This is Wine

Crushed Cellars: the Exceptional Loudoun County Wine Enigma

This is Wine and it’s time to talk about the wines that everyone has a crush on!

If you’ve cruised the Loudoun County Wine Trails or have spoken to anyone who does, chances are you’ve heard whispers about Crushed Cellars, Bob, Bob’s Wines or the Wine Doctor of Route 9. The rumors include a winery that sells farm fresh eggs as well as incredible wines. Other gossip includes free re-sampling, endless plates of gourmet foods to pair with the wines and the owner, winemaker and proprietor is the mellowest person you will ever meet. Some of the more extreme stories entail some people are not allowed to go alone for reasons of coming home with several cases of wine. All of those rumors are true and exemplified when Allison and I visited Crushed Cellars!

We first heard about Crushed at a Virginia Wine Mafia (our group of fellow VA wine bloggers) party when Kurt and Carol ( kept talking about “Bob” and his wines. The majority of us had never heard of Bob and kept thinking that was the name of the vineyard. After many demands for more information, Kurt brought out a room temperature bottle of Vidal Blanc and explained Bob was the owner, winemaker and wizard of wine. Now, if you’ve read enough of my entries, you know I tend to avoid sweet wines like the plague. Also, if you know enough about wine, you know drinking a room temperature Vidal is unheard of and will be rewarded with funny looks so when Kurt cracked the bottle; we weren’t sure what to think. Uniquely enough, the Vidal was excellent without being chilled and without any pairings (although we’ll get to that later). He explained to us who were, at that point in a wine fugue, that all of Bob’s wines were excellent, just like the Vidal. That’s all it took for us to want to visit.

Unlike a lot of vineyards that have big signs, markers or mileage posts showing where to go and how far the entrance is, Crushed doesn’t have that. Nor is there a lot of advertising or marketing other than the wine telegraph (word of mouth). Chances are that if you don’t know where to go and you blink or sneeze, you’ll miss the entrance entirely (as Allison and I did…twice). About a one or two mile drive away from the Route 9 and Berlin Pike intersection, a big flag saying “open”, a gravel driveway and several rows of grapevines adjacent to a pond are the only signs you’ll get that you’ve arrived. There is limited parking so, if you plan to come in a group, it’s best to carpool.

Once you park, you’ll see a quaint but nice sized stone cabin with a patio and a few decorative wine barrels outside. There are also a few picnic tables on the property that are often occupied when the weather allows it. If you’re lucky, you might get a glimpse of the family chicken, cat and dog. When you walk inside, you’ll see a bar ahead of you with about 8 to 10 stools and a few wine barrels converted into tables. To your left, there are stairs leading up to a loft where there is additional seating. Behind the bar “Crushed Cellars” in painted in picturesque calligraphy and hanging glass shelves house countless wine glasses waiting to be used. Tastings are served table-side or at the bar and baskets of fresh baked breads, unique cheeses, meats, snacks, oils and pestos are served with the wines. Tastings are $5 per person and consist of 5-7 wines (depending on the stock and who’s pouring). We were fortunate, both times, to be served by the well talked about owner, Bob Kalok.

The first wine he kicked us off with was the Seyval which has won several awards. Made from 100% Seyval and “without fillers”, as Bob pointed out to us once, the nose was crisp and the flavors were full of citrus and star anise with a cucumber and mineral finish. If you like a dry white, this would be the one for you and would pair well with any kind of cheese and also goes well with bread dipped in pesto.

Next on the list was the Splash of Summer which consisted of 50% Vidal Blanc, 44% Sauvignon Blanc and 6% Seyval. While it does have 1% residual sugar, the Sauv and Seyval balance the Vidal nicely and any kind of white wine drinker could appreciate it. Despite the title, Splash of Summer is good in any season with its dry and crisp flavors and sweet finish at the back of the palate. I would encourage you to use your imagination and come up with something unique to pair with this one.

Bob deviated from the menu, at this point, and let us sample the Chardonnay which was a Bronze medal at San Francisco’s International Wine Camp. Using a touch of Seyval (less than 1%), steel barrels for primary fermentation and new French oak barrels for secondary fermentation, this wine was the right balance of butter, oak and dry fruit flavors. This particular wine would go well with grilled chicken, fish or a smoked gouda.

The last white he let us try was the famed Vidal Blanc. Another award winner and made of 100% Vidal grapes, this sweet white had a floral nose and flavors of honey, golden delicious apples and a nice lingering finish that reminded me a fortified Viognier. A wine like this would be best paired with spicy food, curry or wasabi cheese, something Bob let us sample.

Moving onto the reds, he first let us try the Merlot. Aged for 30 months in French oak, this wine is a red drinker’s red! Bold and smoky with flavors of cranberry, dark fruit, black pepper and a peaty smokiness, this wine would pair perfectly with a nice steak, veal chop or a meaty fish like tuna or swordfish.

The last of the menu reds was the Meritage which contains 3 out of the 5 Bordeaux “noble” reds. Comprised of 72% Cabernet Franc, 21% Merlot and 7% Malbec and aged in French oak, this wine is unique because it embodies the full bodied-ness of a good red but is also lighter than a lot of Meritage varieties so it can appeal to both red and non red drinkers. With an earthy nose and flavors of cherries, clove and vanilla, one could pair this with pasta, andouille sausage, jambalaya or anything with sun-dried tomatoes (like the pesto we tried).

When we were getting ready to leave, cases of wine in hand, Bob stopped us and asked if we wanted to try something really good. Of course we said yes so he let us sample the Cabernet Franc. This was, without question, my favorite of the reds. Like the Merlot, it was aged for at least 30 months in French oak and had exceptional flavors. Smooth and velvety with a cacao nose and flavors of currants, blackberries, white pepper and chocolate, this wine could go well with red meat, bold cheeses or just by itself.

As I write this, I keep thinking back to the good wines and, overall, great experience at Crushed and want to go back very soon. The people are very friendly, the atmosphere is mellow, the wines are all amazing, the pairings are unique and original and the prices are all reasonable. When Bob isn’t pouring wine, he likes to visit with the patrons, get their opinions and offer additional ideas. Like what you’ve just sampled? Bob and the tasters won’t hesitate to offer you a little more of what you’ve just tried. Crushed is also family and pet friendly so as long as your children, Fido and/or Whiskers is well behaved, they are more than welcome.

