A Cut Above the Rest…You Must Experience Barboursville Vineyards!

Barboursville Vineyards is located just off of Route 20 outside of Orange and near James Madison’s Montpelier Plantation. I thoroughly enjoyed my beautiful country drive from Washington, DC to the outskirts of Charlottesville. The gently rolling hills, the pastoral farmland, and frolicking horses make this wine trip worth the gas it takes to get there.

Although Barboursville is a bit off of the beaten path, it is well-marked, thanks to the Virginia Wine Marketing Association. Barboursville is unlike many of Virginia’s wineries because it is a large estate vineyard with over 140 acres of vines which produce about 40,000 cases a year. Not only do they sell their wines in the tasting room, but they also distribute throughout Virginia in Total Wine and ABC stores as well as in states like New York, New Jersey, Illinois, and Florida.

There is plenty of parking at the vineyard, even on a busy Saturday afternoon. I arrived at lunchtime, with plans to meet friends for a wine tasting and picnic on the grounds of the Barboursville estate. The tasting room is done in the style of a Northern Italian farmhouse and reminded me of a warm and inviting country inn I stayed at many years ago in the Lake Como area. Everyone is welcome at Barboursville; it may be large, but it’s not pretentious  by any means.

The tasting room can be busy on a weekend afternoon since most customers visit between 2:00 and 5:00 p.m. and they can have as many as 50 people milling about the facility at any given time. However, the wine bar is well-organized and visitors have plenty of time to savor the wines, ask questions, and appreciate the experience. I waited only about two or three minutes to start my tasting after paying $5 at the hostess desk. Your fee includes tastes of 15 wines and a souvenir glass. If you bring your glass back for a return visit, your tasting is only $3. Children and well-behaved, leashed dogs are welcome at Barboursville.

Although the wines are created with an Italian heritage by wine maker Luca Paschina, they are truly done in a Virginia style. Proud Virginians such as myself can really appreciate this. My friends and I started our tasting experience with several white wines. Heather, an attractive blonde woman, assisted us. She was very pleasant but not very knowledgeable about the wines yet. She admitted that this was only her second day on the job. I enjoyed all of the whites which included: a Sauvignon Blanc with lovely pear and passionfruit flavors, a steel Chardonnay which was light and crisp, a medium-oaked Chardonnay with hints of apple and vanilla, a Viognier with tropical and floral notes, an off-dry Riesling (my least favorite of the flight since I’m partial to German and New York State varieties because I think the weather is more appropriate for maximizing the grape’s flavors), and a dry rose’ with a peach and strawberry nose and hints of spice on the tongue.

Since we visited on a Saturday, and apparently Saturday is sparkling wine day (yay for me!), we had an opportunity to try the Barboursville Brut, which is a light sparking wine made with Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. It had soft pear flavors and is versatile enough to serve with any number of light, summery foods…or even birthday cake! I’m a sucker for a well made sparkling wine and Luca Paschina really hit the mark here.

Next, Allen assisted us at the red wine tasting station. I found him to be very friendly and knowledgeable about red wines. We tasted a medium-bodied Merlot with soft tannins, a Sangiovese with cherry and plum aromas and a smooth finish, a Barbera Reserve which was earthy with firm tannins, an award-winning Cabernet Franc which had flavors of berry, plum, cherry, and cedar, a Nebbiolo with smoke and tobacco notes, and finally the famed Octagon which is a delightful blend of Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Petit Verdot. I liked everything but the Nebbiolo — too much tannin for my palette. We learned that a new Merlot Reserve will be released this fall. Something to look forward to for a return visit perhaps?

At the last tasting station, Jeff assisted us with our blush and dessert wines. First, we tasted a Cabernet Blanc which was junk blush wine. Think Bartles and Jaymes wine coolers. And, yes, junk wine is a real term. Literally it’s the leftover grape juice not good enough for their regular wines, which are quite good. I suggest avoiding this junk wine so as not to contract a spontaneous headache or confused tongue.  Seriously. Barboursville should sell the grape juice to someone else because it’s messing with their stellar image.  Thank goodness the next wine, Phileo, tasted quite yummy, like nectar actually. It’s a blend of Moscato, Gewürztraminer, and some other varietals. We finished the tasting with the Malvaxia, which is a fortified wine. I’m not a fan of port style wines because they’re so heavy tasting to me, but I can appreciate the quality of the Malvaxia nonetheless.

