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Thursday, July 18, 2013

The Winery at Bull Run--Wine and a Bit of History

Driving north on Route 29 from Central Virginia you will pass through the Manassas National Battlefield Park. It was here that two Civil War battles were fought in 1861 and again in 1862, which are often referred to as the First and Second Battle of Bull Run. Most of the acreage in this area is managed by the National Park Service, so it remains largely undeveloped. There are, however, a number of private tracts. On one of these, about a year ago, The Winery at Bull Run opened its doors.

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The winery has made a reasonable attempt not to detract from its historic surroundings. The winery and tasting room are set back off the road and efforts were made to present a look and feel appropriate to the Civil War era. Indeed, the winery is a bit of a museum in its own right. The ruins of the old Hillwood House and outbuildings are preserved and marked and the tasting room is adorned with a variety of civil war artifacts. As a further tribute to Virginia history, two acres of Norton grapes have been planted on the property.

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The winery itself is quite striking and well designed. The tasting room is built to accommodate a large number of visitors. The bar provides ample space for tasting. Additional seating, in the form of porch rockers, can be found on the long covered porch and picnic tables are positioned throughout the property.  The barrel room, located in the basement, is being moved to make additional space for events. This is the closest winery to Metro DC and they seem to be well positioned to handle potentially large crowds. 

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Aside from the two acres of newly planted Norton, The Winery at Bull Run does not currently grow their own grapes. I'm told that that a search is underway to identify a suitable cultivation site. In the mean time, they are purchasing grapes from vineyards inside the Northern Virginia region. This is encouraging both because they are producing strictly Virginia wine and wines that are characteristic of their region. This is further complimented by the fact that Chris Pearmund, one of the stars of Virginia winemaking, is a wine consultant for Bull Run. It all seems like a formula for success. 

I enjoyed all of the Bull Run wines, but I found a couple of standouts. I'm almost always a fan of the Viognier and the 2012 Lilly's Viognier, named for the owner's infant daughter, is a standout. I noticed some floral qualities and citrus on the palate. The lack of residual sugar, combined with its crisp and refreshing qualities make this, in my book, an excellent summer wine. The 2011 Petit Verdot was my favorite. I found it very fruit forward with lots of big blackberry notes. This is one that will also improve with a little age.

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The tasting experience at Bull Run met all of my expectations. Pete, my wine steward, was knowledgable and friendly. I didn't feel like his presentation was rehearsed or that he was reading from a script. The tasting was more of a conversation than an explanation of the wines and I never felt rushed. The Winery at Bull Run is a little too far from Central Virginia for us to make this a regular stop on our wine circuit, but we will certainly stop in again on our way home from Northern Virginia. The quality of the wine, the proximity to DC and the Unwined Friday concert series should make The Winery at Bull Run a popular spot to relax and taste some fine Virginia wine.