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 For the most part tastings seem to have been replaced by flights.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.