Crushed’s tasting room is open Saturdays and Sundays from noon until 6 or by appointment and isn’t for those that are in a rush. The average tasting from start to finish is approximately an hour and, afterwards, you’re going to want to get more food and share a glass or bottle (or case) with company. If you have plans to visit several vineyards or are in a time crunch, I would not recommend going. If you want to bring a large group, Bob requires an appointment and also doesn’t allow limos or party buses so bachelor/bachelorette parties need not apply. If you want to try some outstanding wines, eat some delicious local farm-to-fork snacks and hang out in a relaxed and mellow “come as you are” setting, this is place is more than worth visiting.

So, until my next entry, to adhere to an old Spanish proverb, “with wine and hope, anything is possible.” Cheers!

Crushed Cellars
37938 Charles Town Pike
Purcellville, VA 20132
(571) 374-9463 (yes…the last 4 numbers spell “wine”)
This is Wine

Ingleside Plantation Winery: Widely known, widely celebrated

This is Wine and sometimes big things come in big packages!

The Northern Neck possesses a number of amazing things in the Commonwealth of Virginia; all within an hour and a half drive from the DC metro area. For the history buffs out there, you can find Washington’s birthplace. For the nature buff out there, there are the rocky and beautiful beaches of Colonial Beach and scenic views of Westmoreland State Park. And, of course, there is the less than widely known Chesapeake Wine Trail; spanning more than a dozen vineyards along the Bay area. Some of them are small, boutique vineyards that offer an intimate environment and casual tastings while others are larger and offer a wider variety as well as more events. While there are so many different places to choose from, most of the recommendations drove me, thankfully, to Ingleside Plantation Winery!

Ingleside was first brought to my attention by Tony “Pourhouse” of Virginia Pourhouse ( and then was visited by the bulk of the Virginia Wine Mafia. While Allison and I did not get to attend that particular meet-up, I heard nothing but good things about the experience and wines that Ingleside got to offer. As Allison and my anniversary got closer, I started thinking of ways to outdo last year’s anniversary and the best place to celebrate another year together. After much thought, I decided on Ingleside and could not be any more satisfied and happy with my decision.

Sitting on over 50 acres, Ingleside is one of the older vineyards in Virginia and one of the most widely celebrated. It was won numerous awards for its wines and entertainment and everyone that visits it, can’t stop talking about it (myself included). Situated just off Leedstown Road in the area of Oak Grove, it is about 30 minutes from Fredericksburg and a short jaunt from a myriad of other areas to explore, see and do. The original mansion was built in 1834 as an educational academy and it was bought by the Flemer family in 1890. The first vines were planted in the 1970s and they have been producing high quality wines ever since. The Flemer family still owns and runs Ingleside to this day and visitors might be lucky enough to meet some of the living legacies (as Allison and I did).

When you visit Ingleside, you may see signs for “Roxbury”, “Summerton” and “Walnut Hill” to name a few. These are some of the original vineyard areas purchased by the Flemers. Eventually, after cruising down the scenic Leedstown Road long enough, you’ll see a sign for the entrance of the vineyard, itself. After a short journey off-road and past some vines, you’ll see a series of buildings from a silo to a pavilion area. This rustic setting adds to the country charm and the come-as-you-are environment of such a great vineyard.

When you park, you’ll see a wrought iron gate and a pavilion with signs directing you to you various areas. Off to your left, you’ll see a covered crush pad and the entrance to the Operation Center and Barrel Room. Tours are offered throughout the day and are free to the public so keep your eyes and ears open for a chance to see the winemaking in live action. When you walk through the gate [or pavilion, depending on if there are any events], you’ll emerge into what can only be described as a European style, open air courtyard; complete with a fountain and covered porticos to keep the elements at bay. On some weekends, events are held in the pavilion. For some who are thinking that may be a hindrance for those seeking a quiet and intimate tasting experience, do not worry! The tasting area is separate from the pavilion and the staff tends to go out of their way to please and accommodate those who are interested in the quiet, the party or both.

Just off of the piazza is a small building that is advertised as the tasting room. Inside is a perpendicular, polished wood tasting bar that could house up to 12-15 people quite comfortably. If you’re waiting for a spot at the bar, don’t worry. The tasting room also houses various wine themed curios from shirts, flags and signs to wine glasses and maps of the surrounding areas. If you do a tasting, you’ll get to try up to many different wines for a very reasonable price. While some vineyards focus more on one wine or the other, Ingleside offers enough of a variety that the sweet, dry, red or white fan can enjoy.

The first wine we got to try was the Chesapeake Chardonnay. Normally I’m not a fan of un-oaked Chards but this was extremely pleasant. It had a crisp, mineral nose and flavors of mango, tropical fruit and just the right amount of acid. This would go well with swai or some other mild fish or a smoked cheese.

The next wine we got to taste was the Reserve Chardonnay; the oaked counterpart to the Chesapeake Chard. For those of you who are thinking this might have California written all over it; you are wrong. The French and American Oak is neutral (meaning it has been in use for over 5 years), there is just enough oak and butter flavors at the back of the palate to balance the fruit flavors. While some might pair this with appetizers, I would personally sit back and sip this by itself.

The Viognier was next on our list and, while Viognier has been labeled the state grape of Virginia, this wine was not your stereotypical wine. The nose, itself, was floral with a hint of honeysuckle but was not overpowering. The flavors were also subtle; slight citrus acid mixed with peach, honey and apple with a finish of lemon and something cool that I could not put my finger on. This wine won an award with the Atlantic Seaboard in 2013 and is perfect for warm weather drinking or to celebrate the end of a productive day.

When we got to try the Albarino, I was very excited. First of all, very few vineyards serve this Spanish style white wine and, second, Tony had been talking about it quite a bit. After trying it, I definitely not disappointed. What can only be described, flavor-wise, as a blend of all the dry and semi-dry whites combined, this wine is very unique. The nose, itself, was dry and acidic but the flavors were lush and tropical at the front of the palate to dry and crisp at the back of the palate. This wine is perfect for dry and non-dry fans alike and can be served with chicken or an Alfredo based dish as well as tapas or finger foods.

Moving onto the reds, we were first introduced to the Sangiovese. Like the Albarino, I don’t know of many different vineyards that offer this Italian red but I was not disappointed! Possessing a slightly perfumed nose, a medium body and flavors of cherries and light tannins, you could pair this with game meats or a good Bolognese (or just drink in front of a roaring fire).

