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Chrysalis Viognier is outstanding, but if I'm going to spend that kind of scrilla, I'll just drink Condrieu.

I like Barboursville Cab Franc and Octagon. Horton Norton is pretty fun drinking, their viognier is good if you can find a vintage younger than 1999 (which is seemingly impossible). Otherwise, you have VA wet dog.

Past that, I got pretty much nothing, except for Valhalla from Roanoke, making some pretty good reds (and available at last check from Arrowwine). Avoid the whites unless you loathe and detest acidity.

A lot of wines I'm shown are ridiculous, like Virginia tannat, nebbiolo and crazy Spanish blending varietals. Hopefully that's out of their system and they can concentrate on what works for the climate and soil that they have.

Edited by Johnny Rooks
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Thanks, John.

The Finger lakes seemed to have gone through the same thing for a while (stick everything and anything in the ground and see what happens) before learning what they could do well.

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On a tangent....

Are there any VA wines that are actually worth drinking?

I tried one or two (Barboursville?) a few years ago and remember finding them at best potable.

Get yourself over to Linden Vineyards. And under no circumstances should you miss the cellar tasting. They're held every half hour, and I think the last 3 or 4 are done with the winemaker, Jim Law. The cellar tastings are $10.

Avoid the whites unless you loathe and detest acidity.

I find that there are many, very drinkable white wines from Virginia. Aside from Linden, Breaux makes some very good ones. But, so far, Linden is the only producer of quality red wine in Virginia that I'm aware of.....or at least that I'm happy to drink.

Edited by CrescentFresh
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I've enjoyed trips out near Charlottesville to Christensen Ridge (Madison VA) and Veritas (Afton VA). Closer to DC are Pearmund (Broad Run VA) and Naked Mountain (Markham VA). Any shortcomings that you might find in the wine might be made up for in the beauty of the vineyards. Good places for picnics!

Virginia Wines

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In a word...no. No a big white drinker myself. Red wine from Virginia is nicht gut.

I read that the amount of clay in va soil is a problem.

On a tangent....

Are there any VA wines that are actually worth drinking?

I tried one or two (Barboursville?) a few years ago and remember finding them at best potable.

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CrescentFresh said:
Get yourself over to Linden Vineyards.  And under no circumstances should you miss the cellar tasting.  They're held every half hour, and I think the last 3 or 4 are done with the winemaker, Jim Law.  The cellar tastings are $10. 

I find that there are many, very drinkable white wines from Virginia.  Aside from Linden, Breaux makes some very good ones.  But, so far, Linden is the only producer of quality red wine in Virginia that I'm aware of.....or at least that I'm happy to drink.

I was at Linden two weeks ago. and your right, probably the best reds that VA has to offer. However they have the same problem as EVERY other winery in Virginia in that they are grossly over priced. To be blunt, NO WINE MADE IN THE STATE OF VIRGINIA IS WORTH THE PRICE THAT IT IS SOLD FOR. Lord knows I pray for them, but it'll be a long time coming till the turn the corner. It's fine if anyone disagrees with me, though it would mean your palette is corrupted by backyard novelty.

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In a word...no.  No a big white drinker myself.  Red wine from Virginia is nicht gut.

I read that the amount of clay in va soil is a problem.

Mark,

Wrongo Dongo. Taste the red wines from Veritas, King Family and Michael Schap. I use these wines at Citronelle to play my favorite game with wine snobs called "Vin Mystere". When I pour the "Mystery Wine", the first question I ask is: do you LIKE it? The answer is always "yes". As far as clay in the soil is concerned, Petrus sits on top of a lot of red clay and they seem to do pretty well.

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I was at Linden two weeks ago. and your right, probably the best reds that VA has to offer. However they have the same problem as EVERY other winery in Virginia in that they are grossly over priced. To be blunt, NO WINE MADE IN THE STATE OF VIRGINIA IS WORTH THE PRICE THAT IT IS SOLD FOR. Lord knows I pray for them, but it'll be a long time coming till the turn the corner. It's fine if anyone disagrees with me, though it would mean your palette in corupted by backyard novelty.

