As we turned off of Zachary Taylor Highway and started down the drive to Chester Gap Cellars, we could just see that this would be an amazing view, if only the weather were a little better. It was yet another grim and rainy day in a season that has been filled with grim and rainy days. I'll go have to go back for better pictures, but at least I was still able to try the wine and find out a little bit about Chester Gap.
Chester Gap is a small boutique winery located near the Blue Ridge at the intersection of Warren, Rappahannock and Faquier Counties. In addition to about a half dozen wineries, the immediate area has access to outdoor activities and beautiful little historic villages that are snuggled up against the mountains. We tend to be a bit jaded in Central Virginia and often forget how beautiful this part of the state can be.
The Chester Gap vineyards were planted in 2000 and the first vintage was bottled in 2004. Until the tasting room was opened in 2006, the owners were only open for business in fair weather, so that tastings could be done outdoors. All of the wines are produced from the nine and one half acres of grapes cultivated on the property and annual output is somewhere between 1500 and 2000 cases.
The Chester Gap wines are very well crafted. All of the wines were good, but there are a couple in particular that I thought had real merit. The 2010 Vintner's Red was just released. It was so recent, that the tasting menu didn't yet reflect the change. So when I saw the 2010 come out, I was both surprised and excited. It's a great year, so I had high expectations and I was not let down. This is a remarkable wine. It's a Bordeaux blend of Cab Franc, Petit Verdot and Merlot, so it's a pretty big red. The nose is full of black fruit and in the mouth there was more black fruit with lots of complexity, but also a bit of tannin in the finish. This wine is made to cellar and probably needs a couple more years in the bottle, but it's a real winner.
My favorite white was the 2011 Cuvee Manseng, which is a blend of 60% Petit Manseng and 40% Viognier. The wine has a big bouquet of pineapple, and on the palate there was more of the pineapple with a bit of grapefruit in the finish. It's an off-dry wine with nice balance and great mouth feel. In trying to point to a favorite, I was torn between the Cuvee Manseng and the Vintner's Red. I liked different things about each of them. I have to give big kudos to the winemaker, they are both excellent wines.
It was a slow day, so there was only one other couple tasting when we arrived. I'm sure the weather was keeping people indoors. That's the only advantage to bad weather. We didn't have to contend with crowds. I will say that the tasting room is not set up or staffed to handle large numbers and buses and limos are prohibited. I can't tell you how many times I've arrived behind a bus or limo, so I do appreciate that restriction.
Our wine steward, Ashleigh, was outstanding. She had real knowledge about the wine, the winery operations and all of the background information. We were not rushed and I left feeling like I learned something about the wine, which is always appreciated. I will definitely stop in again. I've got to go back when the weather is better, so I can admire the view and get those perfect photos. All in all, even on a rainy day, this was a nice stop.