Virginia Wine Time

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Tag: tasting room

Bulls-Eye on Ox-Eye Vineyards

We always have our sights set for new wineries to visit when we travel throughout the state, and a recent trip to the historic town of Staunton allowed us to hone in on the newly opened tasting room for Ox-Eye Vineyards.

The experience was indeed a unique one as the tasting room is located in the town of Staunton instead of near the Ox-Eye vineyards. The vineyards are actually in Shenandoah farm country and several miles away from downtown Staunton. Visitors to Virginia wineries may find this unusual, but it is par for the course in Europe. We actually enjoyed this slice of Old World in a historic town like Staunton (historic because it is the birthplace of President Woodrow Wilson), and there is no doubt that the tasting room’s downtown location creates a greater potential to attract more customers. And the closing time on Friday and Saturday is 7 PM. End of work week/happy hour crowds in Staunton who seek an alternative to cheap beer and watered down liquor now have a place to unwind. The quaint tasting room itself as well as the out door café tables and chairs only enhance the Euro vibe.

So what about the wines? Overall, we found them to be well-crafted wines. Three white wines from the 2010 vintage and three reds from the 2009 vintages were offered for tasting. Of the white wines, we both enjoyed the crisp Chardonnay that was fermented in stainless steel tanks. It presented aromas and flavors of pear and citrus zest, and its refreshing finish was made for a hot summer’s day. Nice on its own, this Chardonnay should pair nicely with poultry or shellfish.

Of the red wines, I favored the 2009 Cabernet Franc with its notes of raspberry, tobacco, and black pepper. This was aged in French, American and Hungarian oak barrels. Grilled chops seasoned with fresh herbs might partner nicely with this one. We were both intrigued with the 2009 Lemberger, an Austrian grape that grows well in the cooler climate and higher elevations of Ox-Eye vineyards. With a smoky nose and flavors of dark cherry, blackberry and black pepper, this unique offering might be destined for a meal that features grilled steaks.

As we sipped away in the tasting room, we met Susan Kiers who owns Ox-Eye Vineyards along with her husband, John. They have managed the Ox-Eye Vineyards since 1999 and began selling grapes to other wineries after 2000. In 2010 a tasting room was built in downtown Staunton; March 2011 was the grand opening of this facility. The Ox-Eye Vineyards enjoys an elevation of 1830 feet and benefits from a limestone foundation. Continuous breezes create optimal airflow to combat frost and diseases. In fact, John and Susan compare their site to those of the Finger Lakes region rather than Virginia’s Piedmont! And where did they derive the name, Ox-Eye? From the ox-eye daisies that decorate the property and surrounding landscape.

With our tasting done, we shared a glass of the 2010 Chardonnay and relaxed beneath the shade of the back patio. We envision a bright future for Ox-Eye Vineyards and hope to visit the tasting room to follow the progress. In the meantime, visit the birthplace of President Wilson and then enjoy a glass of wine at the Ox-Eye tasting room. Be sure to mention that Virginia Wine Time sent you.

Back To Our Regular Program

So back on the Monticello Trail and re-visits to first timers the last time we were in the area. These would include Sugarleaf Vineyards and Pollak Vineyards.

We continue to be impressed with the offerings at Sugarleaf Vineyards. The 2008 Viognier, blended with 20% Petit Manseng, was my own favorite and presented stone fruit and honeysuckle on the nose with a lovely fruit combination of papaya, fresh pineapple, and a citrus twist in the mouth. I noted some white pepper, too. Some aging in French oak helps to provide a longer finish. Paul placed a star next to the 2007 Petit Manseng and jotted down “floral” and “fruity” as aromatic notes and “peachy” for flavors. He described its finish as “crisp”.

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Of the red wines, we both concurred that the 2006 Cabernet Franc (blended with 10% Petit Verdot) was the gold star winner. Extracted berry and dried herbs were detected on the nose with similar qualities in the mouth with some pepper to boot; I noted some vanilla at the end due to aging in both American and European oak. Looking for a decadent treat? Try the 2007 Neubia Nectar, a lush dessert wine that is a blend of Petit Manseng and Vidal Blanc.

