Most of the 250+ Virginia wineries have a tasting room, where they pour their wines. A small handful pair food with their wine. I more frequently encounter chocolate paired with various offerings. I have noted a few throughout the Commonwealth, where they offer art classes or display art somewhere on premises. So it is fair to say they are pairing wine and art. Only Notaviva Vineyards in northern Loudoun County is pairing music and wine. Now, I’m not talking about a band or a guy with a guitar playing music in the tasting room. I mean to say that they create each of their offerings to be paired with a particular type of music.
Stephen and Shannon Mackey left careers as sound technicians to pursue a life as winery owners. They have not actually forsaken their earlier lives, they still produce digital media in their studio somewhere above the tasting room and of course, there is the wine and music pairing. So they have just added a bit of a twist and brought a part of their other world into the tasting room.
When I bellied up to the tasting bar at Notaviva, there were lively conversations taking place all around me. Visitors were interacting with the wine stewards or engaging in side conversations. There was a lot of energy. It appeared to be a bit edgier than most wineries I have visited, but I mean that in the most positive sense. I was approached almost immediately by Jane, who seems to be involved in all aspects of the winery operation, but on this day she was pouring wine. I introduced myself and presented my card and this led us into a lengthy discourse on the winery, its history, the owners and of course the wine. Not only was she a fabulous wine steward, Jane was a wealth of knowledge.
The 42 acre property was originally a cattle ranch. After it was purchased by the Mackeys, they built their home, which also houses the tasting room. The property was manually cleared by Stephen, who then planted seven acres of vines. These vines currently provide about sixty percent of the fruit for the 3000 cases of wine produced annually. Future plans include increasing the acreage to about twelve, but it is unclear if all the vines will be planted on the property or a second site.
Stephen has made the transformation from sound technician to winemaker with stunning success. He is making many of the wines that are found throughout the Commonwealth, but there are a couple of surprises on the menu. Few wineries are making Sauvignon Blanc and even fewer are working with Blaufrankisch. The Sauvignon Blanc was a particular standout with its bright tropical notes and it can be paired with salsa music. Of course Cabernet Franc is a grape that does well throughout the region, but the Notaviva example was still pretty special. Tobacco and cherries on the nose gave way to more red fruit and complexity. It should be paired with string concerts.
My experience and, based on my observations, everyone else’s experience was extremely positive. I had a great time, enjoyed the wine and walked a way feeling like I’d learned a few things. It just doesn’t get much better. So I strongly urge you to visit Notaviva. Find out what it is all about and check out the only Virginia wines that are made specifically with music in mind. When you do, let me know what you think.