No arguments with you at all on that point....or should I say pricepoint. I buy some from time to time anyway, but usually splitting a mixed case discount price. At what point, then, does the price begin to drop to reasonable levels? Are they so grossly overpriced now because they're such small operations creating such small amounts of wine that even a sellout would not generate enough capital to make a small profit unless they command prices $10 higher/bottle than they should be? Is it really a case of scarce supply and great demand? I'd find that hard to believe. But perhaps for the few wineries that are creating decent, drinkable wines, that's the case.
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Mark,

Wrongo Dongo. Taste the red wines from Veritas, King Family and Michael Schap. I use these wines at Citronelle to play my favorite game with wine snobs called "Vin Mystere".  When I pour the "Mystery Wine", the first question I ask is: do you LIKE it? The answer is always "yes".

I've done this at home with friends who consistently dog VA wine. Every one of them has been pleasantly surprised. Not all of them would necessarily go out and buy them, but they don't dog them anymore.

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Linden's reds are absolutely perfect when consumed there with the gorgeous scenery and simple but delightful noshes. The cellar tastings are great, the barrel tastings are educational, and the atmosphere is lovely. I make sure to get there at least a couple times a year. But, I am always so disappointed after I buy a few bottles to bring home and realize that, for that price, I could be drinking much better wine!

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Unfortunately, some wineries don't allow buses or large groups. Linden is included in that group, and it would be a shame to miss. We'd probably also want to consider picking wineries based on our own experiences, rather than something pre-packaged. I'm sure renting group transport would still be affordable. Of course we'd have to have a picnic on the grounds of one of them.

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Chris Pearmund, of Pearmund Cellars (the closest Virginia winery to D.C., by the way) is having success with his whites, but his reds have a little ways to go, I'm afraid. Nice guy that Chris, and his white wines are worth a look.

Dennis Horton (Horton Cellars, Gordonsville, Orange County) has world-class Viognier, and his Cabernet Franc is tops. Dennis has long been a proponent of experimentation with different, unsung grape varietals to find what works best in Virginia's climate and soil.

Mark is right - Petrus and the other Pomerol estates sit upon a lot of clay, which might be one reason why Merlot does better in Virginia than Cabernet Sauvignon.

I've always been told that Virginia will NEVER make a classic Cabernet Sauvignon for several reasons - the soil and the p/h levels, and the fact that Cabernet Sauvignon vines don't like our humid summers and cold winters.

Cabernet Franc, however, works beautifully (tougher skinned that the Cab Sauivignon) and is argueably the best red wine made by Barboursville and Horton, and never terribly expensive.

I also have to agree with Jared - my customers very rarely inquire about Virginia wines, except for "theme" dinners. Their value vis a vis their West Coast counterparts is sorely lacking.

Viognier seems to be the most sucessful white wine grape grown here, and Horton has been doing it longer than anyone else, so he has the oldest vines and the most expertise in the state. I'll never forget a Connoisseur's Guide to California Wine piece on Viognier a decade ago, and Horton got included in the reviews, and it got three "***" (highest rating) beating out Calera and anyone else at the time - the magazine commented, "Where in the hell is Orange, Virginia?" :P Ever since, Dennis has had success selling that wine in Napa Valley wine stores, and in San Francisco. Some other Virginia Viognier growers actually got their vine cuttings from Dennis Horton.

For the Chardonnay lovers, Naked Mountain is usually among the very top in the state, and when I could buy it directly from the winery, it was worthwhile, but when they shifted to selling through a distributor for the District, the price went through the roof, and it was suddenly competing with a whole lot of better-known California Chardonnays and we stopped carrying it.

I wish those growers nothing but the best, but they will always have an uphill battle in the more competative markets. Theirs is a Sysyphian task, a true labor of love.

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Dennis Horton (Horton Cellars, Gordonsville, Orange County) has world-class Viognier

This is one of my favorite Viogniers. I drank a bottle of this tonight and it's readily available at Burkas just south of Porter and Wisonsin Ave.

Edited by dcfoodie
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This is one of my favorite Viogniers. I drank a bottle of this tonight and it's readily available at Burkas just south of Porter and Wisonsin Ave.

My biggest concern with Horton Viognier is vintage..."Current" for them seems to be stuck around '99 or '00, personally not interested in drinking old wet dog for a lot of $$$.

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What do people think of the wineries in Loudoun Co.? I like to tell people I live in "wine country." We're about ten miles from Chrysalis in Aldie, which makes a really nice Viognier.

Willowcroft is a nice low-key winery with spectacular views and some good product -- we've enjoyed the riesling and cab franc.

Swedenburg, regardless of what you think of their wines, will be immortalized for the proprietors' role in the Supreme Court case regarding state wine shipping laws.