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We always hear good things about Pollak Vineyards and for good reason. Here too, the lineup of wines continues to be quite impressive. The 2008 Durant White, a blend of Viognier, Pinot Gris, and Chardonnay, is a crisp pour with characteristics of citrus, apple, and tropical fruit. A crowd pleaser by any means, this easy drinking white should prove to be versatile at the most formal or informal affairs. I appreciated the 2008 Rose with its tart berry characteristics. Dry and crisp, this rose is yet another example of nice roses being produced in Virginia.

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Paul’s gold star was reserved for the 2007 Merlot with its ripe cherry and blackberry aromas and flavors. Paul found this one to be more fruit-forward and appreciated its longer finish. My own star was reserved for the complex 2006 Meritage, a blend of Cabernet Franc, Merlot and Petit Verdot. Darker fruit profiles here with pepper and cedar noted, too. Nice tannins here made me wish for a nice steak!

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With our tasting done, we were ready to enjoy lunch with one of our favorite wines at Pollak Vineyards. We dined on sliced beef and wild rice salad with a hunk of Emmental cheese, and we paired this with the 2007 Merlot. The grounds at Pollak Vineyards offer stunning views which we enjoyed while munching and sipping.

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Pollak is also known to be amongst the most “green” of vineyards and wineries, and we look forward to delving into this topic the next time we visit Pollak Vineyards. Of course, we also plan to visit Sugarleaf Vineyards to sample upcoming pours that will include the anticpated Cuvee Neubia. Let us know your favorites at Sugarleaf Vineyards and Pollak Vineyards, but when you visit, mention that Virginia Wine Time sent you.

Pardon The Interruption

Pardon the interruption of our Monticello Wine Trail series. It will resume after this brief break.

Despite the nasty, rainy day, we decided to visit a few Loudoun County wineries to get a few more stamps in our passport for the Loudoun Wine Trail. We decided to visit a few that we hadn’t been to in a while. This won’t be a full on report of all the wines; Warren is the expert there. I’ll be sharing my impressions of our visits. We went to Loudoun Valley Vineyards, Sunset Hills, and Doukenie.

newlabelGreat things have been happening at Loudoun Valley. When we visited in the Winter we could see things were beginning to change. This time we saw lots of changes. The tasting room has a new air about it…fresh paint, new tables and chairs, and there was even live music! Of course we tasted all the wines and enjoyed them all but I’ll say the 2008 Pinot Grigio was awarded my gold star. It was crisp, floral, with citrus flavors. We also noted the new labels. Very nice! When you visit Loudoun Valley, and I’m sure you will, be sure to taste the 2008 Pinot Grigio.

Our next stop was Sunset Hills. We last visited Sunset Hills in February. At that time they had only been open a few months. Since then things have only gotten better at Sunset Hills. The tasting room was a buzz with tastings going on. They were setting up for a wedding reception as well. As busy as the tasting room was, there was someone available to help us with our tasting. She led us through the tasting and Warren put his stars next to the viognier and the cabernet franc. We were lucky to taste some of these reds in the barrels during our last visit. The big change to Sunset Hills that I noticed this time over our last visit was the addition of food. You can now order cheese and bread baskets with meats and other delicious items. They even have fudge! I had to have some of the peanut butter fudge. It was delicious! Keep in mind though that you can only bring your own food to the lawn for a picnic. The two large decks and the tasting room are reserved for food purchased at Sunset Hills.

Our last stop was at Doukenie. We’ve been there many times in the past and always enjoy their wines. The same was true this time, we enjoyed the wines, especially the 2008 Mandolin. What was different about our visit this time was the change in the tasting room. They have moved the old bar out and now have a huge rectangular bar pretty much in the middle of the room. You just about run into it when you walk in the door. Of course the new big bar does allow for more people to cluster around for tastings. I was just a little disappointed because so many times in the past we had made a connection with our tasting associate in a smaller, more personal way and that seems to be lost with this new arrangement. However, the new bar set up doesn’t effect the wines at all! The wines are what keeps us coming back!

The next time you find yourself in Loudoun County be sure to stop off at Loudoun Valley Vineyards, Sunset Hills, and Doukenie and be sure to tell them Virginia Wine Time sent you! Also, be sure to check our next post as we finish up our tasting notes from our visits on the Monticello Trail.

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