Wineries and Vineyards

Holiday Dinner at Hanover Park

Holiday Dinner at Hanover Park

Another weekend, another wine dinner.  This time we had the pleasure of attending the annual holiday dinner at Hanover Park Vineyard.  Each December, Hanover Park throws a holiday celebration for its wine club members as a thank you for their loyalty and for always being there to support the winery.

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Flint Hill Vineyards Autumn Wine Dinner

Flint Hill Vineyards Autumn Wine Dinner

This past weekend, we had the pleasure of attending the Autumn Wine Dinner at Flint Hill Vineyards.  There are several reasons why you should consider going to events like these.  Not only do they offer a unique experience of the winery after hours, they also give you the opportunity to see what the winemaker feels would be a good pairing for their wines.  This dinner didn’t disappoint on either expectation.

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Piccione Grand Opening

Piccione Grand Opening

This past weekend was the grand opening for Piccione Vineyards.  The newest vineyard in Wilkes county is keeping it close to their Italian neighbors (Raffaldini Vineyards, that is).  Established in 2010, Dr. Bill Piccione of Chicago decided to embrace the red clay terrain and plant primarily Italian varietals.  With 16 acres under vine and plenty of room to expand, Piccione Vineyards has helped expand the Little Italy of the Appalachian foothills.

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Sunday Adventures #5

Sunday Adventures #5

Sundays are wine adventure days for us. We typically invite a few friends to join us as we expand their horizons of the NC wine scene. Although we did invite a friend, we didn’t get a confirmation. So instead of letting a Sunday go to waste, we continued on ourselves. 

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Summer Wine Pick Up at Raffaldini

Summer Wine Pick Up at Raffaldini

This past weekend was the wine pick up for Raffaldini Vineyards. Over the past seven years, Raffaldini has grown a loyal following. This is due not only to the great wine that they produce, but also because owner and winemaker Jay Raffaldini shows such passion for what he does.   Twice a year, Jay and his team holds a wine pick up party for his wine club members. At each pick up there are six bottles of wine, a sampling of new releases paired with authentic Italian food, and a short info session about the happenings at the winery and what’s next.

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Burntshirt Vineyards

Burntshirt Vineyards

Western North Carolina is surely one of the most picturesque regions of the state.  The Blue Ridge Mountains tower over the western part of the state creating an isolated feel that is truly relaxing.  One of the many benefits of the mountains is that it also creates a unique climate that sees moderately short winters with long summers.  The summer days are hot, but the evenings are cooler making this a great area to grow wine grapes.  Burntshirt Vineyards is one of the few that are taking advantage of this unique area.  We recently received an invitation to visit the vineyard and winery to take a detailed look at their process and taste their offerings.

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Virginia Adventures Day 4

Day four brought us to the close of our journey in
Virginia. As we made our way back down the highway from Northern
Virginia through the Appalachian Mountains in the Shenandoah
Valley, we decided to make a few last stops. Although we didn’t
stop at many wineries, we were still able to make it to three.
 All three are great locations and you should plan a visit
if you’re in the area.  Our first stop was Cave Ridge Vineyard.
 There we were presented with two tasting options. We
could either taste the standard offering, or we could extend the
tasting and enjoy their port-style and dessert wines. Being port
lovers, we naturally decided to try it all. On the standard
tasting, there were a few wines that stood out. One of our
favorites was the 2013 Viognier. This particular wine was barrel
aged, which gave it a nice oaky nose and flavor with a drop of
vanilla. Also notable was the 2013 Riesling. This French style
Riesling was slightly carbonated, giving it a crisp and dry body.
There was a bit of acidity to the wine that gave it a nice firm
backbone. The port-style wines were tasty as well. They offered a
red made from Chambourcin and a white made of Viognier. Both were
quite tasty and complex with the red showing toasty butterscotch
and the white being smooth and tropical.  Our next stop
was just down the road at the Winery at Kindred
 Still slightly young, this winery is
doing well. They offer a wine tasting as well as a cider tasting.
We opted for the wine tasting and were eager for the first pour. On
the menu were two Chardonnays.  The first was bright and
acidic with a hint of oak and a mellow buttery flavor. The second
was more traditional with a bigger oak nose and a creamy and nutty
flavor. Our favorite was the 2013 Malbec. This light red had cherry
and vanilla on the nose. It was slightly jammy with a red currant
finish. The light tannins were vibrant and playful and lingered for
only a minute before finishing cleanly.  Our last stop of
the day was a bit farther down the highway in Staunton,
Virginia. Ox Eye
 Ox Eye Vineyards is one stop we will
always try to make whenever we’re in the area. Their new releases
are coming soon, but their current offerings are at also great. The
2013 Dry Riesling is ripe with a honey nose and has really mellowed
out since the last time we tasted it (just last year). It has a
good balance of acids and honeysuckle with a light citrus finish.
Their 2012 Pinot Noir was mild and jammy with a hint of
strawberries and black cherries. Finally their 2012 Cabernet Franc
had a rich nose with a delicate spice on the mid-palate. With each
sip, the spices continued to build until it faded into a long and
lingering finish. 