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What do people think of the wineries in Loudoun Co.? I like to tell people I live in "wine country." We're about ten miles from Chrysalis in Aldie, which makes a really nice Viognier.

Willowcroft is a nice low-key winery with spectacular views and some good product -- we've enjoyed the riesling and cab franc.

Swedenburg, regardless of what you think of their wines, will be immortalized for the proprietors' role in the Supreme Court case regarding state wine shipping laws.

Since you asked, I think you're one county too close to DC for finding a wine producer making decent wine worth paying for. Out your way there's only two I consider, Breaux (white wine only) and Linden (particularly. Theirs are the only decent reds made in VA that I have had).

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Pearmund Cellars in Fauquier makes some decent reds at decent prices. I was surprised when I went to their vineyards and tasted them. Oasis makes a decent Meritage but overpriced for what it is. My apologies to the owner, Tareq.

Edited by RaisaB
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Since you asked, I think you're one county too close to DC for finding a wine producer making decent wine worth paying for.  Out your way there's only two I consider, Breaux (white wine only) and Linden (particularly.  Theirs are the only decent reds made in VA that I have had).

Linden has a very good reputation. I know I've tried their wines at the Virginia Wine Festival and/or Vintage Virginia, but the combination at those events of sweltering heat and too many samples prevents me from offering any first-hand opinions.

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Pearmund Cellars in Fauquier makes some decent reds at decent prices. I was surprised when I went to their vineyards and tasted them. Oasis makes a decent Meritage but overpriced for what it is. My apologies to the owner, Saleq (sp?)

I found just the opposite. Pearmund's white wines far outshone their reds at this stage to me. I'd carry the whites in my store.

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Pearmund Cellars in Fauquier makes some decent reds at decent prices. I was surprised when I went to their vineyards and tasted them. Oasis makes a decent Meritage but overpriced for what it is. My apologies to the owner, Saleq (sp?)

Seems like most Virginia wines are overpriced (IMHO) but I assume that's a function of volume, i.e. not producing huge amounts of wine = having to charge a higher price to cover costs, make a profit, etc.

Chrysalis and Linden are both in beautiful settings, and make for a great day out in the 'country'. As far as the wines go, I'm no expert, but some of each of their wines tasted decent to me, some didn't. As previously stated, most offerings seemed to be overpriced compared to what else is out there.

Does this become an issue of supporting the local business/producer at the expense of taste/cost? Hmm....

Tareq Salahi is the owner of Oasis Winery [and limo service and Hummer and tours and polo, etc, etc].

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While I love visiting the wineries because it is a nice drive in the country, I have not found VA wines to be worth the price. Some of the wines are decent, but none are excellent or even very good. However, even the best VA wines are not nearly as good as what else I can purchase for the price.

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Is Hillsborough in Loudoun County?  (Purcellville, so I think so).  New producer making some very nice wines without so much wood.

Yep, if it's in Purcellville it's in Loudoun. Haven't heard of that winery -- it's getting hard to keep up with them. In fact, while driving on Route 7 last weekend I saw another winery in that area that I hadn't known about. The name was Ventmar or something like that -- I know it ended in -mar.

Seems like wine people think Loudoun is a good spot -- I guess time will tell if the wines live up to their expectations.

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I don't think that we have any other listing so I'll start.

On our way back from Lynchburg, Mrs JPW, Peanut and I decided to stop off at a couple of places. Our selected stops were Barboursville and Horton. Both are on Rt 33 about 8 miles off of Rte 29 in Ruckersville.

Barboursville -- A beautiful spot. They put a lot of money into the compound and it shows. Most of the wines are perfectly average. However, I did like the Octagon, their signature label. I would have considered buying a couple if the prices were not so ridiculous for the quality of wine. Worth a visit for the scenery. Tasting = $4

My decision to save my dollars for elsewhere was validate when we pulled into Horton. First off, free tasting. :) . Wines that I found to be more interesting, if not better than B'ville for about half the price. The most interesting by far was a grape I had never tried before -- petit manseng. Kind of like drinking a glass of alcoholic pineapple juice. Next to impossible to pair with anything, but worth a try just for the experience. The 2000 Viognier was my favorite. It's on its last legs but what glorious legs they are. Ann Margret would be jealous. A steal at $10. As a big Marsanne fan I was initially excited that the '98 was on firesale at $4. After tasting it, I knew why. Two words - soggy cardboard. This wine is overdue for its funeral.

