The last time I visited Otium Cellars, which is also the only other time, it was a rainy, dismal early spring afternoon. This time at least it was not raining. It was unseasonably cold even for February, but the sun had taken the edge off the chill and I was at least able to survey the property and take a couple reasonable outdoor photos.
The property is quite lovely and it is hard to believe that it is only an hour from Washington DC. It was and still is a horse farm set in the piedmont region just east of the Blue Ridge. The rolling hills spread out in from the the tasting room providing an idyllic view of the farm and pastureland of central Loudoun County. It is a scene that I will endeavor to return to in the spring, so I can take it in during a better season.
Tasting room has a vaguely German feel. The timber construction, large windows and covered porch also lend it a ski-lodge quality. Just inside the door, there is an L-shaped tasting bar and tables line the window. There are exposed wood beams throughout and all of the glass allows ample natural light into the space. I know I am probably overstating the similarity, but there is a distinct Gasthaus feel.
Gerhard Bauer established the the winery and runs it with the assistance of his son Max, who is the general manager. The family hails from Northern Bavaria and they established a winery that seems to give more than a wink to that heritage. Aside There are a couple French varietals growing in the vineyard, but the majority are traditionally German or Austrian. Gruner Veltliner was recently planted and I was told a couple years ago that there are plans to cultivate Zweigelt and Lagrein. Currently, the Bauers are growing and producing single-varietal Blaufrankisch and Dornfelder.
There were eight wines on the tasting menu and I will not go into all of them in detail. I will say that they were all well crafted, but the real story here is the Blaufrankisch. If you are unfamiliar with this varietal, it is an Austrian red hybrid. You will find it growing in Washington, the Finger Lakes and there are a couple other Virginia wineries producing it under its other name, Lemberger. It is a medium-bodied wine filled with black fruit and hint of black pepper. This a wine that Otium can hang their hat on. They may be producing their Gruner Veltliner as early as next year. The vines will still need time to mature, but I have high expectations for that wine.
This winery represents more than a novelty. There are a handful of other venues producing German varietals, but Otium is definitely on the cutting edge of that movement. It is alway exciting to find something different and that is what you will find at this winery. I strongly recommend a visit. If for no other reason, you need to taste the Blaufrankisch. After you stop in, please let me know what you think.