Barrel Oak Winery

First off, I apologize for not posting in some time. Things have been busy with the fall semester starting back (I am working on a Ph.D.) and work at the office picking up.

A few weeks ago, I paid a visit to Barrel Oak Winery in Delaplane. Though I’ve seen the building many times driving down I-66, I never stopped by. Unfortunately for me, on the day we visited it was pouring rain which didn’t make for very good pictures (all photos are courtesy of Barrel Oak’s website). Four of us visited, my parents came along with Katie and I, and the place was packed. This was probably more due to the weather and outdoor seating not being an option.Doggie nose 187x133

The first thing I noticed was they have a lot going on; more than the usual northern Virginia winery has on any given Saturday. This was not a wine club day, so my impression was that there is usually this much activity. They had music, multiple tasting stations, a mobile brick oven pizza booth, and more. If you are more into wineries that are strictly about the wine, then this is probably not going to be your thing. But, for families or the casual wine drinker, I would say it is a go-to. Barrel Oak was ranked #1 family-friendly winery in 2012 by Wine Enthusiast so they are clearly trying to stick with that theme. One other note about the atmosphere: DOGS, and lots of them. They pride themselves on being dog friendly. My dad, who is the more traditional wine drinker, did not like it, but he was clearly in the minority!

Barrel room looking up 187x133On to the wine. Barrel Oak’s wine has racked up some impressive awards to include a Double Gold at the San Francisco Chronicle’s competition in 2012 for their Reserve Chardonnay and a Gold Medal in the 2009 Governor’s Cup for their Cabernet Franc. The tasting itself was not the usual style in which everyone tastes the same set of wines. Instead, they give you a list of 3-4 wines grouped into a few different varieties. For example, my parents and I all picked the “Regally Rich and Rewarding” group which came with a Chardonnay, Merlot, and Norton. Katie picked the “Big, Bold. and Bracing” group that included the Reserve Chardonnay, a Cab Franc, and a Petit Verdot. Each group ranges from $4 to $7 for a tasting so, conceivably, you could taste all 12 wines for $20. I ended up getting a glass of the Norton. I will say that Katie probably made the best choice because she ended up with the Reserve Chardonnay which was exceptional (not the one that took Double Gold in San Francisco).

If you are looking for a solid, family friendly winery in northern Virginia, you can’t go wrong with Barrel Oak Winery. The general atmosphere and offerings of are above par. They are apart of the Fauquier County Wine Trail and the Vintage Piedmont group.

You can fine Barrel Oak Winery on Twitter.

Posted in 2009 Governors Cup, Cabernet Franc, Chardonnay, Fauquier County Wine Trail, Northern Virginia Region, Virginia Piedmont | 1 Comment

Chrysalis Vineyards

UPDATE 2: Every time a post a review, I send a link to the winery for their information. Some provide feedback, some don’t. I do this because I think its fair to give the winery a chance to correct anything I may have gotten wrong, and because its just a nice thing to do. That being said, after sending this over to Chrysalis they wrote back and provided more insight on a couple points below.

UPDATE: A reader pointed out a neat fact about Chrysalis that I had overlooked. Chrysalis boasts what is believed to be the largest planting of the Norton grape in the world. Somewhere in the 15 acre range (UPDATE: They actually have a whopping 40 acres of Norton planted!).

Chrysalis is interesting and I really enjoyed the time we spent there. It is located 2 miles down what might as well be a dirt road off Route 50. The vineyard has been in existence since 1997 when Jenni (the founder) first produced a Chardonnay and a Viognier. Prior to opening Chrysalis, Jenni traveled throughout Europe in search of lesser known varietals in hopes that they could be introduced to the American market. As a result of her travels, Jenni planted Spanish (Graciano, Tempranillo, and Albariño) and French varietals (Tannant, Petit Manseng, Petit Verdot, and Fer Servadou) on the grounds in addition to Chardonnay and Viognier. For the full story of the history visit their website.

If you’re wondering about the logo, the winery staff told me that fairies were used prominently in the Victorian-era to market products to women. I am not a fairy expert so I take their word for it!

