extremely hot outside, so I was hoping they offered some sort of seating accommodations indoors.

Once inside it was much different than I remembered from years ago. The tasting room, which had been filled with many racks of wine for take-home sales, was almost completely empty. There were markings on the floor for social distancing, so I waited six feet back from the customer at the counter that was purchasing some wine to take home. Once it was my turn I approached the counter and inquired about tastings. The friendly woman gave us each a tasting sheet and told us which wines were available for tasting. They have a huge selection, and most were available for tasting – with the exception of a handful of their premium wines. We were told that we could each choose five wines to sample and that we could step to the side to make our choices.

We each made our selections and took them back to the counter. The tastings were given to us in paper cups and we were told we could either take them outside or there was a room upstairs where we could sit down, but we were not to drink them in the tasting room. We definitely wanted to remain in the air conditioning, so we went upstairs to have a seat. Everyone else seemed to be outside, which I found odd since it was 95 degrees, but we were happy to have the upstairs room to ourselves. I got the impression that this room was usually used for private events, but was doubling as an indoor seating area while Virginia is still in the COVID-19 reopening phase.

Unfortunately the paper cups didn’t work very well for a tasting tray. The longer each wine sat in the cup the more it started to taste like paper. It sort of reminded me of when I was a kid and I would grab a Dixie cup from the dispenser in the bathroom for a drink of water – it never really tasted quite right. That being said, I will do my best to describe each wine I tasted that day.

Suil Sparkling Viognier: I’m a sucker for sparkling wines, so I definitely wanted to sample the one and only sparking wine offered by Horton Vineyards. This one was very dry and quite refreshing. Perfect for the holidays – or why wait for a celebration? Great for popping open on the deck on a summer day.

Gears and Lace: A newer wine for Horton Vineyards – a Pinotage Rosé. When I saw this wine on the list I knew I had to try it. Horton also produces a Pinotage which I sampled many years ago while visiting here. It was my first sip of Pinotage and I loved it. If memory serves me right, Horton was the first U.S winery to grow this South African grape in their vineyard. The Gears and Lace is a dry blush wine bursting with flavors of rhubarb and strawberry. If you’re looking for a dry but flavorful rosé, this one is for you.

Norton: Even though I gravitate toward whites in the summertime, I’m a red wine drinker at heart. I’ve always enjoyed wines made from the Norton grape and this is a wine I can’t find on the grocery store shelves. Horton was the first winery in Virginia to produce a Norton after prohibition. This dry robust wine was still very fruity, but had a lovely spicy finish.

Late Harvest Petit Manseng: Keep in mind that this is the point when my samples started to get a little “paper cuppy” but I’ll do my best with a description of the final two. This dessert wine offered aromas of pineapple and kiwi. Although sweet there was some zestiness – a full mouthfeel with a clean finish.

Peach: If I see a peach wine on a wine list, chances are I am going to request a sample. I’m always on the lookout for a good, dry peach wine so I try them all. This one wasn’t overly sweet and had a nice peach flavor. It was a bit too sweet for my personal taste, but still a great peach dessert wine for the sweet wine fans out there.

I bought four different bottles to bring home with me. I purchased one that I sampled, Gears and Lace, which I have already consumed – so good! There were also three others I decided to bring home with me to try – Cabernet Franc (which is one of my favorite grapes), Route 33 (a red blend that we ended up drinking one evening at our Charlottesville B&B) and their Pear Dessert Wine. I remembered on my original visit years ago buying a Pear wine at Horton that was sort of like a Pear Port. I haven’t popped the cork on this one yet but I’m anxious to see if it is similar to what I remembered.

Are you ready to plan your visit? You can visit Horton Vineyards at 6399 Spotswood Trail, Gordonsville, VA 22942 or visit them online at www.hortonwine.com.

Experience Gorgeous Vineyard Views at Barboursville Vineyards

This was my second visit to Virginia’s Barboursville Vineyards. The first time I visited was many years ago in 2003, and I enjoyed the experience very much, so I was anxious to return 17 years later while visiting the Charlottesville area again. On my first visit I was able to stand at the tasting counter and sample all 17 of their premium wines. Due to COVID-19, my second visit turned out to be much different.

