When my husband gets a Sunday off, we like to take full advantage of it and have an adventure. Living in Northern Virginia has its ups and downs. The downs: traffic is dreadful, I-66 is the worst, and the parking enforcement ladies in Clarendon are vultures. The ups: we can buy dinner and our wine at the same time. If we ever move back to Maryland, not being able to buy wine in the grocery store will be seriously tough for us (#firstworldproblems). One of the nicest things Virginia has to offer, lots of vineyards! In less than an hour, we can be siting overlooking a wonderful view and sipping on some wonderful Virginia wines. Picking the area and wineries is the hardest part!
On a recent Sunday we looked at a Virginia wine map, picked our region and decided to head out to two wineries, and whatever else happened on the way would be a welcome addition to our adventure. We decided to start in Leesburg and visit Willowcroft Vineyard. Back in 2010 my husband (then fiancé) went with my father to meet our wedding photographer in Virginia. After their meeting they decided to head down the road to Willowcroft Vineyard. When they got back they spoke very highly of it, yet my fiancé failed to bring wine back. He has since learned his lesson.
The drive to Willowcroft was very pretty. Beautiful houses, farmland, horses and camels. You read that correctly. We saw camels hanging out at some petting zoo. No time to take pictures, so you just have to take my word for it. Arriving at the Vineyard there was a big barn and a breathtaking view. The actual tasting room is in what looks like it used to be horse stalls. The tasting was $10 and you got to pick 7 of the wines on the list to try. It was great for us, because we don’t generally like the sweet wine
so we could pick and choose what we really wanted to try. Safe to say this time around we left with 3 bottles. Chardonnay Reserve, Petit Verdot and the Seyval. The Chardonnay was exactly what I wanted. It wasn’t too light, balanced on acidity and had great apple and subtle butter characteristics. When done well, Petit Verdot is one of our favorite Virginia reds. We have had some that aren’t so great, but Willowcroft does this grape well. A little on the dry side with tobacco and white pepper. Now I didn’t expect to walk out of there with a Seyval Blanc. Not generally my favorite and most of the time way too heavy on the minerals. This grape is used to make white wine blends, grown in England and the U.S., it generally is slightly acidic and crisp. This particular one was well balanced and full of citrus and very nice subtle minerals. Greatest part of this winery, sipping wine outside and taking in the view.
Next winery up, Chrysalis. We visited this winery about 5 years ago and we were not impressed. In 5 years a lot can change, so we decided to visit them again. The location of the vineyard had moved and they were in a new modern building. Lots of concrete and lots of open space. Not my favorite look, but ultimatly the wines would determine everything. We walked up to what we thought was a wine bar where a tasting would be conducted. Nope. The lady behind the counter said we needed to sign up for a tasting and the next one wouldn’t be for another 15 minutes. My husband and I looked at each other and he said out loud ” what are we going to do for 15 minutes?!” My response was to leave and go across the street to another winery. I get that this winery has become commercial, but its unappealing to have to sign up and wait. It kind of ruins the flow of things and we almost left, if we had we would not have come back. Our comments were overheard and we fit into the tasting that had just started.
The wines were good, the guy leading the tasting was great. The area where we tasted, not that exciting. The wine I remember the most was the Viognier. It was dry and full of flavor. But the experience was not that welcoming and $30 bucks for a Viognier… Perhaps if the experience had been better we would have purchased a bottle, but we wanted to go across the street to visit one last winery.
We made the right decision to head across the street to 50 West Vineyards. A brand new vineyard owned by Sunset Hills, 50 West has a few of their own wines and still pours some of Sunset Hills wines. A cool clean tasting room with knowledgable pourers – the wines, out of this world good – wines that we don’t normally like or buy. The two wines we just absolutely loved and will be sure to buy again, the Rose and Sauvignon Blanc. I’ve never had a 100% Sauvignon Blanc in Virginia and frankly, my husband Lee and I are not big Sauv blanc fans. This wine was mouthwatering, crisp, well balanced and full of citrus. The Rose of Sangiovese was dry and refreshing with subtle fruit. We bought a bottle of the Sauvignon blanc and sat outside taking in the view and the cool horse sculpture. It was a great end to a fabulous wine tasting day.
I would certainly recommend all the wineries we went to. If three is too many in one day, go to Willowcroft and 50 West. You won’t be disappointed!