Enough with the history lesson and on to the wine…

IMG_3573Chrysalis offers two tastings; an Estate ($5) and a Reserve ($10). We decided to go all out and get the Reserve which includes a take-home glass and tasting of 12 wines (a very good deal). The Estate tasting includes 7 wines and the glass. The 7 wines in the Estate tasting are: 2013 Albariño, 2012 Chardonnay, 2011 Private Reserve White (Albariño, Viognier, and Petit Manseng, 2012 Viognier (a bottle of which is actually in the Smithsonian), 2012 Mariposa (rosé), 2013 Sarah’s Patio White (Vidal Blanc and Traminette), and the 2013 Sarah’s Patio Red (Norton). In addition to those 7 wines, the Reserve tasting comes with: 2012 Norton Schitz & Giggels (funny story there), 2011 Rubiana, 2012 Petit Verdot, 2012 Papillon (named for the French word for butterfly, not the dog), and the 2012 Locksley Reserve Norton (a Norton blended with Tannat, Petit Verdot, and Nebbiolo).

I ended up getting a glass of the Locksley Reserve and Katie got the Schitz and Giggels. Speaking of…the story with the name, as we were told: the ABC would not allow the wine to be named “Schitz and Giggels” (for obvious reasons) unless there was some historic reasoning behind it. Lo and behold, someone uncovered the story of Stephan Schitz and Golo Giggels who were German smugglers that saved the Norton grape during prohibition…makes perfect sense! (UPDATE: this account is partially accurate. I am told that the historical support for the name is not a formal requirement, but was given as a means of boosting the credibility of the name. Also, this was approved by the federal government, not the state who just registers the approved labels.)

I don’t have anything negative to say about any of the wines, but me being a creature of habit preferred the reds over the whites. The winery is really big on the Norton grape and bringing its popularity up and I was more than happy to support their efforts and get the 2012 Reserve Norton.

I’ll conclude with a funny story. Katie and I IMG_3574were sitting down enjoying our wine, when we got to talking about rings. We recently got engaged and we were discussing the difference between platinum and white gold. I know way too much about the subject because I did painstaking amounts of research before buying a ring. I was telling her about ring resizing and color wear when I brought up the fact that rings are sometimes resized by clipping the bottom of the ring and adding a bridge of the metal. As I was explaining that, I was holding the engagement ring out to her when a staff member walked up and said “We’re closing in…oh my god, I am so sorry, you’re getting engaged, I’m sorry.” She said something else but her hands were covering her face and she was running in the other direction. The worst part was having to start over with the explanation of bridging.

Chrysalis Vineyards is a part of the Loudoun Wine Trail and the Tuskies Wine Trail.

Find Chrysalis Vineyards on Facebook and Twitter.

Posted in Loudoun Wine Trail, Northern Virginia Region, Norton, Tuskies Wine Trail | 1 Comment

The Winery at LaGrange

IMG_3651Yesterday I got to visit The Winery at LaGrange for the second time. The only other time I had been was several months ago, early spring, and I wanted a fresh perspective from which to write an article. Yesterday happened to be a wine club event, so it was good to be able to see how much the winery takes care of its wine club members-more tasting stations than I could count, live music, and food trucks! I have to admit, this is the first time I have seen food trucks at a winery. It is a very neat concept especially for those wineries that want to offer more food options without having to bring them in-house.10606401_718634751517671_6315705067387410514_n

As a quick note, I attended LaGrange because my fiance, Katie was volunteering for a local nonprofit therapeutic riding program in Clifton-the Northern Virginia Therapeutic Riding Program. NVTRP was graciously allowed to set up a booth next to the wine club check-in tent where they had a miniature horse, Stormy (pictured with Katie). It is always good to see local businesses partnering with local nonprofits.

What I really enjoyed about this winery was the location (tucked back off I-66 outside Haymarket) and the tasting. For $13 you get a full tasting of 10 wines and a keepsake glass. That is a pretty good deal. On Saturday, I did a full tasting and enjoyed most of the wines. I am not a huge fan of whites in general, or roses for that matter, but there weren’t any wines that I could say anything negative about and I was pleasantly surprised with the rose (Haven’t figure out to type an E with an accent on the Mac just yet).

LaGrange has paid homage to the local Civil War heritage, as have some other wineries, by producing a bottle commemorating the 150th anniversary of the War Between the States. The General’s Battlefield Red has been aged in oak barrel made with wood from Manassas battlefield; a neat story at least. They describe it as a port style and it was a bit heavy for my preference, but I was very appreciative of their use of local history in making it.