Overall, I thought the wines were reasonably priced. They ranged from $12.99 for the Sauvignon Blanc to $39.99 for the special edition Octagon intended for long-term storage. The white wines were the best deal, although I think the reds were even better done. A five percent discount is available for a half case purchase and a ten percent discount is available with a full case purchase. My friends and I purchased a $21.99 bottle of Sangiovese Reserve for our picnic.

There isn’t any real outdoor seating at Barboursville, although the grounds are quite lovely. We brought our own lawn chairs and walked over to a shady tree by the ruins of Governor Barbour’s mansion (it burned down in a Christmas day fire in 1884) to enjoy some tasty sandwiches, good Virginia wine, and pleasant conversation.

Should you wish to enjoy a more upscale vineyard experience, the Palladio Restaurant offers three course lunches and dinners and is right next door to the tasting room.  They also have special wine pairing events and cooking classes. The tasting room manager, Arianne, informed me of a couple of upcoming events, including: the annual autumn explosion on October 2 which features live music on the lawn and a vertical tasting of several vintages of wines from the cellar ($15), the Octagon celebration on October 16 which features a four course meal with multi-vintage Octagon wine pairings ($150) and a special 20th anniversary party for winemaker Luca Paschina which is a black tie optional event ($150) on October 30. I’d sure love to get a free ticket to the Octagon celebration — it’s a very, very good Virginia red wine!

Overall, I was very impressed with Barboursville. They are a large, well-run operation with over 30 years of experience in the business. They offer a number of wines which are all very well done (with the exception of the junk blush wine I mentioned earlier). Although the winemaker was on vacation during my visit, he emailed me afterwards, and during my visit the tasting room manager was kind enough to spend some time chatting with me about the finer details of the Barboursville experience. I appreciated that quite a bit. As you probably know, I’m most smitten with Virginia’s small farm wineries, but Barboursville does it right for an estate vineyard. I truly believe they set the standard for excellence when it comes to large-scale, modern vineyard operations in the Commonwealth.

For more information and to plan your visit, check out their website at www.barboursvillewine.com and please tell Arianne and the rest of the tasting room staff that Lady Vino sent you!

Find Paradise in Clifton, Virginia

Paradise Springs Winery, located in the town of Clifton, is only a 30 minute drive from Washington, DC. There are no familiar Virginia Wine signs to mark the winery, so be sure to use GPS, print directions from Mapquest or the winery’s website, or bring along an adventurous spirit. The name Paradise Springs comes from the original mineral springs on the west side of the town of Clifton. In the early 1900s the water was actually commercially bottled. The Paradise Springs Winery site lies on 36 acres nestled in a quiet corner of Clifton which borders Hemlock Regional Park and the Bull Run River.

Paradise Springs Winery was founded in 2007 by Jane Kincheloe and Kirk Wiles, a mother and son team. The winery opened its doors on January 8, 2010 and my first visit to the winery was in February…they were still very much in a semi-chaotic start-up mode at that time. But, six months later I am happy to report substantial progress. They have a real parking lot and several picnic tables for enjoying a glass of well-chilled wine and some nice cheese and crackers in their woodsy, park-like setting. Bring your own picnic or purchase items such cheese ($8), salami, pepperoni, or prosciutto ($8), fresh fruit ($2), and/or crackers ($4).  Come enjoy live music during an extended Friday night happy hour on their grounds. They also feature live music on Saturdays when the weather permits.

Paradise Springs focuses on producing small batches (about 2,500 cases a year) of high quality wines. Jane’s enthusiasm for the bright future of her winery is absolutely contagious! She has bright eyes, a warm smile, and lovely demeanor. When I walked in the front door and was greeted with “welcome to paradise!” by one of her staff members I knew I would have a pleasant visit.

Paradise Springs uses 100 percent Virginia grown grapes in their wine production, which is overseen by one of the more popular wine makers (and wine consultant-mentors!) in Virgina, Chris Pearmund. Jane just returned from a trip to France with Chris and several other Virginia wine makers to learn about the latest techniques and trends. Jane commented about how much freedom we have in Virginia compared to the more restrictive French wine-producing regions. She is very grateful for having a pro-Virginia wine governor and all of the knowledge sharing that takes place among the Virginia wineries.

Jane told me about her plans for opening a new 10,000 square foot geothermal facility on her property next calendar year. She’s also gearing up for the first Paradise Springs crush planned for the fall of 2011. Celebratory events are sure to be planned for these significant milestones!

The current tasting room is a renovated log cabin with beautiful rustic pine beams (make sure you look up!).  The tasting room is decorated with painting from local artist Linda Henderson as well as wine merchandise such as wine stoppers, beverage napkins, and gourmet items. All sales are handled upstairs and the tastings are done in the cellar. They take full advantage of natural light, but the cellar is naturally cool and dark (sort of like an old spring house) and they must use some spot lighting so the tasting room staff can see what they’re pouring.

The wine bar is on the small side considering the volume. Only about 10 people can fit at the bar and the staff want everyone on the same tasting cycle, so they rush people through the tastings a bit to make room for the people waiting. I did have to wait, but I was acknowledged within a couple of minutes. The average wait time the Sunday afternoon I visited was about 7 to 10 minutes. Since I don’t like to stand around waiting, this wasn’t a particularly appealing process to me.

Once it was my turn at the wine bar, I got to taste eight wines for a $7 fee. They give you generous tastes and you get to keep the logo wine glass. However, I’d prefer to pay only $5, not get the glass (I have many wine glasses at my house already) and to get only a one or two sip taste (as opposed to the 5 sip taste I received). My favorite wines include: a 2008 Sauvignon Blanc (nice grapefruit flavors) made from grapes from Virginia’s Eastern Shore, a 2008 Viognier made from Breaux’s grapes, a 2009 Nana’s Rose which is a dry rose with a lovely strawberry nose and delicate flavors, and a 2008 Cabernet Franc which has firm tannins but a smooth finish.

The wines are all priced from $21 to $32, with the most expensive being the Norton and the Cabernet Sauvignon. The Viognier was also priced high at $27 a bottle. I feel that the wines are overpriced for the quality. This is not to say that I did not enjoy the wines, which I very much did, but I am able to buy comparable quality Virginia wines at a lower price point. Should you decide to make a purchase, a 5 percent half case discount is available as well as a 10 percent full case discount.

The tasting room staff all wear black Paradise Springs logo polo-style or tee-shirts (also available for sale). All but one of the staff were friendly. The non-friendly one was actually the most knowledgeable about wine, however. She had long brown hair and a very pretty face, but she didn’t smile and she held her arms crossed across her chest when she wasn’t pouring wine.  Hence, her non-verbal signals made her appear standoff-ish. Not what you expect to find in the typically friendly tasting room. Perhaps she was just having a bad day, but she also might need a refresher course on customer service skills and the impact of non-verbal body language. Another observation is that the cashier in the sales room seemed overwhelmed with a 3 or 4 person deep customer line. She was very friendly, but her voice was a bit shaky and she rushed a bit and therefore didn’t get everyone’s order correct. In my opinion, retail can be a tough job for people who don’t multi-task well.

Overall, I enjoyed my visit to Paradise Springs, despite the high prices and the customer service hiccups. I appreciate Paradise Springs’ commitment to using green energy sources. I also admire their dedication to purchasing 100 percent Virginia grown grapes for their wine production while they are waiting for their own vines to mature. For more information or to plan your visit, check out their website at www.paradisespringswinery.com.