On the red side I really enjoyed the Cab Franc and the Norton. The Norton is really plummy and inky. Reminded me somewhat of a Petit Syrah that John was kind enough to let me taste at Firefly a while ago. Not generally my taste in wine, but really enjoyable and a good deal at $12. I generally find Cab Franc to be pretty boring. The Horton version has nice body to it and just a hint of spice on the end. A nice versatile red at $12.

Next trip's game plan -- Ask Barboursville if we can do a picnic there. On the way stop of at Horton and buy a couple of bottels. Put them in brown paper bags and go enjoy them and the scenery at Barboursville.

Edited by JPW
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I agree with you about Horton's Cab Franc. While I haven't tried that many, this is the first Cab Franc that I've truly liked. You can usually find it at Safeway for $9-$10. After the 10% discount for 6+ bottles, it's an excellent value.

While I've only drank it on one occasion, I also enjoyed Horton's sparkling Viognier.

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Dennis Horton is the pride of Virginia winegrowing.

The Cab Franc IS a truly compelling red, the Viognier stands with the best that this country has to offer and most of the other wines are at least interesting. Dennis always strives for better and is fearless in his experimentation.

I didn't realize that Dennis was playing around with Petite Manseng, but it doesn't surprise me - he is determined to find any grape varietal that might be successfully grown in Virginia. It is a grape found in places like Jurançon, Madiran and Pacherenc du Vic-bilh, France, but also in the Languedoc and other areas.

Barboursville usually has decent Cabernet Franc, too, and their dessert wine(s) are fun to drink.

Cabernet Franc is nicely suited for the ref clay soil and often harsh winters and always humid summers of Virginia. It has a tougher skin than Cabernet Sauvignon which, if you didn't know it, is the progeny of Cabernet Franc and the Sauvignon grape (like the Europeans, I usually just say "Sauvignon" when referring to that white varietal, as "Sauvignon Blanc" seems redundant. If it actually says that on the label, I'll say it, too)

If you really want to try some classy Cabernet Franc, find some nice Loire reds from Saumur, Champigny and Anjou. They can be great fun to drink.

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the two virginia vineyards that i like to visit are naked mountain and linden. wish i could remember more about their wines other than a) i liked naked mountain's chardonnay (free tastings, if i remember correctly) and :) linden has a beautiful deck that looks upon a little valley and has great bread to eat along with what wine you are tasting (they have free tastings as well, in addition to a cellar tasting for like $10).

all that being said, a few months ago i was driving to harpers ferry using the backroads (route 7 to route 9 and over the mountain), and where they used to be just 2 vineyards, there's now 8 vineyards. i shudder to think what the wine at the new vineyards tastes like (suffice it to say, one vineyard sign i saw was advertising something like strawberry zinfandel).

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:) linden has a beautiful deck that looks upon a little valley and has great bread to eat along with what wine you are tasting (they have free tastings as well, in addition to a cellar tasting for like $10). 

Invest in the cellar tasting. Definitely worth it. I think winemaker Jim Law conducts the last 2 or 3 cellar tastings each day himself. But call to confirm on that.

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all that being said, a few months ago i was driving to harpers ferry using the backroads (route 7 to route 9 and over the mountain), and where they used to be just 2 vineyards, there's now 8 vineyards.  i shudder to think what the wine at the new vineyards tastes like (suffice it to say, one vineyard sign i saw was advertising something like strawberry zinfandel).

Breaux Vineyards is up that way along Rt 9 and is also one of Virginia's best. Excellent Viognier, Seyval Blanc and an unoaked Chardonnay (though winemaker Dave Collins prefers the oaked version). Reds are improving all the time, too - best are the Lafayette Cab Franc and the Merlot. There's a nice tasting room and good views of the foothills.

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Dennis Horton is the pride of Virginia winegrowing.

The Cab Franc IS a truly compelling red, the Viognier stands with the best that this country has to offer and most of the other wines are at least interesting.  Dennis always strives for better and is fearless in his experimentation.

I didn't realize that Dennis was playing around with Petite Manseng, but it doesn't surprise me - he is determined to find any grape varietal that might be successfully grown in Virginia.  It is a grape found in places like Jurançon, Madiran and Pacherenc du Vic-bilh, France, but also in the Languedoc and other areas.