IMG_3670As you can see from my uber-sophisticated tasting notes, I enjoyed the 2011 Fletcher’s Chardonnay, the 2012 Meritage, and the 2012 Cab Franc Reserve. I ended up getting a glass of the 2012 Cab Franc Reserve because the nose was very pleasant. To be exact, when I first picked up the glass, the nose reminded me of Christmas (is that weird?). I could not help but be reminded of that cinnamon apple smell with which many grandmothers inundate their homes. Either way, it was a pleasant experience.

Honestly, I was torn between the ’12 Cab Franc Reserve and the ’12 Meritage which they describe with words such as “cherry”, “red delicious apple”, “baking spices”, “tobacco leaf”, and “Thanksgiving in a glass”. Needless to say, the holidays were on my mind all that afternoon!IMG_3647

I need to give a brief shout-out to the person who ran my tasting, Clyde, who was very engaging and knew a lot about the wines and the property.

You can see their full wine list here.

I had a great time at this award winning winery and I’ll definitely stop back by next time I’m in the area.

Find The Winery at LaGrange on Facebook and Twitter.

Posted in Cabernet Franc, Meritage, Northern Virginia Region, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Lake Anna Winery

I recently stopped by Lake Anna Winery located in Spotsylvania about 30 minutes west of Fredericksburg. Although I have been through that part of the state several times, and seen the signs for it, I had never thought to stop and give it a try. Am I glad I did!

photo 3The first thing I noticed were the vines. Planted everywhere and all filled out, they made for a nice picturesque backdrop. Inside the tasting room we were greeted by the resident pooch who is mostly interested in the wine crackers.

Now for the good stuff…

The staff is very friendly and engaging. After reading other reviews on the winery, I noticed that friendly staff is something mentioned by several reviewers. They certainly lived up to that reputation. Patti and Sandy were working that day and seemed to enjoy having us there. Patti handled the tasting and walked us through the wines and some history of the photo 1property.

The first vines were planted in the early 1980s with the first harvest taking place in 1984. The winery itself was completed in 1990. In recent years, they have won several awards for their wines, too many to list here, but take a look at their website for a full listing.

Two wines that stood out to me from the ones they offered for tasting were the 2012 Chambourcin and the 2012 Barrel Select Chardonnay. Both these wines were very well done. At the 2014 Governor’s Cup, the Chambourcin took silver and the Chardonnay took bronze. I ended up getting a bottle of the Barrel Select Chardonnay, but had the temperature been a little cooler, I would have picked up the Chambourcin.

IMG_3611All-in-all, this was a big, pleasant surprise for me. I was not expecting wine of this caliber when I decided to stop by. If you are in the Lake Anna area, definitely make some time to stop by Lake Anna Winery. Though the tasting did not come with a keepsake glass, it was only $5 per person and well worth it. Although it is not that close to many other wineries, it is part of the Heart of Virginia Wine Trail which offers tastings at 6 wineries for $20 per person.

Find Lake Anna Winery on Facebook and Twitter.


Posted in 2014 Governors Cup, Chambourcin, Chardonnay, Heart of Virginia Wine Trail, Northern Virginia Region | Leave a comment

So It Begins

This blog is dedicated to an item on my bucket list: to visit every winery in Virginia. 

I, like a lot of people, enjoy a good glass of wine. I enjoy traveling. And I live in Virginia. Combine those three and you have the makings of this blog and my goal.

If, like me, your first thought is “how long will this take?”, I have a completely uninspiring answer: it depends. As of today, there are about 250 wineries in Virginia. With an aggressive schedule averaging 1 winery a week (unlikely), and assuming an even distribution (50 per year), it would take just about 5 years. That being said, I probably won’t be able to hit an average of 1 winery a week…hence the “it depends”. Whether it takes 5 years, or 15, I am dedicated to seeing this through to the end. 

One final note. I am not a wine expert. I have no formal training in oenology. And I probably couldn’t tell you the difference between some varietals in a blind taste test. That being said, the vast majority of wine drinkers aren’t experts either. This blog and its content is geared toward those who want some insight into the winery as a whole. It’s story. It’s venue. It’s services. And, of course, it’s wine.



Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment