Love the Reds at Hocking Hills Winery

It was a gorgeous fall day for a road trip to Logan, Ohio. It was an 80 degree Friday in October and it seemed like the perfect time to head to the Hocking Hills. After 18 holes of Putt Putt at Rempel’s Grove, lunch at The Olde Dutch Restaurant and shopping at the Logan Antique Mall, we decided to end our day with some tasting at the Hocking Hills Winery.

The parking lot was pretty full and I was a little worried that we would not be able to get a seat, especially in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, but I was worried for nothing. As well as indoor seating, Hocking Hills Winery has plenty of outdoor seating and we were promptly seated on the covered patio. We looked over the menu which included wine flights (as well as wine by the glass and bottle), a selection of beers plus charcuterie boards for those looking for a bite to eat. My friend opted for a Great Lakes IPA and I went for a wine flight, which included my choice of eight different wines to sample. Following are my tasting notes of the eight wines I tasted:

Vidal Blanc – This estate-grown full-bodied wine was very dry with tropical fruit tones.

Sauvignon Blanc – My favorite white that I sampled. I found this wine very pleasing and crisp with floral tones and citrus. For those that prefer dry wine, this is a great warm weather sipper on the patio.

Whispering Falls Rosé – I found this dry rosé to be exceptionally tart with an interesting aroma.

Pinot Noir – I enjoyed this Pinot Noir with flavors of strawberry, cherry and I detected a hint of black pepper on the finish.

Cabernet Sauvignon – Tart yet smooth with a delightful dark chocolate aftertaste.

Malbec – This one is a 2020 winner from the Finger Lakes International Wine Competition and I could certainly understand why. This was my favorite from those I tasted with a jammy mouth-feel, yet dry and crisp with a clove finish.

Petite Sirah – When you first smell this wine you might think it’s going to be sweet, but once you taste this luscious dry red you’ll fall in love with this smooth and velvety wine.

Sweet Chardonnay – I decided to finish with something sweet. I don’t often see Chardonnay done in a sweeter style, so I wanted to give this one a try. With hints of honey and lemon, this one was very light-bodied and would make a great summer patio wine.

After I finished my tasting flight I stayed to enjoy a glass of the Malbec and did some people watching. Everyone seemed to be having a great time drinking and enjoying wine with friends on the outdoor patio in a beautiful wooded setting. The wine slushies seemed to be a popular choice that day, which are offered in both peach and raspberry. I also noticed a fireplace on the patio, which would make the area nice and cozy on chilly days.

Before leaving I purchased five bottles from the eight wines I sampled to take home with me – Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec and Petite Sirah. I’m looking forward to popping them open in the coming months. If you would like to try the wine from Hocking Hills Winery yourself you can visit them at 30402 Freeman Road in Logan , Ohio or online at the Hocking Hills Winery Website.

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.

A Delightful Afternoon at Manchester Hill Winery

Manchester HillNow that the wineries are opening again in Ohio after a long statewide quarantine, I was eager to get out of the house to do a little wine tasting. I decided to take an afternoon and make a trip to Manchester Hill Winery in Circleville, Ohio. Although it has a Circleville address, it is actually right beside the town of Tarlton, OH. I had visited this winery a few years ago when they were in the beginning stages of reopening under new ownership. At that time they only had a small selection of wines and I was anxious to see what changes had taken place since my initial visit.

The winery is easy to spot with an OPEN flag flying and a sign beckoning visitors with Peach Slushies on this very warm day. There were several cars in the parking lot for a Wednesday afternoon, which was nice to see. I guess others like me were anxious to get out of the house and out in the world again. The winery dog, Poe, greeted us upon our arrival and walked us to the tasting room door. Once we entered we were immediately greeted by a friendly (masked) woman who invited us to take a seat at any of the available tables, which were spaced for social distancing. She brought us menus so we could look over their list of wines and ciders available for sampling. There were two hard ciders on the list, as well as eight wines ranging from dry to sweet. Tasting flights consist of six samples, so I chose both the ciders, plus a Chardonnay, Chambourcin, House Red and Blackberry.

