There are many Virginia wineries that I hear a great deal about and I do make an effort to visit them all. Maggie Malick Wine Caves is one that another blogger raves about constantly. I was remiss in not visiting sooner, but in my defense the winery is well over two hours away. It is up in the northwestern corner of Loudoun county not far from the Potomac River and the borders of West Virginia and Maryland. Nevertheless, I made an excuse to drive up there and see what they are all about.
A first-time visitor will be struck by the nature of the winery/tasting room structure. It has a slightly bunker-like appearance. It is semi-circular building fabricated from a kit and covered with earth (and ultimately grass). About half of the interior is choked with wine barrels. There are couple tables and along the left wall is a long tasting bar. If you were going to take shelter in a bunker, this is the one you would want to take refuge in. Despite its curious outward appearance, the staff and guests were having a great time. It is a lively crew.
Like so many other winery owners, Maggie Malick started making wine as a hobby. She began with kit wines, which introduced the basic steps. The property is 250 acres in total and in an effort to reduce the property taxes, Maggie and her husband decided to devote part of it to agriculture. Vineyards were starting to pop up all over the county and the state was very supportive of grape cultivation. Knowing little about viticulture, they engaged Doug Fabbioli as a consultant. In 2001, with Fabbioli's assistance, they began planting the first of the twenty eight acres that are currently under vine. The plan was to sell the fruit and they still sell part of it, but this is where hobby winemaking and viticulture began to collide. Maggie began making wine from her own grapes.
Of course there is a huge chasm separating hobby winemaking and commercial production. Nevertheless, Maggie decided to take the next step and somehow she was able to make the transition. In 2013, Maggie Malick opened for business and she is now the sole winemaker for a very successful boutique winery.
Maggie was on duty the day of my visit and I was lucky enough to have her pour eleven of her wines. I also now completely understand why bloggers rave about this venue. There are a few surprises on the tasting menu. Albarino, Garnacha and Tannat are among the varietals. I have seen a few Albarinos and Tannat is increasing grown in the Commonwealth, but I have never encountered a Garnacha. Anyway, all of the wines were superb, but I do like discovering something new.
Right out the gate, I tasted a winner. The Petit Manseng medaled in the Eastern International and it is not hard to understand why. It is a beautifully balance wine filled with peach, mango and lychee notes. It really is summertime in a bottle. Vidal Blanc, Viognier, Chardonnay and Albarino round out the lineup of whites. All were very good wines.
The reds were equally well crafted. The Garnacha was nothing like a big, jammy Spanish or Rhone wine. It was much lighter. Maggie calls it her answer to Pinot Noir. It is good, but light bodied with berries on the nose and palate, soft tannins and a hint of spice. I tasted the Merlot, Tannat, Petit Verdot and a blend called Melange Rouge. All were excellent, but the 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon was just crazy good and also medaled in the Eastern International. It was full of red fruit, soft tannins and a beautiful finish. As I keep saying though, all of the wines are fabulous.
As I mentioned earlier, the staff is having fun and not taking it all too seriously. It is infectious, but not frivolous. Guests seemed engaged and the wine stewards were all knowledgable and attentive. From a customer-experience standpoint, I don’t think you can ask for more. Kudos to Maggie and the entire staff.
For me this is a little out of the way (understatement), but if you are in Northern Virginia, or even the surrounding states, it is accessible and worth the trip. The wine, the atmosphere and the novelty of the tasting room will inspire you to make repeat visits. There are plans for a new tasting room up on the hill, but for now I think the existing venue is just fine. Make it a point to stop in and let me know what you think.