Next up was the Merlot which was, without question, the red drinker’s red on the list (and my personal favorite). Full bodied and smoky with flavors of tobacco, peat and black currants, this multi award winning red is perfect with steak, tenderloin or lamb burgers.

Next up was the Virginia Gold Red; a Bordeaux blend of Cab Sauv, Merlot, Touriga, Petit Verdot and Cab Franc that had me at hello. This bold and beautiful red had flavors of chocolate, dark fruit and tobacco with just the right level of tannins and a lingering finish and that made me want a second (or third) glass.

The last red we got to sample was the Cabernet Sauvignon which, while full bodied and a tannin paradise, it’s not overpowering and could easily appeal to the non red drinker as well. An oaky nose and initial flavors of plum and eucalyptus segue into flavors of cedar and cacao with a clean finish.

Ingleside also offers two types of sweeter blush/rose style wines that, while too sweet for my tastes, would be perfect for parties, friends or those who favor the sweeter style of wine without venturing into the Icewine category. These consist of the Blue Crab Blush and Sweet Virginia Rose and, while definitely for those that like the less dry and sweeter types, they are definitely worth sampling if for no other reason than to see what your palate might like.

If you are looking for a place to stay, Ingleside offers two cabins just off the property. No; these aren’t your average tiny, rustic, cabin but full service and elegant style cabins with bedroom and loft bedroom furnishings, large living room, full kitchen and a myriad of other excellent amenities. Trying to be romantic or celebrate an anniversary? For a very reasonable price, Ingleside offers a “romance package”; complete with champagne, candles, rose petals and chocolate covered strawberries.

Ingleside, without question, is easily in my top five places to visit. The staff is incredibly friendly and accommodating, the wines are amazing and the size is large enough to spread out while retaining the intimacy of a boutique winery. While there was a barrel tasting and local art festival going on while we were there, it did NOT detract from a wonderful weekend on the Northern Neck. Thank you to everyone who helped make our anniversary such a memorable one.

So, until my next entry, to adhere to an old Spanish proverb, “With wine and hope, anything is possible.” Cheers!

Ingleside Plantation Winery
5872 Leedstown Road
Oak Grove, VA 22443
(804) 224-8687
This is Wine

Reynard Florence: Small setting, big wines and flavors

This is Wine and we’re on a fox hunt for the good stuff!

It’s easy to get lost in Central Virginia’s wine country. There are a lot of places to go and see and a lot of back roads to drive down to get there. Sometimes you wind up getting sidetracked but are eager to do so. Sometimes you mean to hit one place but wind up hitting another place altogether. And sometimes you can’t figure out where to go first and wind up rolling the dice. Either way, you probably won’t be disappointed. We sure weren’t when we visited Reynard Florence Vineyard!

The Virginia Wine Mafia was holding a meet-up at Early Mountain Vineyards (we’ll get to them later) and Allison and I teamed up with Tony “Pourhouse” ( and decided to stop somewhere before the meet-up. After discussing several different options, we decided on Reynard Florence. Having heard good things about them and the wines they produce, I was anxious to try them out. What we got was an even better experience than I anticipated.

Located in Barboursville, Virginia and not far from Charlottesville, Reynard Florence is a unique stop on the Monticello Wine Trail. Owned and run by Roe and Dee Allison, it is easy to see how they put a lot of work into crafting and designing good wine in a beautiful setting while retaining a quiet familiarity and not going over the top. A lot of vineyards make themselves known with vibrant advertising, large signs and no possible way to miss them. Tucked quietly down Burnley Road, you’ll probably miss the entrance completely if you sneeze. When you get past the gate, you’ll be hit instantly with a beautiful view of the valley and Blue Ridge Mountains just in front of the horizon with a wall of grapevines running down the hill next to you. For the photophiles, you will not be disappointed and could easily spend an hour taking photos of every angle.

Continuing down the driveway, you’ll eventually see the Tasting Room and Operations Center which presents itself more as a country cottage with several tables and chairs with an endless view of the vines. If you’re lucky, you might even get a visit from “T-Rey”, the vineyard’s pet dog (which resembles a fox rather closely). Inside the Tasting Room, you’ll be surprised yet again. The small room is uniquely designed with a couple of tables arranged on top of wine barrels, a wall full of bottles and a small tasting bar that could hold 3 or 4 people. To the right is a window that peeks into the Operations Center where people can see the tanks and (come harvest time) where the magic happens.

Dee did our tasting for us (and Roe stopped in as our tasting progressed) and was very friendly, informative and easy to talk to. She explained their wine making style, how they decided to open a vineyard and a plethora of other information. Their Petit Manseng is currently their only estate (grown on the property) white and their Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot and Grenache are their estate reds. The other grapes they use are leased from other vineyards in the state. While all wines may be aged in different types of oak, all of them are neutral (at least 5 years old). Tastings are $5 each and include a free glass and an experience of what I call a “semi vertical tasting”.

The first wine we tried was the 2010 Reynard Blanc which was a blend of 33% Riesling, 33% Traminette, 25% Petit Manseng and 9% Viognier. While definitely a sweet white and containing 2% residual sugar, it was not as cloying as I originally expected. I was hit with the Traminette and Viognier in the bouquet; floral and honey-ish with flavors of pineapple and enough citrus to counterbalance the sweetness of the Riesling and Traminette. This would pair well with smoked Gouda, grilled chicken or by itself on a hot summer day.

Next up on the list of the 2011 Reynard Blanc which was equal parts Traminette, Vidal Blanc and Petit Manseng. A much sweeter younger sibling to the 2010, I tasted the Vidal almost immediately. Flavors of powdered sugar and peach come to mind which a slightly citric after-note.

The 2012 Reynard Blanc was next and returned to the semi-sweet/semi-dry category while not changing from Roe and Dee’s experimentations. Consisting of 36% Traminette, 44% Vidal and 20% Petit Manseng, this was something different. While I could smell the Vidal over everything else, the flavors were well balanced. Flavors of honeysuckle and coconut came to mind which an acidic finish that was a nice way to balance everything out.