My six samples:

Gold Rush: This is a hard apple cider made with GoldRush apples from an Ohio orchard. Unfortunately they had just blown the keg so I only received a very small, concentrated taste. I did like the flavor, but it was thick and had no effervescence. This is one I will have to try to get a sample of again next time I visit.

Peach: My second cider sample was much better. The peach hard cider is made with a mixture of peaches and GoldRush apples. This one was slightly bubbly and tasted like summertime in a glass. Whether you are a dry wine drinker like me, or you prefer the sweeter varieties – I think just about anyone would enjoy a glass of this peach cider while relaxing outdoors on a warm day.

Restraint: The next sample I selected was their award-winning Restraint. I found this unoaked Chardonnay crisp and refreshing and loved the slight note of honey that I tasted. This was one of my favorites from this tasting flight.

Chambourcin: This wine had a very fruity nose. From the aroma I would have thought this was a sweet wine, but this excellent dry red has 0% residual sugar. It is not aged in oak and finishes slightly tart.

House Red: My favorite of the day. This dry red is a blend of Merlot and Chambourcin. It’s a lighter-style wine that would pair well with pasta or pizza and had wonderful aromas of cherry and tobacco.

Blackberry: My last sample was the only fruit wine offering at Manchester Hill. Even though the tasting sheet said it was very sweet (10.5% residual sugar) I didn’t find it overwhelmingly sweet myself. Made with locally-grown Circleville blackberries, this wine had a huge blackberry aroma, but the tart finish left this dry wine drinker wanting more.

Manchester Hill has a few more wines that I didn’t choose for my tasting flight including Opulent (an oaked Chardonnay), Pink Catawba and Niagara. They also offer a Wine Slushy, which contains no ice or mix, just frozen wine. No matter what kind of wine or cider you prefer, you’re sure to find something to your liking here.

After the tasting we decided to order a glass and sit out on the side porch for awhile. Even though the House Red was my favorite, I ordered a chilled glass of the Restraint Chardonnay since it was 85 degrees on this particular day. There are only a few tables outside, but there is a large lawn so you can bring your own chairs or a blanket. You’ll also find a huge Maple tree if you’re looking for some shade. Cheese and meat trays are also offered if you want to stay for awhile and would like a little something to go with your wine. In addition, Manchester Hill has a cabin on the property if you would like to turn your visit into a relaxing getaway.

Manchester Hill Winery
13160 Tarlton Rd,
Circleville, OH 43113

(845) 893-8724

Website

McManis Family Vineyards Petit Verdot

I haven’t pulled a bottle from my wine rack in awhile, but decided to open a bottle that I have been holding on to for a little while. My choice was 2015 Petit Verdot from California’s McManis Family Vineyards. I never see a Petit Verdot on the shelves at local grocery stores, so it’s been awhile since I have been able to enjoy one. This wine won a Double Gold in the San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition and I was eager to give it a try myself.

The Petit Verdot grape is known for its depth of color and has a tradition of being used as a blending grape in French Bordeaux blends. According to the Mcmanis Family Vineyards website, they generally harvest their Petit Verdot in September with an average Brix of 25.5. After 7-9 days of fermentation on the skins, the resulting wine is pressed and finished fermentation in stainless steel tanks. The wine is then aged on new and used French and American Oak for 5 months.

This wine was a rich, deep purple in the glass and I could detect berries and coffee on the nose. Once I tasted it I found it to be jammy, smokey and an absolute delight to the palate. Although I paired it with dark chocolate covered almonds, I would highly recommend it as an accompaniment to grilled steak or spicy barbecued meats.

