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.
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 For the most part tastings seem to have been replaced by flights.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.
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.
Now 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
This just in: One of our members, Mystic Hills Vineyard in San Miguel, California has an award-winning Malbec. It has won Double Gold, Best in Class and 97 Points in the 2020 East Meets West Wine Competition. Congratulations Mystic Hills!
I can’t think of anything better to do on a chilly afternoon than venturing out to a winery for some tasting. My destination for today was Naz Vineyard and Winery in Kingston, Ohio. Although officially known as Na zdravie, which means “cheers” in Slovak, locals have shortened the name to Naz. The land was once an alpaca farm, but is now a 10-acre vineyard and winery owned by Jack and Cindy Mergo. The winery, which opened its doors November 2017, produces several varieties of wine including an award-winning Traminette and Corot Noir.
We arrived in the late afternoon and took seats at the counter for a tasting. A tasting includes six wines, so I ordered a tray with their three driest wines (Red Wine, Corot Noir and Cabernet Franc) plus three sweeter varieties (Traminette, Soul Shine and Back to Black). As I worked my way through the tasting, I immediately found some personal favorites. The Corot Noir was my absolute favorite – so smooth and a bit more fruity than their driest wine (simply called Red Wine). It was perfect for sipping on its own, but I think it would also pair well with most red meats – but would be wonderful with red sauce pastas and pizza. I was also impressed with the Traminette. It’s always been one of my favorite grapes and what makes it great is that it can be produced anywhere from dry to very sweet. The Naz Traminette is somewhere in the middle, but leans a bit to the sweeter side. Sweet wine drinkers would love this wine, as well as dry wine drinkers that are looking for something a little lighter during the summer months. Although I am primarily a dry wine drinker I tend to want something with a touch of sweetness in warmer weather. After my tasting experience I could see why both the Traminette and Corot Noir are award-winners for this winery.
Naz Winery also produces a few more sweet wines, Native Naz and Niagara, and occasionally some fruit wines on a limited basis. For those that like something a little different, they even had two wine slushies available while I was there – one they were making with what is left of their Pear wine and another using their Niagara. I didn’t try a slushie, but I would have been tempted to do so if it had been warmer outside. I’ve been known to drink a wine slushie or two on a hot day.
For those wishing to stay for awhile to take in the atmosphere, there is plenty of indoor seating plus a covered patio and a deck outside overlooking the vineyard. Guests can also enjoy live entertainment many Friday and Saturday evenings. After your tasting you can stay to sip on your favorites by the glass or bottle. I personally stayed for a glass of Corot Noir and purchased a few bottles to take home with me.
An expansion is currently underway and visitors will soon be able to enjoy fresh made pizzas from their new pizza oven. In addition to pizza, Naz Winery will not only be serving their estate-grown wines, but will soon be offering beer and other drink selections as well. More space for events is being added and I hear that Sunday sales in also in the works.
Naz Vineyard and Winery is located at 13414 Marietta Road in Kingston, Ohio. Although they don’t have an official website, you can use this link to follow them on their Facebook Page.
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.
One of our members, the Roanoke Boutique Hotel in Roanoke, Virginia has been featured in Blue Ridge Outdoors magazine. This is a wonderful article about this bed & breakfast that was just opened this summer. Click here to check it out for yourself!
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.