The next one was the 2011 Petit Manseng which I could have easily confused for a bottle of mead mixed with sangria. The nose was pure honey and had flavors of spiced honey, mango and kiwi.
The 2012 Petit Manseng was easily my favorite of the whites. Dee quoted the PM grape as a “schizophrenic” one and this one proved it to be but not in a bad way. The nose, itself, it very floral and reminiscent of jasmine with flavors of clover honey, peach and a slightly tart but clean finish. This particular white would go well with grilled Swai, spicy food or by itself (as I am enjoying a glass as I write this).
Moving on to the reds, we started off with the 2010 Cabernet Franc which could easily be enjoyed by both red and white drinkers. The nose was intrepid and the flavors were earthy with flavors of cherry and chocolate. This type of red would pair well with chocolate or brisket.

Going back to the semi vertical line-up, we tried the 2010 Reynard Rouge which is a blend of Merlot and Malbec with a hint of (believe it or not) Viognier. I was awarded with a full bodied nose of the Merlot; bold and spicy, while the flavors were more fruit forward and reminiscent of Malbec. The Viognier was very subtle but apparent in the finish which made this particular red very unique.

Next was the 2011 Reynard Rouge which was definitely the first of two red drinker’s reds. Consisting of a blend of Malbec, Merlot, Tannat and Petit Verdot, the nose was smoky and had flavors of dark fruit, raspberries and a slight almost creamy finish. The Malbec was the most apparent in the beginning but eventually segued into flavors of the Merlot and Petit Verdot which made this an interesting red.

The 2010 Merlot was big and, without question, was a red drinker’s dream come true. The nose was spicy with a scent of currants and black pepper while the flavor was strong with cherry and bold tannins an almost anisette finish to it. I would pair this with a steak or tenderloin or, as a red drinker, just kick back and drink it by itself while watching a movie.

The final wine on the list of a 2011 Cabernet Sauv from Jump Mountain, a new vineyard in the area. This would be a good red wine for non red drinkers. It is very light and reminds me almost of a dark rose with flavors of strawberries and an almost blueberry-like finish.

They also offer a 2011 Grenache but it was not available for tastings. I did buy a bottle though so I will report my findings once I run out of willpower and crack it.

All in all, I find Reynard Florence to be an excellent off the beaten path vineyard. The view, itself, is beautiful, the people are friendly and the wines are very good. As I mentioned earlier, I got a bottle of 2012 Petit Manseng as well as a bottle of Grenache. I hope to plan another excursion out on the Monticello Wine Trail so I can visit such a great hideaway in the future.

So, until my next entry, to adhere to an old Spanish proverb, “With wine and hope, anything is possible.” Cheers!

Reynard Florence Vineyard
5109 Burnley Road
Barboursville, VA 22973
(540) 832-3895
This is Wine

Cana Vineyards and Winery: A Biblical Name with Enormous Potential

This is Wine and we’re overflowing wine jugs!

Ever hear the Bible story about the Wedding at Cana? Here’s the Cliff’s Notes version: Jesus turned several jugs of water into fine wine. So what does that have to do with Virginia wine? Unfortunately, winemakers haven’t found a way to do that (yet) but there’s a new vineyard that draws its name from the story. Welcome to Cana Vineyards and Winery.

Located in Loudoun County and just outside historic Aldie and Middleburg, it’s about 30-45 minutes from the Fairfax area and about an hour from DC. As said earlier, Cana is a new addition to the Northern Virginia wine sector. How new? They only broke ground in 2011 and opened their doors to the public in late 2012. Since then, though, they have taken off rather quickly as was evident by the number of people there. Currently they are growing Petit Verdot, Petit Manseng and Viognier grapes and get the rest of their crop from other vineyards throughout Virginia.

Allison and I had first heard about Cana from Kurt and Carol Jensen ( and thought the name was fascinating. Then I found out our friends of Cool McFinn were performing there and thought it was high time to check it out for ourselves. What struck me, first, was how scenic it was. Situated on a hill and several acres of wide open areas, the setting is perfect for photos, parties, gatherings and get-togethers. The driveway takes you past some of the vines, paths and picnic areas that lead around the back of the property.

The Tasting Room, itself, is two levels with plenty of room both indoors and outdoors for people to mingle. Picture a Deep South style mansion with balustrades and a jutting veranda; now you’re getting the picture. Tastings are $10 each and are done, in groups, in the Barrel Room where two bars are set up to hold 6 or 7 people. I found this aspect rather interesting as public tastings are not usually held in Barrel Rooms.

So let’s talk about wine. Currently, Cana offers 3 Whites, 1 Rose, 2 Reds and a Fruit style wine and all were a 2011 vintage. While all the wines we tried were still relatively young, they were off to a good start and I look forward to trying them in a few months to see how they’ve changed.

The Traminette was the first one we tried and I noted it had a floral nose reminiscent of a Viognier but was semi-dry with flavors of nutmeg and citrus that reminded me a lot of a Dry Riesling and would be good with chicken or fish.

Speaking of which, the Riesling was the next wine we tried. For a wine that had 1.2% residual sugar, it was light and semi-dry as well. The nose was creamy and flavors were semi sweet but also had an anise-like finish that made me think of a Retsina style wine. This would pair well with something spicy or even baba-ganoush or sharp cheddar.

The Viognier was perplexing. Most Viogniers I’ve had were floral, and crisp with just a touch of acid and a clean finish. Cana’s Viognier had the nose of wine but was dry, oaky and creamy that reminded me of a Chardonnay (which isn’t a bad thing).

The Rose was easily my favorite. A 50/50 blend of Merlot and Cabernet Franc, the grapes are cluster pressed and the skins are left on for 4 hours to give it a pale ruby-esque hue. While the nose was dry and full of strawberries, the flavor was a mix of fruit and dryness that balanced each other out very well.

The Cabernet Franc had a dry nose of dark fruit but was jammy and had a vanilla to it. I expected it to be dryer but was well balanced and would pair well with pita bread and light snacks.

The Le Mariage was definitely a red drinker’s red. A blend of 57% Petit Verdot and 43% Merlot, it was bold, spicy and oaky with a hint of brandy at the end and would be perfect with steak or venison on the grill.

The last wine we tried was the Raspberry Apple and, once again, was interesting. If you know anything about me by now, you know I normally abhor fruit wines as I always find them too cloyingly sweet. This wine was tart and acidic which just a hint of raspberry sweet and sourness at the tail end to make it refreshing on a warm day.

