16 October 2008

Virginia Wine Country

Every once in a while, there will be a thing (food, activity, ect.) that I don't try for the longest time thinking that I just won't like it. I like to think that most of the time I'm proven right when I finally do get around to it- like the time I tried straight up fennel (too licoricey) or mussels, which weren't bad but I just couldn't really understand why they were good, other than the butter sauce. Other times, I'm horribly and terribly wrong about my supposed aversion and end up kicking myself that I've spent so much time not eating or doing something.

I've been in the DC area for a while now and for the past few years I've known that Virginia is a wine producing state. Having lived briefly in Austria and having had the chance to go wine tasting in Sonoma, I thoroughly looked down on Virginia wine. It certainly didn't help that all the examples I had tasted were more Hawaiian Punch than something you'd serve at a dinner party; however, when A-'s mum came to town and invited us to go wine tasting with them, I thought 'why not?'

We set out on the most gorgeous fall day with sunny skies and crisp air and drove west to Loudon County. After only 40 minutes in the car we were transported to a rural town not unlike the one I grew up and and totally different from downtown DC. To get to the first winery, we turned off the main road and bumped down a single lane dirt track for two miles before turned onto Willocroft's driveway.

We parked next to an old barn with the sign 'tasting room' by the open doors and then wandered in. For $2 we tried seven wines (beat that California). Some I liked better than others but to have the person who makes the wine explaining everything and talking about winemaking in Virginia was great. He asked about what we like and what we could taste in the wine and even though we were all far from professional in our descriptions, we had fun doing it.

After a rather circuitous detour we stopped at Doukenie Winery. This one backed onto a mountain and we drove through fields of vines on the way. Besides the usual reds and whites, we tried two dessert wines, one made of blackberries (along with grapes) and the other one made just with raspberries. We even got a piece of dark chocolate to try with the raspberry wine, to see how it would work off the taste of the berries. It was amazing and something I could definitely get used to.

We hopped back into the car and headed to the poshest tasting of the day. Hillsborough Vineyards does have a million dollar view and a gorgeous tasting room in a converted stone barn, but being rushed through a tasting of tiny pours didn't exactly endear us to the place. Neither did the wines for that matter. All of them were blends with names like 'moonstone' and 'serafina' but they didn't have that much individual character.

For the last stop of the day was at Loudon Valley Vineyards and by then I was definitely feeling the effects of all of the tasting and decided to share with Zach. The staff at Loudon Valley was so friendly and you could tell the really cared about the wines. After tasting a rich, port-like wine we decided to call it quits and head back to the city but I am already planning my next trip to the Virginia wine country.

If you're interested in wine making in Virginia, check out this website.

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