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"Front Royal Winery Tour"

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I've been wanting to get to Glen Manor winery for some time, after first getting the chance to taste one of the sauvignon blancs at a Black Ankle staff meeting, and then reading Jeff's posts on here. Recently, a couple came into the tasting room when I was working and mentioned that Linden was their favorite VA winery. Since it's long been a favorite of mine as well, I asked which other wineries they'd recommend and their answer was Glen Manor and Chester Gap. The recommendations were a reminder that with the weather changing it was time to get out to Glen Manor. With the additional recommendation of Chester Gap, I felt I had a perfect little day tour orchestrated. So this past Saturday, dogs were thrown in the car and after a hike at Sky Meadows State Park, we visited Linden again, followed by Chester Gap, and finally Glen Manor. Can I just say that I think we've discovered the VA trifecta, and all within a 15 minute drive of each other!

At Linden, we started with the regular tasting. The Seyval was refreshing as always and the chardonnay was nicely balanced (light oak from older barrels, but no malo-lactic fermentation in any of their chardonnays). Of the 2 reds, I found the claret pleasant, but felt the petite verdot fell a little flat. While I like a lot of tannin I just felt their wasn't enough fruit to balance it and it wasn't particularly complex. We skipped tasting the off-dry riesling until later as it was time for the reserve tasting. I think anyone who goes to Linden should try to fit in the reserve tasting, which is offered every 45 min on the weekend for $12. You get a lot more information about the winemaking process while getting to taste their higher end wines, and they try to do interesting side-by-side pairings. For this one, we got to compare single-vineyard chardonnays from two different vintages so we could see the difference the growing season makes (the '08 Boisseau, a nicely acidic chardonnay vs the '07 Hardscrabble, a more subtle, smooth, food-friendly chardonnay), followed by 2 reds grown the same year, but from different vineyards and with different blends (the '06 Avenius vs the '06 Hardscrabble, accompanied by some locally made sausage), and finally 2 different dessert wines, a vidal and a petit manseng, both late harvest and made in the style of ice wines. We found ourselves unable to put the 2 dessert wines down, especially the vidal which had a lovely spice quality even though neither of us often drink these types of dessert wines (give me a glass of port with a bit of dark chocolate any day). Linden also has beautiful grounds and a lovely deck, but note that only case club members can use the deck on weekends.

Chester Gap has a much more casual feel, the tasting room isn't much more than a makeshift bar, but with large windows overlooking what may be one of the best tasting room views in VA, especially we imagined in the fall. The wines we tasted were somewhat different than what's listed on their website. We tasted 3 different viogniers, their "base" viognier, aged in stainless steel, followed by a single vineyard (I believe also from the Boisseau vineyard) and a reserve viognier. Surprisingly we both liked the basic viognier the best with it's dry style and nice acidity. For reds, we tasted the '07 merlot and the '07 cabernet franc. Anyone who has ever tasted wine with me in VA knows that I despise many of the VA cab francs for their often vegetal (green pepper) quality, although I've managed to find a few that I enjoy, including Barren Ridge's. This cab franc was delicious, smooth, rich and made in a Bordeaux style blend. We each left with bottles of the merlot as well, plus a third "shared" bottle that was supposed to pair with the leg of lamb that never got made. ;)

Our next and final stop (oops, I lie, we slammed on the brakes and did a quick u-turn as we noticed Rappahannock, but I don't feel like their wines are really worth mentioning in this post) was Glen Manor. We started off with the 2 sauvignon blancs. It was surprisingly hard for me to pick a favorite, the '07 is made in a more French style, I could easily envision having it with food, but I still felt it had a nice acidity. The '08 is made in a much more new world (think New Zealand) style, with almost bracing acidity, which I happen to love in a white wine, particularly a sauvignon blanc, but it was bizarre to be drinking this wine in a VA winery (in a good way). I took bottles of both home and am certain I will be tasting them side by side with and without food in an attempt to pick a favorite in the future. Regardless, both were really great wines. Equally delicious were the 2 reds, the '07 cabernet franc and the '07 Hodder Hill, essentially the bordeaux-style/meritage blend. I'm going to admit it was the end of the day at this point so my tasting notes (especially since I'm going by memory) might be unreliable so I'll just leave it at we loved them both, perhaps the cab franc moreso than the Hodder Hill (yet another wine trying to change my poor opinion of VA cab franc) and left with bottles of both. An added bonus, a few of the wines are offered in half bottle sizes, not that anyone needs just a half a bottle of this wine, but I've been wanting one or two for storing open wine that I don't finish in one night so it was nice to be able to buy some this way.

No idea if this is interesting or useful to anyone, but I am such a fan of supporting local wineries and really feel the quality at these 3 is outstanding (not just good for VA, although I really hate to make statements like that) so I hope others will visit based on the recommendations and find new wineries to love as well.

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