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Virginia Adventures Day 3

Virginia Adventures Day 3

Day three brought us to familiar wineries once again.  These were the wineries that we marked on our “go back to” list.  We were in the northern part of Virginia with Winchester as our base.  All of the wineries were within an hour drive from Winchester and if you were to drive the whole circuit without stopping, it would only take about three hours.  We made our way to a fair number of wineries.  Below are the notes of our journey.  The next time you’re in the area, you should make it a point to check out these great wineries.

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Virginia Adventures Day 2

Virginia Adventures Day 2

Day two brought us to five wineries before ending up at our final destination. We started in the Charlottesville area and made our way northward. After our second stop, we quickly found oursves in the middle of the mountains with no cellphone service in sight. The only saving grace for communication with the outside world was the free wifi that the wineries offered. 


The view from Moss Vineyards.

Stop one was at Stinson Vineyards. We arrived right at opening and were the first ones in the tasting room.  Our favorite wine here was the 2014 rosé made from the Mourvèdre Grape. The wine was dark in color with a outstanding earthy nose. The flavors were deep and complex with a mild mushroom flavor. Also worth noting was the 2014 Sauvignon Blanc, showing a grapefruit nose and citrus flavor with a nice mineral finish. 

Stop number two was just around the corner from our first stop. Grace Estate Winery had just opened their new tasting room the day before we arrived, and it is coming along nicely. The furniture should be arriving within the next week or two, but they have wine and glasses so that’s enough to keep the tasting room running. They had six wines up for tasting. We particularly enjoyed the 2012 Cabernet Franc which had about 10% Petit Verdot blended in. The finished product is a dark red wine with a good tannic structure. There is a nice pepper flavor on the mid-palate and it finishes almost sweet with a hint of caramel. 

Stop number three took us slightly off the beaten path. Mountfair Vineyards produces red blends and caters to a dedicated group of followers.  Their current offerings are the 2013 Epiphany and the 2013 Complicated. The Epiphany is a Cabernet Franc blend that is light and even with an ample display of dark fruits. The Complicated is a Petit Verdot blend that is dark in color and flavors with notes of cherries and spices. In addition to their own wines, they offer a great selection of wines and ciders from smaller producers who don’t always have tasting rooms. One of the ciders that we enjoyed was the Potters Farmhouse Dry. It was bright and fruity with a crisp finish. The concept here is great and the setting ales you feel like you’re tucked away in the mountains (because you are!). 

Stop number four was around the base of the mountain and further into the heart of the cell phone dead zone. Glass House Winery is so named because of the large glass conservatory that is onsite. The owners are not only winemakers, but they are also a certified chocolatier and a conservatory enthusiast. They pair the dessert wine with a handcrafted espresso chocolate that melts in the mouth. Our favorites here were the 2013 C-villian (Chambourcin)  and the 2013 One Lane Bridge (Lemberger). The Chambourcin was fruity with a light pepper spice. The Lemberger was dark and fruity with hits of clove and cinnamon. After the tasting, we hopped on the wifi for a quick second and then we were back on our way. 

Our final stop for the day was at Moss Vineyards. Although this winery is truely off the beaten path, down a winding gravel road and up a mountainside, it’s worth the visit. We had a few favorites that we sampled. The 2013 Viognier had a nose of lightly toasted honey with a big honeysuckle flavor. The 2012 Vino Rosso was soft and smooth with a tomato jam nose and a smokey finish. Our overall favorite was likely the 2010 Achitectura. This red blend was immensely dark in color with a rich nose and a well developed flavor. It was full in body and had a great complex flavor that lingered in the mouth for a good long while. 

All of the wineries we visited on day two were part of the Monticello Wine Trail on a smaller trail called the The Appellation Trail. For more details and to plan a visit, head to the trail’s website or click the wineries above to go directly to their sites. 