All in all, I find Cana to have a lot of potential for the future. The setting is beautiful, the people are friendly and the wines, while young, are off to good start and have already won some awards which is a good omen. We received a good first impression and will definitely be back soon to try everything again.

So, until my next entry, to adhere to an old Spanish proverb, “With wine and hope, anything is possible.” Cheers!

Cana Vineyards and Winery
38600 John Mosby Highway
Middleburg, VA 20117
(703) 348-2458
This is Wine

Corcoran Vineyards: Art in a glass or bottle

This is Wine and sometimes the good stuff can be a work of art!

When you hear the name “Corcoran”, what comes to mind? If you’re from the DC metro area, probably the first thing you think of is the art gallery downtown and all that comes with it. But what about a good glass of wine? That, in itself, can be considered a drinkable work of art. Now throw in a beautiful setting and one of the friendliest environments and you have Corcoran Vineyards!

A few weeks ago, Allison and I teamed with Tony and Jaymie of Virginia Pour House fame ( to check out Corcoran (aka Corky’s Farm) for ourselves. I had been communicating with Lori Corcoran, the owner; for some time and we had heard great things about the vineyard and their wines but could never get out there until recently. We were not let down after all that we heard. Lori is an extremely friendly and ebullient hostess who went out of her way to make us feel welcome at her vineyard as well as showing us her drinkable works of art and discussing winemaking and her plans for the future.

Located just a short drive outside Leesburg and a stone’s throw from Route 9 (the Leesburg Wine Corridor); Corcoran Vineyards is ideal for both the seasoned wine palate and the budding wine enthusiast. Even if you don’t like wine, visiting the grounds is worth a visit to take a few photos. The property is beautiful and fully equipped with extensive grounds and a scenic pond just next door to the tasting room. In the warmer months, it is perfect to have a picnic and a glass or two of wine and to just relax. When we were there, there was snow on the ground which added a bit of a Winter Wonderland and romantic feel to it.

The Tasting Room combines a rustic environment melded with airs of contemporary atmosphere to it. Picture a farmhouse from the 1800s and, now, upgrade it to the 21st century. Now you’re getting it. Inside, there are a few nicely sized tables and there is, also, a fireplace that was blazing when we were there which added a cozy feel to it. The tasting bar, itself, was L shaped and could fit a group of 8 quite comfortably.

Lori’s wines are very unique and flavorful in a way I have not experienced at many other vineyards in my travels. All of her wines are dryer than what one might expect as well as all having small flavors of various spices to them. He is my rundown of what we got to sample and enjoy.

She kicked us off with the Apple Wine which was not as sweet as I had originally anticipated. It had aromas of a ripe Granny Smith and was semi dry with a crisp feel to it and just the right amount of acidity in the finish to not be overpowering. This would be perfect to cook with or mull in the chilly months.

She moved us along to the Viognier. The nose was lush with the essence of honeysuckle and jasmine but the flavors were semi dry and I picked up citric notes mixed with a touch of clove. This immediately made me think of a wine to go with Teriyaki Chicken or kabobs.

The Petit Verdot was bold and beautiful; without question, a red drinker’s red! Socked in with full bodied tannins and flavors of dark fruit mixed with peat and nutmeg, this is perfect to go with a steak, tenderloin or just to enjoy by itself.

Kathy, one of our associates in the Virginia Wine Mafia, had been talking about the Tannat so I was looking forward to it and was not let down. This wine is for both the red drinkers and the non red drinkers. Not as dry as the Petit Verdot, it was smooth and velvety with flavors of cacao, currants and cinnamon with a lingering finish and would pair well with a chocolate dessert or enjoyed in front of a roaring fire.

Moving along to the dessert wines (speaking of which), Lori started us off with the “Cello” which was a Petit Manseng white blended with lemon. I was expecting either an overwhelming sweetness to it or an explosion of lemon but, instead, got a slight touch of both that was pleasant on both the nose and palate. If you like pound cake or crème brulee, this would be perfect for drizzling on top of either.

Next on the list of the “Raz” which was a Merlot red blended raspberry. Once again, I was expecting an explosion of sweetness but was pleasantly surprised. The raspberry flavors are full bodied but pair perfectly well with the dryness of the Merlot. Throw a chocolate chip or a Hershey’s Kiss into the mix and you have dessert in glass.

The last wine on the menu was the “USB”, a port style wine where Lori got the idea to make a Chambourcin style red wine and let it ferment in whiskey casks for awhile. This wine I could drink all day. The flavors were oaky, sweet, dry, spicy and light all rolled into one long lasting blend. It was a perfect way to end a standard tasting.

But Lori wasn’t finished with us yet. After the tasting, she took us to a large barn which doubled as her Operations center and Winery, proper. There she let us try some of her white port (aka Lori’s Private Reserve). Comprised of a Viognier white, she fortified it with Brandy and let it age and mature in a single cask. The nose was bright and the flavors were bold with honey and vanilla with a satisfying strong kick at the end.

If this sounds like a fun experience but you prefer beer to wine; don’t worry! Next to the vineyard and winery is Corcoran Brewery where you can sample 12 different home brewed beers, get a glass or a growler (like we did). That review is for a different blog, though.

All in all, Corcoran was an amazing experience and I would definitely recommend anyone who likes wine, beer (or both) to come out and see everything for yourself. The wines are amazing, the setting is beautiful and Lori is one of the most welcoming and friendly people you will meet in the Virginia wine scene. You will not be disappointed by this wine of art.

So, until my next entry, to adhere to an old Spanish proverb, with wine and hope, anything is possible. Cheers!

Corcoran Vineyards
14635 Corkys Farm Lane
Waterford, VA 20197
(540) 882-9073
This is Wine

Philip Carter Winery: Wine throughout time

This is Wine and the history of good Virginia wine lives on!

If you’ve cruised the Fauquier County vineyard scene or even driven down 66 between Front Royal and Delaplane, you’ve heard of Philip Carter Winery. The name, alone, sounds impressive and they have a history to boot. The Carter legacy dates back to the 1700s when Charles Carter started growing grapes on the Cleve Plantation in Virginia. As they say, history has a way of repeating itself, as Philip Carter Strother, a descendant of the winemaking Carters, decided to continue the tradition and opened Philip Carter Vineyards. As I can’t do the entire history enough justice, you’ll have to visit the vineyard, yourself, for the whole story.