Unicorn Winery Enchants

Unicorn Winery, nestled in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains near Warrenton, is a charming place to spend a summer afternoon. The winery is named after the famous Irish folk tune, “The Unicorn Song” by the Irish Rovers (think of the lyrics with green alligators and long-necked geese!). But of course the song is about how Noah was unable to convince the playful unicorn’s to get on the arc…they were too busy horsing around! However, I think that the spirit of the unicorn lives on at the winery named after the fun-loving animal.

The Unicorn property features 20 acres of woodlands, ponds, and gently rolling hills. Children and dogs may accompany responsible adults. There are two decks with cafe style tables and chairs overlooking a scenic koi pond, and there are plenty of picnic tables to satisfy a crowd or a more intimate gathering for two.

Unicorn Winery produces about 3,000 cases a year and in keeping with the think global, drink local concept all of the grapes used are from Virginia. The owners do purchase their pinot gris from Ingleside, but all of the other grapes are from their seven acres of vines.

The owners, Richard and Sandy, are retired military and moved to Virginia from the great state of California about two years ago. I found them to be fun-loving, warm, and welcoming. Sandy took some extra time to tell my friend and I stories about the vineyard, how she and Richard got into the wine business, and particulars about the wines we tasted. We also received several suggestions for food pairings and good “Wolf Trap wines” for hot summer evenings under the stars at the Vienna, Virginia based Wolf Trap Foundation Center for the Performing Arts.

For a $5 tasting fee we sampled 10 different wines. All of the whites were nice and light, perfect for the oppressive 90 degree plus temperatures we’ve been experiencing lately. My favorites include the 2008 Pinot Gris and the Table Rock White which has a lovely nose and is a blend of Chardonnay, Seyval, Vidal, and Traminette. As far as the reds go, I enjoyed the 2005 Chambourcin and then 2005 Cabernet Franc. The wines are all reasonably priced for $14 to $25 a bottle, with the most expensive being a 2005 Meritage.

Several discounts are available, including: 5 percent off 3 bottles, 10 percent off 6 bottles, and 15 percent off 12 bottles.  To get a 25 percent discount text “Unicorn” to 88467. Bread, meat, and cheese platters as well as gourmet items like Greek olive oil are also available for sale in the tasting room. The olive oil is really yummy…ask Sandy for a taste!

The tasting room can accommodate up to 20 or 30 people and seemed to be well staffed for a busy weekend. The owners’ friendly and well-behaved show dog, appropriately named Franc, greeted guests in the tasting room, which is decorated with paintings from a Charlottesville artist. Behind the wine bar there is a framed set of antique wine tools…be sure to ask one of the tasting room staff to tell you where each of the items is from!

The Unicorn wines are available at several local establishments, including: The Frenchman’s Cellar in Culpeper, The Virginia Wine Shop in Fredericksburg, and Ye Olde Dominion Wine Shop in Occoquan. Plan to visit Unicorn Winery on your next trip to Shenandoah National Park or on a Rappahannock County wine tour. For more information visit their website at www.unicorn winery.com and please tell Richard and Sandy that Lady Vino sent you!

Narmada is a Great New Winery with Excellent Potential

Narmada Winery opened its tasting room doors in November 2009 and they’re already producing impressive, award-winning wines and charming customers with their friendly and knowledgeable tasting room staff. Narmada is located off of route 211 in Amissville (close to Gray Ghost Winery). If you’re on your way to Shenandoah National Park or one of the other Rappahannock County wineries, this is a must see on your way. Narmada is family and pet friendly and boasts sprawling outdoor decks with views of the vineyard and pond, with plenty of comfortable indoor and outdoor seating.

Warm and welcoming, Sudha and Pandit Patil own and operate Narmada Winery. Sudha, a chemist by training, is the winemaker and Pandit, a retired PhD mechanical engineer from Carnegie Mellon University, manages the winery operations. Their winemaking consultant is Tom Payette, a recognized International wine judge and Wine Tech columnist for Vineyard & Winery Management Magazine.  The Pandit’s have about 15 acres of vines and they use all Virginia grapes to produce their wines. Love that! They started plantings in 2002 and today they produce nearly 3,000 cases a year, which is fairly typical for a small farm winery.