A Taste of Indiana – Oliver Dry Red Blend

A hidden gem on the grocery store shelf – Oliver Dry Red Blend. When I’m browsing the wine aisle in my local grocery store, it’s mostly an assortment of west coast wines, imports and a wide variety of boxed wine to choose from. There is only a very small assortment of eastern U.S. wines, but mostly just sweeter varieties such as Concord, Moscato, Catawba and various fruit wines. I am sure they are distributing these sweet wines to local retailers because they are probably their best sellers – so in turn they probably produce more of these than the dry varieties. My local grocery does offer a few wines from Bloomington Indiana’s Oliver Winery. Usually the Soft Red, Soft White and Camelot Mead which are all too sweet for my personal taste.

Imagine my surprise when one day I came across an Oliver Dry Red Blend. I finally uncorked this wine last night to give it a try. It’s foundation is Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah which gives it a bold distinction. My guess is that it is close to a 50/50 blend, because I could certainly detect the Syrah. Although I enjoyed a glass on its own at the end of the day, this selection is probably paired best with a steak or grilled meats. This rich wine with hints of currant and spice has a lasting finish and is perfect for those that prefer bold, dry reds.

Are you ready to taste this wine for yourself? You can get all the information about visiting  on the Oliver Winery and Vineyards website.

Discover more Indiana Wineries

Michigan’s Leelanau Cellars Witches Brew

I live in southern Ohio and I was quite suprised to find this wine in my local liquor store. Even though it’s still August I couldn’t resist picking of a bottle of this Autumn-themed wine from Michigan’s Leelanau Cellars. This red with cinnamon and cloves is probably best served warm, but I decided to take my chances and chill it – opening it up on an evening when it was still 80 degrees outside. I actually found it quite delightful served cold. The spices gave it a touch of sweetness, and the colder temperature of the wine didn’t let the cinnamon and clove become overpowering. It was a great departure from the crisp whites I’ve been drinking most of the summer. I could even see this wine combined with some fruit and ginger ale to make a summer sangria.

Still…I’m sure this wine was initially meant to be served warm and is probably at its very best when served that way. If you’re hosting a fall get-together this wine would be perfect to serve ladled from a crock pot. Even though I enjoyed it very much chilled, I think I am going to pick up another bottle for a cool fall evening.

You can read more about this wine and order it from the Leelanau Cellars website: www.lwc.wine

A Visit to Manchester Hill Winery

I am so thankful for a spur-of-the-moment decision to stop by Manchester Hill Winery in Circleville, OH.

Manchester Hill has recently re-opened under new ownership (the winemaker actually bought out the previous owner). It is no longer a farm market / winery….but they are now concentrating solely on the wine. As of the time of this blog post they only have four wines bottled for sale, but several more are on the horizon and I can’t wait.

 

Their spacious tasting room offers plenty of indoor seating and a cool, casual atmosphere. Upon entering the tasting room manager, Justin, was very welcoming. He was very knowledgable and explained the wines they currently had available for sale, a few more available for tasting (not yet bottled for sale but available for tasting and by the glass) and more that would be coming soon. I sampled five wines which included a Dry Riesling, Strawberry, Sweet Red, Pink Catawba and House Red.  I’m a dry wine drinker, so I liked that even the sweeter wines I sampled were not syrupy sweet. My favorite by far was the Dry Riesling – very light, crisp and refreshing. The winemaker does it in a German-Style and I enjoyed it very much. I also loved the House Red – a complex dry red blend perfect for pairing with a steak or dark chocolate covered espresso beans.

Manchester Hill Winery also offers a menu of tasty treats – a cheese board, Mediterranean platter or chips so you can plan to stay for a spell. It was the perfect day to sip a glass of Dry Riesling outside where I was able to have an in-depth conversation with the winemaker. He is knowledgable, talented and I would watch for great things to come from this newer Central-Ohio Winery.

Wines to be offered in the near future: Seyval Blanc, Vignoles, Niagara, Sweet Riesling, Concord, Blackberry, Winter Solstice Iced Wine…plus both a dry and a sweet cider.