I first visited Philip Carter several years ago before I started this project (and before my palate grew up) so, a few weeks ago, I decided it was time to go back and to introduce Allison to one of the first vineyards I ever visited.

A short hike through the hills and back roads, you are first introduced to the winery by a long driveway that traverses the grounds, vines and a beautiful country setting. The tasting room, itself, is a beautiful red building that has more than enough room for people to spread out and enjoy the wine they are imbibing while still retaining a semi-intimate atmosphere. On cold days (like when we went), the fireplace is roaring and the tasters had mulled wine to indulge.

Andrew, our taster and Assistant Winemaker, had a wide variety of knowledge of the history, process and flavors of what we were trying…all the way down to the grapes themselves. All wines are done from Virginia grapes and those that aren’t grown on the property, are leased from other neighboring vineyards.

We started off with the 2011 Chardonnay which was done in stainless steel and neutral oak. And had flavors of apple, cucumber and citrus with a mellow buttery finish. As a person who loves oaky Chardonnays, I found this to be a refreshing deviation from the norm and a great wine for pairing with fish or chicken or just kicking back and drinking by itself.

The 2011 “Danielle’s Rose” was made from a Portuguese style grape called Tinta Cao and I noticed that the color was a little deeper than other Roses I’ve sampled. It was also not as dry as other Roses but, rather, had a fruit forward scent and flavors of strawberry and an herby, almost minty finish.

The Louis Jadot was a 2011 Beaujolais that I found to be rather complex to describe. It had a sweet aroma to it but was semi dry and I picked up flavors of raspberry and cranberry with a subtle sweet aftertaste.

I was looking forward to trying the 2011 Cabernet Franc and was not disappointed. A blend of Cab Franc, Tannat and Petit Verdot and aged in both American and French Oak, this wine was smooth and as velvety as ever with flavors of cherry and dark chocolate with a semi dry finish. Dubbed as a “gateway red”, it is perfect for non-red drinkers as well as red drinkers who want something more smooth and rich.

It was here that Andrew deviated from the list and let us sample a little of the 2010 Cleve (named after the plantation the Carters made their start), a wine that won’t be released for another couple of weeks. I’m not fond of waiting and will be sure to get a bottle as soon as it’s on sale to the public because it was a great wine! A 50/50 blend of Tannat and Petit Verdot, it had a spicy nose to it and complex flavors that alternated between being fruit forward and dry. Flavors of black cherry and coffee move into a smooth and silky finish that is perfect by itself and doesn’t need any pairing.

Promptly going back to the list, Andrew poured us the 2011 Falconwood Red, a blend of Cab Franc, Merlot, Cab Sauv, Petit Verdot and Tannat. More of a red drinker’s red, it had a rich nose with flavors of dark fruit and spice and a peppery tannic finish. This wine would be perfect with a roast or beef tenderloin or served with chocolate.

Moving onto dessert wines, we first tried the 1762, a Port style wine that was aptly named for the first successful attempt to make wine. Made from 100% Chambourcin and aged in bourbon barrels, it was both sweet and very strong; a perfect way to end any meal or to enjoy by the fire.

Finally, we tried the 2011 Late Harvest; a Vidal wine with 6.6% residual sugar but was not cloyingly sweet (like so many other late harvest wines). It had a very floral nose, reminiscent of a Viognier, and flavors of honeysuckle and toffee which would be perfect for a warm day.

It was great to get back to Philip Carter after many years. The setting is perfect for a historical background, the people are incredibly friendly and, of course, the wines are great! Everything fit perfectly together and it is great for new wine lovers as well as those that have been around the grapevines. You will have a memorable time. We had a great experience and look forward to going back…once the Cleve is up for grabs.

So, until my next entry, to adhere to an old Spanish proverb, with wine and hope, anything is possible. Cheers!

Philip Carter Winery
4366 Stillhouse Road
Hume, VA 22639
(540) 364-1203
This is Wine

Morais Vineyards & Winery: Europe Meets Virginia in the Best Ways

This is Wine and be prepared to say obrigado for a Portuguese royal treatment!

Route 29, much like Route 66, is honeycombed with vineyards of all shapes, sizes, varietals and styles. Some are older, larger and better known while others are smaller, intimate and lesser known (but still worth going to). Some, however (like I’m prone to saying a lot) are off the beaten path but gems to visit. Morais Vineyards is one of those gems off the path!

Morais (pronounced More-Eye-Iss) is conveniently located close to Routes 28 and 29, in the town of Bealeton and about an hour from the DC metro area. The entrance sneaks up on you but the setting, alone, is beautiful. Once you drive through the iron gate and past the stone walls, you’ll head down a narrow lane that opens into a circular driveway past some of the vines. Once you pass the vines, you’ll see your destination: a huge European style mansion/palace with columns, arched windows and a fountain with a statue in the middle. Off to the side is a large field complete with horses. Around the back is a large pond with a fountain in the middle and a pavilion overlooking it which is a perfect setting for photos.

Once you walk through the front doors, you’ll see what can only be described as a grand ballroom with chandeliers, jutting columns, plenty of tables and huge windows that overlook the rest of the property; a sight that’s fit for royalty. A winding staircase, off to the side, leads up to a balcony with more tables, couches and a curtain that can be drawn to obscure it from the rest of the rest of the room.

If you can get a chance to stroll underneath the main level, you are in for a treat. There are three major things to see. The first is the workshop, itself, with its steel tanks and vats where the grapes are pressed and handled manually by Victor, the Winemaker. The second is a smaller tasting room which, during weddings and larger events, opens to the public for tastings. The third is the barrel room which hides behind an iron gate of a door and is stacked from floor to gothic ceiling with round stone wine racks and French and American oak barrels.

The Tasting Room, itself, is situated in a wing just off of the ballroom, armed with a round stone bar that could easily fit 20 people quite comfortably. There are also additional tables for people to relax at as well as a fireplace that I suspect gets used quite frequently in the colder months. Candace and Noreen, the two tasters, are very friendly and knowledgeable with what they’re pouring so prepared to get spoiled. There are two types of tastings offered. One is for $8 which you get to sample 8 different wines (accompanied by a plate of breads, cheeses and meat). The second is for $15 and you get to sample the original 8 plus 3 additional dessert wines and get a souvenir glass emblazoned with the vineyard logo.

