Shenandoah Valley AVA Roundup

As our twitter followers may know, we made additional stops as we journeyed through the Shenandoah Valley AVA. Here is a summary of our tasting experiences:

Barren Ridge Vineyards: Owners John and Shelby Higgs converted this apple orchard into a vineyard, and it is located on a high ridge (1400 feet) between the Blue Ridge and Appalachian Mountains. A semi-arid environment brings lower rainfalls and persistent breezes to create an excellent climate for growing grapes. Our favorites here included the crisp 2009 Tinkling Spring that is a blend of Viognier and Vidal Blanc grapes. Clean and fruity, a perfect wine to sip on its own or with light fare. We also enjoyed the 2009 Rose, a perfect summer wine that presented strawberry and melon flavors. Paul placed an extra star next to the 2009 Traminette with its floral nose and tropical fruit characteristics. At the end of our tasting, we shared a glass of the 2009 Rose and took in the breathtaking mountain views from the patio.



Bluestone Vineyard: This one is definitely a newbie. Owners Curt and Jackie Hartman planted grapes in 2003 and within five years the vineyard expanded to include thousands of grape vines. The winery was built in 2010, and the vineyard now produces 2000 cases of wine. Michael Shaps consults on the winemaking, and his expertise was evident in our favorite, the 2010 Viognier. Done in stainless steel, it presented white peach, apricot and citrus zest aromas and flavors. Sweet wine lovers should appreciate Beau, named after the winery’s golden retriever. The Vidal-Traminette blend has 3% residual sugar.



Cross Keys Vineyards: An expansive facility with a European feel to it, Cross Keys Vineyards opened its winery in 2008. Eleven wines were available for tasting, and a favorite white included the barrel fermented 2009 Chardonnay with its pear notes and soft, toasty finish. For those who yearn for sweeter rose wines, the 2010 Fiore may fit the bill. Made from juice pressed off of skins from Pinot Noir grapes, it includes 1.5% residual sugar along with bright red berry aromas. The focus at Cross Keys Vineyards seems to be red wines, and we preferred the 2009 Petit Verdot with its whiff of violet and notes of plum, dark cherry, and spice. Still young and tannic, so plan to age for a bit. We also liked the 2008 Meritage, a blend of Merlot (43%), Cabernet Franc (30%), and Petit Verdot (27%). Aged for 15 months in new and aged oak barrels, we noted cherry and raspberry elements with nuances of crushed herbs and spice. Tannins here were smoother, too. Dessert wine lovers should try the 2009 Ali d’Oro produced from late harvest Traminette. I referred to it as Bit-0-Honey in a glass and imagined it with a hunk of blue cheese!




We did make one other new discovery on the Shenandoah trail, but I’ll save that experience for the next post. In the meantime, be sure to experience these wineries in the Shenandoah Valley AVA, but be certain to mention that Virginia Wine Time sent you.

Notes from the Shenandoah Region

This past week, Paul and I ventured west to the Shenandoah Valley AVA to visit wineries. Cave Ridge Vineyard was first on our list of wineries to visit; we sampled the wines at Cave Ridge Vineyard when owner and winemaker Randy Phillips first opened the winery in 2007. At that time, we were very impressed with the lineup of wines, and we were eager to see how things had progressed since that initial visit.

Since our 2007 trip to Cave Ridge Vineyard, a tasting room with a patio has been added. The shaded front patio includes a lovely fountain, and tasters can enjoy a glass of wine while admiring the mountain landscape. A walk through the patio brought us into the tasting room where we availed ourselves to a tasting of current releases. We were pleased with the Viogniers during our 2007 visits, and the current 2009 vintages are likewise quite solid. The crisp Viognier 2009 was done in stainless steel and presented melon and pear flavors; food friendly, it could also be enjoyed on its own. We both preferred the Viognier Barrel Aged 2009. Aged for eight months in French oak barrels, this one offered more floral aromas with tropical fruit characteristics, and a fuller mouth feel. I also detected a bit of vanilla at the end. Any creamy dish like risotto should pair nicely, but I’d also enjoy a glass with a nice brie and fresh fruit.


The red wines were also well crafted. With grilling season still in high gear, burgers and other grilled fare should match up well with the lighter-bodied 2008 Chambourcin and its berry and tobacco aromas. Our ultimate favorite, though, was the Fossil Hill Reserve 2008. Fossil Hill is not only the home to the vines that produced this more complex pour, but it is also the gravesite for ammonite fossils that are millions of years old. (How is that for some history!) Anyway, the more complex Fossil Hill Reserve 2008 blends Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot, Syrah, and Chambourcin to present elements of dark cherry, plum, spice and mocha. Paul described the tannins as smooth, and I concurred. This one could age on the rack for a bit, but it is certainly ready for immediate enjoyment with a nice steak dinner. Randy Phillips offered us a sneak peak of the upcoming Fossil Hill 2009, and earthy aromas prevailed with this one complemented by brambleberry flavors in the mouth. It will be released in October 2011 and in time to celebrate Virginia Wine Month.

We chatted with Randy for a bit as we sipped at the tasting counter. His case production is currently at 2600 cases, and he will soon add a Cabernet Sauvignon to the tasting menu. Also, Cave Ridge wines can be tasted and enjoyed at Wine on the Water, a wine bar in Harrisonburg, Virginia. When I asked Randy about the 2011 growing season, his assessment was similar to other winemakers in the state—early! In fact, the Chambourcin was already in veraison. This then led to my next question—did the Shenandoah region have any particular challenges in regard to growing grapes? Randy Phillips replied, “Shenandoah is the future of the Virginia wine industry. Our limestone soils and elevations are most similar to Bordeaux and we have low rainfalls.” It seems to us that Randy Phillips has exploited these advantages to produce some solid wines.

With our tastings done, we shared a glass of the Viognier Barrel Aged 2009 while relaxing on the patio. With the splashing sounds of the fountain and butterflies aflutter, it was hard for us to imagine a better way to spend the afternoon. However, all good things must end, and we made sure to purchase our favorites before we left the winery. Plan to visit Cave Ridge Vineyard, and be certain to mention that Virginia Wine Time sent you.

By The Numbers

As most of you know we just completed a trip to visit wineries in the western and southern part of the state. We also had a side trip to Knoxville Tennessee to celebrate my mother’s 80th birthday with my family. We had a great time visiting new wineries, talking with winemakers, tasting new wines, and checking out new tasting rooms. As I have mentioned before, we will be posting soon about our experiences on the road. Until then, here are the numbers from the trip:

1405-Total number of miles traveled.
$3.79-The highest price paid for gas.
$3.23-The lowest price paid for gas.
42.7-Miles per gallon (hybrids get great gas millage).
12-Wineries visited.
9-New wineries visited.
3 1/2-Tanks of gas purchased.
2-Cases of wine purchased.

The last three wineries we visited were Annefield, San Soucy, and Molliver.


Moving On

After a few days in Tennessee celebrating my mom’s 80th birthday, we got back on the road today and traveled nearly 400 miles to Villa Appalaccia Winery, Chateau Morrisette Winery, and Foggy Ridge Cider.

We tasted lots of wine and cider, and took lots of notes. We have plans to post about our experiences in the near future. We’ve gathered so much information lately that we’ll have to digest it before posting our impressions. Stay tuned for more regular updates of our travels to different parts of the state. We have visited 132 wineries to date! We have plans to visit three new wineries tomorrow!