My friend and I arrived on a hot and steamy Tuesday morning in July, shortly after the winery opened for the day. While driving in I was happy that the grounds were just as beautiful as I remembered. Grapevines could be seen in every direction on the rolling hillsides. Once we arrived at the tasting room entrance a sign said that masks were mandatory, so we each donned a mask and headed inside. The tasting room was much different than I remembered. The large area that I believe used to be a gift shop was gone and there were tables and chairs there instead. I’m not sure if the gift shop was gone due to health restrictions and the need for more seating, or if they removed it all together for other reasons. I could still see the tasting counter in the back of the room, and I pointed out to my friend the exact spot where I had sampled wine here many years ago.

This time the tasting counter was closed, so we approached the retail wine sales area at the front of the building. There was only one other couple there besides us, which wasn’t surprising since it was a Tuesday morning. We waited as they purchased a bottle of wine to enjoy outside on the Barboursville patio. Once we got to the counter we inquired about tastings. We were told they were no longer doing traditional tastings – only wine flights – but unfortunately they didn’t offer the flights on Tuesdays. The gentleman at the counter told us we could order a glass or bottle of wine for onsite consumption, or we could purchase bottles to take home. Since we were already there, we decided to look over the wine list and choose from the 25 varieties of wine they had available and stay for a glass.

It was already approaching 90 degrees outside, so I looked over the list in search of something light. I chose their Allegrante Rosé and my friend decided on a glass of Merlot. We took a seat at one of the tables and the server gave us glasses and poured each of us a small sample of the wine we chose. I was glad he did that since we were not able to taste any of the wines, it did give us an option to change our mind. We both stuck with the wine we ordered – my Allegrante Rosé was crisp, dry and exactly the type of wine I was in the mood for this particular morning.

After a few minutes inside, we decided to finish our glasses outdoors and explore the grounds a little bit. We wandered down to the large patio area overlooking the vineyards where a few other couples had already gathered and were enjoying their wine on a summer morning. We then walked up to the Library building where they offer additional outdoor seating with even more gorgeous views of the vines. The Library building is also where we were told you can purchase wine flights when they are offering them.

Once we finished our glasses of wine we went inside to make a few purchases to take home. We decided on a bottle of the Merlot (which my friend enjoyed very much) plus I decided to try a bottle each of the Vigoner and Sangiovese. I’m looking forward to trying each of those in the near future, so watch for additional blog posts about these two varieties once I actually try them. Barborsville Vineyards is known for producing quality wine, so I’m sure they will both be to my liking.

Before leaving the property, we decided to do some exploring of the Barboursville Ruins, which are visible from the tasting room. This piece of architecture, which was reserved as a ruin after its destruction by fire on Christmas Day 1884, was once one of the largest and finest residences in the region. The only building in the county known to have been designed by Thomas Jefferson himself. It was constructed between 1814 and 1822 for Jefferson’s friend James Barbour, Governor of Virginia.

If you are interested in planning a total wine experience getaway, Barboursville Vineyards is the perfect place to do that. Not only do they produce premium wines offering tasting flights plus glass and bottle sales, they also have an on-site restaurant featuring Northern Italian cuisine. You can also book a luxury stay at the winery by making reservations at their 1804 Inn and Cottages. You can learn more about the wines of Barboursville Vineyards, the Palladio Restaurant and booking your stay on their website.

Charlottesville Area Winery Offers a Wonderful Experience

Putting all politics aside – I have to admit that I truly loved my visit to Trump Winery. Before visiting I figured it would be a very stuffy experience, but I was totally wrong. The property is set up in such a way that large groups and event guests have a separate entrance, while the tasting room itself is small and inviting. The tasting room staff makes you feel welcome as soon as you walk in the door and they take their time helping guests navigate their list of wines, helping each person decide which wines to try.

My favorite Trump wine is their Rosé. I love a good dry rosé in the summertime. I find it difficult to find one that actually has some flavor – most I find are very bland. This one is bursting with strawberry and citrus and is perfectly balanced. It’s one of the top rosé wines I found on my travels.

The tasting room features a beautiful patio in the back and also has an on-site restaurant. I was very pleasantly surprised by my visit to Trump Winery and it’s a “must visit” winery if you’re in the Charlottesville, Virginia area.

You can find out more about them at the Trump Winery Website.