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Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Carroll Vineyards

Old Town Leesburg in Loudoun County, Virginia is a fun little space filled with shops, restaurants and wine bars. Tucked in among these other establishments is the Leesburg Vintner, which has been selling wine since 1986. Beginning in 2012, the wine store also became home to the Carroll Vineyards tasting room.

I stopped by late one fall afternoon. I found the tasting room located on the corner of King and Loudoun Streets, wandered in and had a seat at the end of the long tasting bar. Mike Carroll was pouring wine and he was able to provide a little background on the winery as he poured. 

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Mike has been in the wine business since the mid 1970s and travels nationally and internationally to visit wineries. Living, as he does, in the Middleburg American Viticultural Area, it was just a matter of time before he took the next logical step. He planted vines in Paeonian Springs and leased other vineyards in Loudoun County.

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To make the wine, Mike brought in the legendary Lori Corcoran, which was something of a brilliant masterstroke. As of this writing, Lori is producing between 350 and 500 cases each year for Carroll Vineyards. The wines are made from seven different grape varietals and a single apple wine is also on the tasting menu. 

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I was able to taste five of the Carroll offerings during my visit. The Traminette, Chambourcin and Merlot were all well crafted, but the Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot were of particular note. The Cab Franc showed a lot of character, notes of red fruit, a lovely mouthfeel and a hint of pepper in the finish. The Petit Verdot was a big, inky wine filled with fig and cassis. The finish on this one was something to write home about. It was my hands-down favorite.

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If you’re in Leesburg, you should make it a point to stop in. I found Mike and his staff to be extremely friendly and the tasting was well done. It was informative and educational, which are both attributes I like to see in a tasting. When you do stop in, I’d love to hear what you think.

Cheers!

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Winding Road Cellars

Winding Road Cellars is another of the very new Virginia wineries. The opened in August of 2013, so by the time I stopped in, they had been open just over one year. Scott and Linda Culver opened the winery as an eventual retirement project. Scott is making the wine and Linda oversees the tasting operation. Based on my observations from this single visit, their initial efforts seem to be paying off.

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The Culvers currently have 5.5 acres under vine with plans to eventually plant more. They are growing international varietals, among which are Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Viognier, Pinot Grigio, Chardonnay, Petit Verdot and Pinot Noir. Yes, they are growing and making wine from Pinot! The first vintage was bottled in 2007. So doing the math, it was another six years until they opened. I will just point out that most of the wines I tasted were at least four years old. Nothing is served before its time at Winding Road.

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Scott learned the winemaking trade by apprenticing Mediterranean Cellars. I tasted six of his wines and I’d say Scott has certainly learned his craft. There were a pair of whites on the menu. I tasted a nice sweet Vidal Blanc and a Chardonnay aged in neutral oak. Both were very good wines, but reds are the real strength.

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The reds included an excellent Cabernet Franc, that spent three years in oak. This was from the first vintage, so it had some age, but it also displayed bright acidity without overpowering fruit. Because of the acidity, I strongly recommend drinking it with food. The Cabernet Sauvignon was another winner. After spending three and a half years in oak, it had amazing complexity and nice structured tannins. But let me tell you about the sweet Chambourcin. When do I ever point to a sweet red as my top pick? Never! Until now… This was a late-harvest Chambourcin. Now I’ve heard it all. It was paired with chocolate and a pumpkin cake. I could make a meal of that pairing. It was fantastic. 

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The tasting room is beautiful finished and tastefully decorated. Linda was behind the tasting bar. She was full of information about the wine and answered all of my questions about the winery. It’s such a relaxed, welcoming setting and it doesn’t hurt that the wines are good. There’s no reason not to check this one out. Be sure to let me know, when you do. 

Cheers!

Monday, February 2, 2015

Winery 32

Wineries are opening in Virginia almost faster than I can keep up. As of this writing, Winery 32 is one of the newest. They opened in July of 2014 and according to my count, that’s forty-three wineries in Loudoun County. So I was up in the Leesburg area in the early fall and dropped in to check them out.

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According to an article in the Washington Post, Roxanne and Michael Moosher were making wine in their home and decided to take it to the next level. They purchased 32 acres of prime farmland, planted 32 peach trees and then started planting grapes on their 32nd wedding anniversary. You’ve probably picked out the common theme. Anyway, Winery 32 took it’s name from this numerological pattern. 

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The property and the view offered from the hillside are as lovely as nearly any you’ll find in Northern Virginia. From the lawn or tasting-room balcony, you’ll look out across the rolling hills of wine country toward the Blue Ridge Mountains. Inside the tasting room, there is a long tasting bar and a couple of rooms filled with tables for guests. So there is ample room to accommodate crowds of tasters and the winery offers a menu of the day for visitors interested in a wine pairing.

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At the time of my visit, the vines were only two years old, so the grapes were sourced from vineyards in other parts of the Commonwealth. The offerings being poured may be a window into what is coming, but these are still early days. It will be interesting to see what they can do with their own fruit. For now, however, there are eight well-crafted wines on the tasting menu.

Among the whites, I tasted a Vida Blanc and Traminette blend, a second blend of Peach and Vidal, as well as a Chardonnay. Red wines included a Chambourcin, a Merlot and a pair of Cabernet Francs. The 2012 Cab Franc, made from local Loudoun County grapes, was my top pick. It had big, red fruit notes on the nose and palate. It was almost jammy with the signature hints of pepper in the finish. I thought this last one was an excellent wine. 

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Shannon was my wine steward. She had been with winery since they opened, which was only a few months, but she did demonstrate a thorough knowledge of the wines. She was also able to fill in a few details about the winery. I noted that the entire staff was friendly and attentive. The overall experience receives high marks and I think this bodes well for the future of Winery 32. So I encourage you to support this young winery and let’s see how they develop over the next few years. When you stop in, let me know what you think.  

Cheers!