The Select White is made from the Rkatsitelli (aka Rkats) grape and has a floral nose (reminiscent of a light Viognier) and carries light fruit flavors with a refreshing finish which is perfect by itself on a warm day. The Battlefield White is blend of Vidal Blanc and Albarino grapes. We were told Morais is the only vineyard on the east coast that has a Green wine which we found fascinating. It has a slightly spicy smell to it and bold flavors of citrus and cucumber. This type of wine would go well with chicken and fish or, as Noreen mentioned, asparagus.

The Rose was made from 100% Cabernet Franc grapes and the skins were left on 10-12 hours which made is slightly darker than a lot of Roses we’ve seen in the past. While it may smell slightly sweet, the taste is a delicate blend of strawberry and raspberry with a semi-dry finish.

The reds were, without question, my favorites of the group. The Select Red is a 50/50 blend of Cab Franc and Merlot, aged in new French Oak for 2 years, and has an herbaceous nose and fruit forward flavors with a velvety finish that could appeal to both red and non-red fans. The Merlot was rich and bold with an espresso nose and flavors of currants and dark fruit but not as dry as I anticipated (which is a good thing). The Cabernet Franc, while still a little young, was off to a good start and, in 6-9 months, will be perfect for drinking. My favorite of all the reds was the Touriga National; a Portuguese is red that is quite unique. The body is light (for a red) and has a peaty aroma but a fruit forward taste to it that can be used in cooking, snacking or just for regular consumption.

Even the dessert wines were good and I usually abhor overly sweet wines (as Allison can attest to). Noreen and Candace paired these with various dessert bits which were perfect to go with what we tried. The Jeropiga is a port style wine that is made from Merlot and Brandy and sits for 6 months in French Oak. I could not pinpoint all of the flavors but it was sweet and smooth while sharp and biting (which is a good thing). We also tried the Moscatel which was borderlining on cloyingly sweet but just avoided being too overpowering. The final wine on the list was a Cherry Wine made from Portuguese Morello cherries and even has a few sitting in the bottom. While I initially expected it to be too sweet, there was a tartness present which offered a nice ending to the dessert wines.

Going to Morais was a wonderful experience. The scenery is beautiful, the main hall was perfectly done, the wines were delicious and VERY reasonably priced and the people are extremely welcoming. Mr. Morais and Nicole Warner (the Venue Coordinator) were kind enough to take time out of their busy schedules to show us around (in the middle of our tasting) and Noreen and Candace were kind enough to pick back up where we left off on our tasting when we got back. You will leave the vineyard feeling like you got the royal treatment. We look forward to getting back there soon!

So, until my next entry, to adhere to an old Spanish proverb, with wine and hope, anything is possible. Cheers!

Morais Vineyards & Winery
11409 Marsh Road
Bealeton, VA 22712
(540) 729-2763
This is Wine

Cobbler Mountain Cellars: A gem off the track

This is Wine and sometimes you have to climb a mountain to find the good stuff!

If you mention Delaplane, chances are the first thing that’s going to pop into your head is wine. There are a large number of vineyards in the area; some are huge and visible from the highway and others are off the beaten path and have to be tracked down. One of these hidden gems is Cobbler Mountain Cellars.

Cobbler and I have a history together. When they first opened their doors, Kurt and Carol ( invited Nancy Bauer ( and me up for a visit. It was definitely an “over the river and through the woods” drive but once I got there, the view was worth the trip, alone. Bring your camera(s) because you won’t be disappointed. The tasting room doubles as the bottom floor of the house where Laura and Jeff Louden and their two very awesome children live. When the 4 of us first went, the tastings were done al fresco at a small table that offered pleasant ambience on a warm day in a great setting. The wines were all very good and Jeff and Laura were very engaging and great hosts (and so were their kids).

I went with Allison several times after that but it had been the better part of a year since I had last made a trek. A couple of weeks ago, the Virginia Wine Mafia had convened and Julie ( told me she went by and loved their new varietals. That being said, I decided it was time climb the mountain again (this time, there were two signs to point the way). Jeff was working the tasting bar and it was good to see how busy they were and how many people were coming in. Being the good host, though, he still took the time to chat and catch up with him about life and the times.

Their current wine line-up (wine-up) consists of two whites, five reds, their hard cider and two reserve wines (I’ll get to those). The cider was fantastic; made from estate grown golden delicious apples. It had flavors of tartness with a sweet finish and just the right amount of effervescence.

The 2010 Cobblestone White was an excellent blend of Seyval Blanc, Viognier, Riesling and Vidal Blanc that had just the right amount of floral sweetness with a tart finish that anyone can enjoy. The 2011 Reserve Chardonnay surprised me. It spent 80% of its time in steel fermentation with only 20% in French Oak but the oaky and buttery notes were present but not overpowering and complemented the citric notes. This is a wine that oak chard and non-oak chard people can imbibe and enjoy.

Jeff started the reds off with the 2011 Malbec and mentioned only 3 vineyards in Virginia make Malbec. This was a wine I could not stop drinking. Flavors of black cherry and plum hit the palate almost immediately and are followed by notes of clove and cinnamon. The 2010 Meritage was less sharp than other Meritages I’ve had. It was a very smooth blend of Malbec, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon and Petit Verdot. These wines intermingled well with mellow tannins and flavors of cranberry, oak and white pepper. The 2010 Petit Verdot was next and was not overpowering like a lot of Petit Verdots tend to do. This one was more herby and velvety with hints of vanilla and pomegranate. The 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon was rich and smooth; done Bordeaux style and spending 24 months in French Oak. It is not high in tannins and is rich in dark fruit and chocolate flavors. The final red was the 2010 Cabernet Franc and had huge flavors of raspberry and oak that would pair extremely well with dark chocolate (which Jeff was quick to offer as a pairing).

The two reserve wines were innovative port style wines made from fermented maple syrup (a first for Virginia). They offer a Maple Reserve Amber wine and a Special Dark style wine. The Amber was my favorite of the two; not as overpowering as the dark and easily imbibed by itself or with dessert.

It was great to return to Cobbler Mountain and see what’s been fermenting since the last time I was there. Despite it getting busier and more popular, the welcoming country charm that Jeff and Laura (and their kids) offer is still abundant and their new wines are fantastic. I look forward to seeing what the future holds for them and, if you’re in the Delaplane area, take the extra 20 minute drive and go to their little corner of paradise.

So, until my next entry, to adhere to an old Spanish proverb, with wine and hope, anything is possible. Cheers!

