October was Virginia Wine Month! If I haven’t professed my love for Virginia enough with my last post on Norfolk and its rich and diverse downtown, let me continue with my top three picks for up-and-coming wineries in Virginia.
I had the great pleasure of attending the 27th Annual Town Point Virginia Wine Festival in Norfolk on October 18. Let me tell you, it was a real Virginia treat. If you aren’t familiar with the Town Point Virginia Wine Festival, it’s one of the state’s largest outdoor wine festivals and it features more than 30 Virginia wineries. That’s roughly a sampling of over 200 of Virginia’s wine varieties. Not that I had that many samples.
Attendees could reserve tables and private chalets, as well as purchase individual sampling tickets, general admission tickets and even park-side boater packages. I hung out in the chalet for a while sampling hors d’oeuvres of baked mussels, clams and lobster rolls. There were all kinds of cheeses, meats and salads, like the Pinot Noir-poached pear salad and a shrimp skewer salad. Our chalet even had its own sommelier that picked some nice wines for us!
The festival had live music and crafts as well as, of course, many wine samplings to keep us busy. I enjoyed hearing the history of each of the vineyards. In some cases, the owner was present to tell the story. In any case, I met some great people and sampled some amazing VA wine.
Here are my top three picks from the Town Point Virginia Wine Festival:
1. AmRhein’s Wine Cellars (Bent Mountain, VA)
At AmRhein’s booth, volunteers poured wine wearing cute hats that they’d made the night before the festival while sampling their wines (that sounded like a fun job). Each year at the festival AmRhein’s auctions their hats off for charity. How creative! Guess what? Their wines were tasty too!
Located between Roanoke and Blacksburg, this winery is a Virginia family-owned and -operated, estate-grown winery specializing in wines with a German influence. The vineyards were planted in 1995, with first bottling occurring in 2000. They now have three vineyards (Bent Mountain, Franklin County and Botetourt) with 40 acres yielding 20 varieties of grapes. They have over 15 wines in classic styles of both reds and whites and in their own exclusive blends.
Try these wines:
- Traminette ($16), a crisp wine with flavors of pineapple and grapefruit. Nice and light for a fall day. The acidity is balanced with the natural residual fruit sugar as seen in the German Spatlese style of winemaking.
- Aglianico ($25), a thick-skinned red grape grown by the ancient Greeks and brought to Italy over 2,000 years ago. This robust wine, now mostly grown in Italy, shows berry and tobacco flavors with subtle plum undertones and a light french oak.
Wines can be purchased from their website!
2. Cardinal Point Vineyard & Winery (Afton, VA)
Cardinal Point lies in the foothills of the Blue Ridge, near Afton Mountain. While living in Germany on the banks of the Nahe River, Paul and Ruth Gorman discovered a passion for the Riesling wines that were crafted in the little vineyards surrounding the town. They decided one day when they retired to have a vineyard of their own. And the dream came true in 1985. Now their youngest son, Tim, is the winemaker and the whole family is still involved in the business.
Try these wines:
- 2013 Chardonnay ($18), round and lush with a hint of toasty oak and vanilla on the finish. This wine was fermented in steel and then aged in French and American oak barrels. The mid-palette features a rich and fresh picked chardonnay flavor.
- 2013 IPC Hopped Chardonnay ($20), yes you are reading that correctly: a beer-chardonnay (IPC is short for India Pale Chardonnay)! How unique and original is that?! It has an herbal, lemon-grassy, tropical nose, mostly from the hops. Basically, it kind of tastes like a citrus beer but then also like a chardonnay. It’s fresh and light, finishing crisp with an agreeable bitterness and tang again from the hops.
Wines can be purchased from their website!
3. The Dog & Oyster Vineyard (Irvington, VA)
The name Dog & Oyster Vineyard was created to honor the vineyard rescue dogs that save the grapes from deer and other animals and to honor one of the Chesapeake Bay region’s tastiest assets, the oyster. Yes, the vineyard has oyster and wine tastings too! Dog & Oyster consists of more than six acres of Vinifera and French American Hybrid vines, and there are four varieties of grapes. The two whites are Vidal Blanc and Chardonel. The two reds are Merlot and Chambourcin.
Try these wines:
- 2013 Oyster White ($22), this chardonnay is fresh with citrus and Granny Smith apple hints. It’s fermented and aged in tanks with no oak or barrel aging to preserve the character of the grape. It had a very nice smooth finish.
- 2013 Merlot ($30), they say there’s a hint of black licorice and anise but it was not distinct (or else I probably wouldn’t have liked it!) and it’s followed by a more distinct candied raspberry taste. Its finish is fruity and lingers with notes of vanilla and fruit of dark cherry and ripe plum.
Wines picked by our chalet’s sommelier (theses vineyards were not at the festival):
- Michael Shaps Viognier 2013
- Michael Shaps Chardonnay 2010
- Trump Sparkling Rose 2009
- Rockbridge Riesling 2013
- Jefferson Vineyards Meritage 2012
- Whitehall Petit Verdot 2013
- Barboursville Reserve Nebbiolo 2011
- Barboursville Reserve Cabernet Franc 2011
All photos courtesy of Caitlin Martin.
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