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Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Gadino Cellars

Rappahannock County was once one of the state’s largest wine producing areas. While a couple other Virginia counties have eclipsed it in recent years, it still contains some regional clusters of very good producers. One of these is Gadino Cellars in Washington, Virginia. It had been nearly three years since my last visit, so I was overdue to stop in and see what they are up to.

The grounds at Gadino are tastefully landscaped with an abundance of flowers and hedges that nearly obscure the tasting room. Looking out across the vineyards, there is a line of hills that can be admired from the picnic table out front. Just down the hill are a pair of bocci ball courts, where you might while away an afternoon while sharing a bottle of Gadino wine. Alternately, there is a shaded patio or plenty of seating inside. 


The founding owners are Bill and Aleta Saccuta Gadino, who began planting 1990. There are Cabernet Franc vines on the property that are 26 years old and that is a varietal the winery is known for. They sold fruit for a number of years and only released their first vintage in 2004. Today there are seven acres of estate fruit, which is supplemented with some local grapes to produce the 1700 cases bottled annually.

The day-to-day operations now fall to daughter Stephanie and her husband Derek Cross, but the same high standards and quality wine can be enjoyed in the tasting room. Stephanie and Derek make the wine, but Tom Payette has long been in a consulting role. If you are unfamiliar with Tom, he is one of the state’s premier winemakers. In his consulting role, he has coached a number of Virginia’s top wineries. His influence can be seen in the quality of Stephanie and Derek’s wine.


The day-to-day operations now fall to daughter Stephanie and her husband Derek Cross, but the same high standards and quality wine can be enjoyed in the tasting room. Stephanie and Derek make the wine, but Tom Payette has long been in a consulting role. If you are unfamiliar with Tom, he is one of the state’s premier winemakers. In his consulting role, he has coached a number of Virginia’s top wineries. His influence can be seen in the quality of Stephanie and Derek’s wine. 

On the day of my visit, there were eight wines on the Gadino tasting menu. The majority of the offerings are from French varietals, but there are a couple that give a nod to the family’s Italian roots. Starting off the lineup were a Pinot Grigio and a nice barrel-aged Chardonnay, but the Petit Manseng stood out among the whites. This perfectly balanced, dry style wine was full of pineapple notes and bright acidity. It was a fabulous wine. In my opinion, however, the red offerings are the main event.


I placed stars next to all the reds. They were all excellent. The Bordeaux blend is lovely and complex, but the Cabernet Franc… There is something to be said for old-growth vines and that much age will tell in the final product. It was characterized by dark, ripe fruit and a hint of black pepper in the finish. I thought it was my favorite until Derek poured the 2010 Nebbiolo. It is a great wine produced in a great year. With a beautiful nose, layers of complexity and firm tannins, it is no wonder this age worthy wine won gold in the Governor’s Cup.

 

Although great wine is enough reason to visit, I also found the quality of the customer experience to be exceptional. My wine steward had only been working in the tasting room for two months, but she acted like a pro. We had a great conversation and she was able to talk with some authority about the wine, which is an indication that Gadino is making some effort to educate or at least closely screen tasting room help. I left inspired to return and I strongly recommend a visit. After you stop in, please let me know what you think.

 Cheers!