Cobbler Mountain Cellars
5909 Long Fall Lane
Delaplane, VA 20144
(540) 364-2802
This is Wine

Three Fox Vineyards: A Quasi-Vertical Review

This is Wine and good things sometimes come in threes…even vertical foxes!

I’ve always been a fan of Three Fox Vineyards in Delaplane. The scenery is gorgeous, the wines are well done, there is always some sort of activity going on and John and Holli Todhunter (the owners) are some of the friendliest and giving people I’ve interacted with on my travels. Until recently it had been awhile since I was able to make it out to the Delaplane Corridor until Craig and Susannah, two old friends, joined Allison and me for a trek through the area What started as a quick stop-over to get a bottle to go ended up going semi-vertical.

I’ve always enjoyed their “Volpe” Sangiovese wine. It has a bold nose, light to medium tannin quality and good flavors of dark fruit. Recently, the 2010 had won a silver medal in the Governor’s Cup and high marks in other reviews. I was going to get a bottle of it to go but Craig and Sus had not tried it before so we opened it up. While Allison and the others hung back, I went to seek out John to say hello. When he found out we were drinking the 2010, he let us try the 2011 Volpe which wasn’t even open to the public yet. Here’s my comparison of the two.

The 2010 is flavorful and fruity with more accents of cherry and plum with a sweetish finish that I could not put my finger (or palate) on. It had a deep red hue that almost resembled a Petit Verdot and spicy nose that almost contrasted the smooth flavors. It would definitely pair well with a nice hearty steak or smoked cheese or it could be mulled with spices on a cold evening. If you don’t like red wine, you would like it as it’s not as tannin-y as other reds.

The 2011 is, without question, my favorite one of the pack! It’s a “red drinker’s red” and pulls no punches. Almost inverse to the 2010, it had a very smooth nose but a bold taste. Maybe we should have let it breathe a little longer but, frankly, I didn’t care. The color was darker than the 10, a chocolate nose but the flavors were sharp. I picked up hints of espresso amid black cherry and dark fruit with a nutmeg or clove finish. This wine does not need a pairing and is best consumed with friends.

Both the 2010 and 2011 are fantastic reds with their own characteristics so it just depends on what your palate prefers. I love a good, spicy, red which is why I favor the 11 but others may like a milder one (10). I would use the 10, more for pairings or to cook with but the 11 is a sipping, social wine. Pick and choose and, when you go, tell John and Holli they are recommended on This is Wine.

So, until my next entry, to adhere to an old Spanish proverb, with wine and hope, anything is possible. Cheers!

Three Fox Vineyards
10100 Three Fox Lane
Delaplane, VA 20144
(540) 364-6073
This is Wine

(no subject)

This is Wine and a great experience lies at the Barn!

The Delaplane Corridor is honeycombed with vineyards. Some are easily noticeable from the highway while others are off the beaten path and best reached via word of mouth. Some are amazing and others need some fine tuning. I have been to many in all categories but one kept escaping me for one reason or another despite how many great things I heard about it. Luckily, it was worth the wait and all the great things were true. What I’m talking about is Aspen Dale Winery at the Barn.

This trip has been long overdue and was a long one in preparation. Allison and I teamed up with Kathy (aka Virginia Made) as well as Sus and Craig, two associates of TiW and we were all thrilled about our experience there. Tony (aka Virginia Pour House) was supposed to join us but, sadly, was under the weather and couldn’t join us.

Aspen Dale is one of those well hidden gems in Fauquier County. There are no signs on 66 that signal where to go and only a few small signs, just off the highway, point toward it. To add to it, you have to take a kind of roundabout way through Delaplane to get there. Fortunately, the entrance is next to 66 and the signs that run next to Winchester Road are accurate so follow them and you can’t miss it.

The winery, itself, was founded in 2009 and is situated on 50 acres of beautiful land complete with grain silos and, you guessed it, several barns. The tasting room, itself, is a rustic, but not archaic, barn with several tables, a long bar under a low ceiling (that, somehow was tall people friendly) that opens up into a large backyard with more seating areas, a gazebo and a nice little pond/fountain that added pleasant ambience to the area. Occasionally you might hear (or run into) a few miniature ponies that are raised on the land.

I spoke with Larry the day before and he was very accommodating to get us a reservation and when we arrived, we only had to wait a minute before a spot was cleared for us at the tasting bar. During that time, he talked about the estate, where the grapes are grown (they are leased from other vineyards in the area) and what to expect during the tasting. He had a wealth of knowledge and I wish we could have chatted a little longer but it was busy and we didn’t want to preoccupy his time too much.

The tasting was very unique. They gave us a plate of food of various cheeses, chocolates and pheasant sausage to sample with EACH wine. The only other vineyard in the area that does this (to my knowledge) is Vintage Ridge so we were very appreciative of that. We tried a Rose, two whites and two reds and our taster explained the bouquet and flavors to expect but let us draw our own conclusions.

The Rose (Mary Madeline’s Rose) was a blend of Vidal Blanc and Port and was sweet but with a clean finish and not sweet to the point of being cloying. The Sarah’s Chapeau had a higher percentage of residual sugar but all of us found it to be a little more tart and a perfect balance of sweetness and acidity that would appeal to both the sweet and dry fans. The Hildersham Sauvignon Blanc was a favorite of mine; citrusy and semi-dry with a floral nose and a clean finish. The Parris Country Blend was a velvety red with flavors of peat smoke and dark fruit that’s good by itself, mulled or with chocolate dropped in (for the non red fans). Finally, the Rockawalkin was a full bodied (and perfect wine to end with) red with herby notes and a lingering, spicy finish. We couldn’t agree on what was the best so we got a bottle of the Rose and Sarah’s Chapeau to imbibe with our food (two trays of everything they could offer along with 3 fresh, hot baguettes).

All in all, I give Aspen Dale top marks. The atmosphere was laid back and come as you are, the people were knowledgeable and friendly and the wines were top notch. A special thanks to Larry and our taster(s) for being so welcoming and engaging with us. We will definitely come back in the near future! Thank you to Kathy, Sus and Craig for joining Allison and me!

So, until my next entry, to adhere to an old Spanish proverb, with wine and hope, anything is possible. Cheers!

Aspen Dale Winery at the Barn
3180 Aspen Dale Ln
Delaplane, VA 20144
(540) 364-1722