He also grows Tannat. When he told me that, I flippantly said "what about Xthinomavro?". He said "I bottled that last year" :)

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Breaux Vineyards is up that way along Rt 9 and is also one of Virginia's best. Excellent Viognier, Seyval Blanc and an unoaked Chardonnay (though winemaker Dave Collins prefers the oaked version). Reds are improving all the time, too - best are the Lafayette Cab Franc and the Merlot. There's a nice tasting room and good views of the foothills.

In my exile in Middleburg I cooked a wine dinner at Breaux amongst the vats and casks. Really neat experience. I think the wine that intrigued me most was a Nebbiolo that showed some promise, albeit five years from now it should show better, it was a tannic monster. Dave is a cool guy and it was the first time I ever got to experience "barrel tasting", followed by "barrel inebriation"

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I enjoy Pearmund in Warrenton. He is (or was) the vintner for quite a few other of the better know Virginia wineries. His prices are lower than most of the other local wineries and the quality is decent. He just bought some land here in Gainesville (some historical property) and is planting more grapes this spring. If anyone gets the chance check him out. (he also has dinners at the vineyard a few times a year, haven't been to any though).

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I went to the Virginia trade tasting today. I know it is very wine snobbish to trash Virginia wines. I will try to refrain. There were several very good wines there today. The only problem was that there were 22 wineries represented. I probably had something like 60 wines and there were several good wines today. I usually try to follow the standard of if you don't ahve anything to say don't say it but at times I lapse. Lapse approaching.

The first observation- wine should ahve something to say. Call it Terroir or varietal character, but wine should tast of something other than winemaking technique (oooops I forgot about the Helen Turley exception to this rule!). If we eliminate the wines that only tasted of cold fermentation odor, or only of oak, or (in the case of the ever popular non oaked chardonnay) of nothing in particular, we would eliminate 80% of te wines. I am so glad there were people to tell me that this meritage was 60% Cabernet and 40% Merlot or another was Cab Franc and Petite Verdot because I had no farking way in the world to know. They mostly all tasted vaguely red fruit, soft as hell, lacking in tannin, acidity or anything approaching texture.

What was good? There were a few good chardonnays. Unfortunately they were all a little expensive for what they are and none were wowsers in the world of Chardonnay. They were wow Virginia Chardonnay. I was surprised at the Viogniers- they all tasted very sweet and were totally bland. But in country where coke is the number one beverage I can see why this is a popular varietal in Virginia.

There were few wines with any describable varietal character. Pedarmund had a wonderful but way too toasty chardonnay. The Touriga (or was it tannat?) from Horton was pretty farking yummy. James River White from Williamsberg is a super summer styled wine loaded with peachy flavors (a blend of Seyval and Chardonnay). Horton had a wine from protugese grapes that was pretty winderful but I don't know if it is going to be a part of their usual rotation- it was in a funky bottle and part of a celebration of the 400th anniversary of something or other (probably the 400th anniversary of someone getting lost trying to figure out 7 corners- must have been a Murlanner!).

Kluge had a nice red blend. Nice. OK. Nothing so good as the bottle of Elena Walch Merlot that I had last week (wholesales at 12.00 a bottle or so). $25.00 a farking bottle? Do I get a case of the Elena Walch with a case purchase? Because if not, I'm getting f*cked bigtime. Even if I did, I'd still be paying too much. The Kluge red is a good under $10 wholesale red. I can find 100 wines today better than it for less than $10.00 a bottle. 1000 if I put effort into it! But drink that stuff at $25 wholesale when that prce is how much Ridge Santa Cruz cab is? Yikes!!!

I wish Virginia well. I will continue to taste the wines over time. But I will remain on the non bandwagon until I see some sense in the pricing and some terroir and texture in the wines!

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It's hard to express not-particularly-rocky clay. And there's a lot of clay in Virginia. Even the non-clay soils are young and not particularly cut. And humidity is an issue, leading to a lot of gray rot. And I haven't met anyone who does strict enough selection at veraison and harvest, combined with good encepagement, to make focused, expressive wines. But a few are at least decent drops.

Bottle storage may also be an issue for some producers.

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The first observation- wine should ahve something to say.  Call it Terroir or varietal character, but wine should tast of something other than winemaking technique

Was Linden Vineyards a part of your tasting? It's the only VA vineyard I speak highly of and I think it's because there wine is so reflective of where it's grown. The grapes are grown on 3 vineyards, each with a different facing and slight differences in soil, and all within about 10 miles of each other. With Linden you can taste two of the same varietal, fermented and aged in the same manner, but grown in different locations. The Linden wines truly express differences based on where the fruit was grown.

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