Maybe cooking is

Northern Virginia: Newbie Wine Scene

Posted on: May 26, 2010

A scenic springtime drive just 40 minutes west of D.C. brings to mind warm homemade cherry, apple and blueberry pies, glasses of lemonade on red-checkered picnic tablecloths, rounds of frisbee, the porch chair swings and hammocks of a farmhouse and its red barn set against a pasture of horses grazing and the Blue Ridge Mountain range, which softly welcomes a calming recognition of individual insignificance and simplicity.

But this past weekend, the 40 minute drive only hints at those childhood memories as my friend Mitra and I stayed farther north of the Luray.  We had grown-up plans for a wine tasting at Willowcroft Farm Vineyards in Leesburg.  From the unpronounceable Catoctin Ridge are panoramic views of the Loudon Valley, but we focused on the nine uncorked bottles inside an enormous barn (directly next to a bridal party who appeared to be there to reinvigorate the idea of drunk Sunday afternoons).

As we swished, breathed, swirled, sipped and discovered the whites and reds, I found that several wines tasted fruity – apple, pear, apricot, strawberry, plum, currant, cherry, blackberry, raspberry, citrus all had their effect.  The 2007 Chardonnay Reserve (crisp and “buttery”) and 2005 Merlot (tasted as watercolor paintings look) won my votes, but Mitra enjoyed the strong flavor of the full-bodied 2008 Petit Verdot (recommended for meats).  Some tasted a bit like vinegar (which is probably not a good sign), but an article in today’s WaPo explains that real fruit vinegar (for salad dressings, etc.) starts with wine.

Mitra and me sipping chardonnay at Willowcroft winery.

Mitra and I don’t profess to know much about wines, so this trip wasn’t a pretentious indulgence of an already-established basement cellar or expertise a la Fraiser.

Generally, the wine business in Northern Virginia is young.  Some of the other regional winery tours recommended by our decanting oenophile included:

  • The exotic tour on the way to the acclaimed The Inn at Little Washington restaurant in the Rappahannock County: Gadino Cellars (Italian), Gray Ghost (family owned), Narmada (Indian winery, opened in 2009), and Unicorn.
  • The easy-because-they’re-directly-across-from-each-other tour in Warrenton: Marterella (Italian) and Mediterranean Cellars (Greek, opened in 2003).
  • The picnic basket and mountain view tour in Broad Run: Barrel Oak (a robust live music program, opened in 2008) and Three Fox Vineyards (Italian, opened in 2002).
  • And I don’t remember what he said about Pearmund Cellars (opened in 2003 by an established wine judge) in Fauquier County.  Memory isn’t quite as precise when you have a refilling wine glass in your hand.

Yesterday was actually National Wine Day, and there’s some back and forth about the origins of glass toasting.  Disregarding historical quibbles, those of you attending weddings this summer (Lindsay, Mallory and Brittany shout outs!) here’s a guide to toasting etiquette.  Eye contact is important, so watch the people and not the glasses!

Thought for the week: “Good wine is a good familiar creature if it be well used.”William Shakespeare (1564-1616), Othello, II. iii. (315)


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