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Virginia Adventures Day 1

We’re back on the road again, this time heading to the wineries in northern Virginia. On the way we stopped in Charlottesville to visit a few new locations. 

Day 1 took us to five wineries and two breweries.

Our first stop was Lovingston Winery. Located just outside of Lovingston, Virginia this winery provides a quiet escape from the daily hustle and bustle. The winery is a small family run operation. Their tasting room is right in the middle their gravity fed production room.  (When I say right in the middle, I mean you climb a half flight of stairs to get to the tasting bar that’s at the same level as the tanks. The experience was quite unique.)  The tasting usually consists of six wines, but we also had a sneak peak of two new releases. Here are the notes for the verticals.  The 2013 Seyval Blanc offered a bright and crisp profile with a great citrus finish. The 2014 was a bit lighter on the nose settling in the honeysuckle family. The flavor was also more mellow with a bigger mouthfeel. The finish was clean with a great mineral note.  The 2013 Petit Manseng was done in more of an off dry style with big tropical flavors and aromas while still keeping a nice acidic finish. The 2014 was a bit different in style, but still slightly sweet. The flavors teetered on smokey with hints of herbs and spices on the nose. Also of note here are the 2013 Pinotage and the 07 Reserve Merlot. Both were full in body and flavor and had a lot to offer. 

Stop two was somewhat unexpected and was the result of us looking for lunch. Our food plans changed somewhat last minute (I’m not the best navigator sometimes). So we had to hunt for an alternate. Luckily for us, a new boutique winery just popped up on the way to Charlottesville. Pippin Hill Farm & Vineyards is just a quick turn off highway 20 and is worth the slight diversion. They’re tucked away on the side of a hill with an unobstructed view of the blue ridge mountains and all of its little valleys. The setting is gorgeous, the wines are quite good and locavores will love the food as well. Of interest here was the 2014 Sauvignon Blanc done more in the New Zealand style rather than New World. It was grassy and balanced with a nice profile of minerals and fruit. Also worth noting is the 2013 Petit Verdot, a dark leathery wine with hints of spice, smoke and cherries. Stop in, wine, dine, and enjoy the view! 

Stop number three was the Virginia Wineworks. The winemaker, Michel Shaps, is regional presence in the Virginia wine making world. He produces wines for several vineyards in the area as well as running a custom crush operation. There were several wine tasting options available. We decided to stay local and go for the Virginia tasting.  The wines were all delicious, but we particularly liked the Odette, a white blend that was light and balanced. The unique thing about this wine is that you could almost taste every grape in this wine. It started with an appley Chardonnay, moved into a floral/tropical Viognier which rounded into an acidic Petit Manseng before finishing with a note of Riesling. The winery itself is picking up on a new trend in the industry: growlers and boxes. Many of the wines here are for sale in a 64 oz growler. The Chardonnay also comes in a 3-Liter box. New things on the horizons here, worth keeping an eye on. 

Stop four took us to Blenheim Vineyards. The setting is rustic barn meets modern tasting room. They also have hopped onto the growler bandwagon and offer a few of their wines in a larger size. They have two white blends that use a good amount of red grape in them. They didn’t impart any color, but it did add to the flavor and body of the wines. Of interest here was the 2013 Grenache, a GSM blend that was full of pepper and dark fruits. Also worth noting is the 2013 Painted Red, a blend of Petit Verdot, Syrah, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Merlot. It was bright and fruity that quickly moved into a smooth and even texture. 

Our final winery of the day was Jefferson Vineyards. Conveniently located just outside of Monticello, this winery should be on your list if you’re in the area. The winery itself has been family run for over three generations. Many of the red wines shared similar characteristics of toasted caramel, but each was unique in its own right. Our favorites were the 2012 Petit Verdot which was dark and fruity with a nice toasty finish and also the 2012 Meritage which was smooth and silky with a delicious flavor.  

After a long day of winery stops, we headed to our hotel and looked for dinner options. We decided to eat in downtown Charlottesville. But first, we made a quick stop at Champion Brewing Company where we had an overly delicious imperial coffee stout. After our beer flight, we went on to South Street Brewery for some DIY Mac & Cheese and another beer sampler. The kolch and the red IPA were very good and worth searching out. 

If you’re thinking about a trip to Charlottesville, the numerous wineries and breweries definitely make it worth it. 

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