This past weekend my boyfriend, his sister and her husband and I ventured into the gorgeous hils of Virginia wine country. Normally we take these kinds of trips in the Fall Fantastic Foliage season, so I was a little trepidatious about taking this time to exlore the gorgeous mountainside in the historically sweltery August instead of the chilly October. But luckily it was breezy, rainy, and there was enough beautiful cloud action that I could pretend it was an overcast Fall day.
This year we set out to Sugarloaf Mountain Vineyard, Barboursville Vineyards, and Cross Keys Vineyards out of the 200 wineries that Virginia has to offer.
Sugarloaf Mountain Vineyard was the most fun to get to – down a long, winding, one-way, bumpy gravel road that made us question several times if we were headed the wrong way, about to get murdered, etc. Luckily this sign appeared when we’d almost lost hope:
And not long after the road opened up to a beautiful valley, nestled between some impressive mountains (no pictures because I’m a doof, and I only brought my phone and not a camera with me – there was zero reception there). We visited an hour before closing time, so we got the full attention of the tasting staff, a wonderful intimate tour of the tiny winery, and got to hang out with the vineyard dogs. There is really nothing I want more than to sit outside amongst beautiful scenery with a bottle of wine and a plate full of cheese. Sigh. We particularly were enamored with their Vidal Blanc. Fun fact I didn’t know about: the smaller vineyards employ Bottling Trucks, that simply pull up to the vineyard and set up the assembly line to help with the bottling/corking/labeling process at the end of the harvest, so the vineyard doesn’t have to store that equipment onsite. Crazy!
Barboursville Vineyards is one of my favorite spots to go in Virginia. If we’re lucky, we’ll nab a spot in one of their cottages, like we did this year. Complete with a view of the vineyard, a bottle of wine each day, morning breakfast, and an afternoon cheese plate (see what I said earlier about cheese & wine = heaven).
Ghostbusting, winery style
This year we took the tour, which enabled us to learn more about the fermenting process. For example, I thought with Chardonnay you had two primary choices – fermented in oak versus fermented in steel. Turns out, you actually get both! They stick the grapes in oak first for a variable amount of time, then finish off with steel.
At Barboursville, I’m always a sucker for the Chardonnay or their Merlot. Neither which I would normally choose when out and about.
The last vineyard we hit was Cross Keys. This was located in a truly gorgeous part of Virginia, so I would even recommend visiting for the drive alone. Rolling hills of farmland, looming blue mountains in the background – perfection!
Unfortunately, I found the wine and the service to be a bit awkward. Cross Keys was established in 2001, the same year as SugarLoaf, but for some reason they didn’t seem to have their act together quite as well as SugarLoaf yet. And if you’re tempted to get something off the menu while you’re there – just don’t. But hey – I can’t say enough about that view!
Thus ends my quasi-educational trip to just a few of the wineries Virginia has to offer. How about you guys? Has anyone else checked out some of the 197 others?