The tasting room is decorated in rich colors of olive, rust, and emerald-green with accents of peacocks and paintings from local artists. I inquired about the peacock theme, which is also part of the Narmada Logo.  Bryan, our server, told us that the peacock is the national bird of India and also the winemaker’s favorite bird. There are even real peacock feathers embellished on the large granite wine bar!

For a fee of $7 you can taste 8 wines and keep the souvenir glass. I enjoyed all of the wines, but my favorites were: the Chardonel, which won a Virginia Wine Lover Wine Classic Competition Platinum in 2009, the dry Viognier, which won a Virginia Wine Lover Classic Competition Gold in 2009 and just won a 2010 medal from the Virginia Wine Lover Magazine, and a dry Chambourcin, which won the Governor’s Cup 2009 Bronze award. Also noteworthy is an off-dry Chambourcin called “Midnight” which is fruit forward enough to create a refreshing sangria (Bryan recommends mixing it with frozen orange juice, Sprite, and fresh mint sprigs!). Sounds pretty good on one of our ultra hot summer days!

All of the wines sell for $18 to $25, with the most expensive being a special Chambourcin dessert wine. I’d like to see the wines priced slightly lower, but given the fact that Narmada is a new winery and they have to buy some of their grapes from Horton, the price isn’t bad. They offer a 5 percent discount on half cases, a 10 percent discount on full cases, and a 20 percent discount on two or more cases. They also have a wine club which requires that you purchase three bottles quarterly.

Besides the great wines, Narmada offers authentic Indian cuisine from the Aroma Restaurant in Arlington. My friend and I sampled the butter chicken which was served with rice and naan bread. However, we were also tempted to try the vegetable samosas and chicken tikka. Narmada also serves gourmet cheeses, sausage, and baguettes.  Consider starting your weekend decompression process early and join Narmada for “Wine Down Fridays” from 11 am to 8 pm. For more information or to plan your visit, check out www.narmadawinery.com and please tell them Lady Vino sent you!

Pearmund Cellars a Solid Bet

I’ve been a fan of Chris Pearmund’s wines for several years (see also Paradise Springs and Winery at La Grange), but I had never visited the flagship winery in Broad Run, just north of Warrenton, until just recently. It’s relatively easy to find driving west on route 66 from Washington, DC and existing on route 29 south in Gainesville. If you’re a landmark sort of person, just turn right at the Howard Johnson’s sign! Once you arrive at Pearmund Cellars there is plenty of parking in the gravel lot overlooking the vineyard. The large tasting room has a rectangular wine bar with standing room for 25 or 30 customers. The walls are decorated with local artwork, which is for sale, and there are a number of tables and chairs. On a pleasant day it’s preferable to sit at a table outside on the covered porch and enjoy a picnic, since the tasting room can get quite noisy.

I found the tasting room staff to be warm and friendly, but they looked a bit disorganized, occasionally bumping into one another, and they were not working as a team to serve customers. I enjoyed the wines, but I was distracted by the chaos at the wine bar. The staff were not particularly knowledgable about the wine or the vineyard operations either. Personally, I’d recommend some training for the staff so that can be more synchronized with each other and with what Chris Pearmund’s vision is.

The classic tasting fee is $5 which buys you 8 tastes of reds and whites. The reserve tasting is an additional $7 fee, but you may combine the two tastings for a total of $10. The whites in the classic tasting seemed to be out of tasting order, which the tasting staff acknowledged. Perhaps this will be remedied by the time you read this post? Regardless, they did have many nice wines, with my favorites being: the 2008 Old Vine Chardonnay (nice buttery flavor), the 2008 Viognier (very lush), a 2008 Cabernet Franc ( a nice young franc), and 2008 Late Harvest Viognier (rich flavors), and the 2008 Ameritage Reserve (just like a Meritage).

The wines are priced between $19 and $29, a bit on the high side. Pearmund Cellars offers a 10 percent discount on purchases of one half case and a 20 percent discount on purchases of a full case. For your picnicking pleasure, they offer cheeses, dips, and sausage for purchase, but you may bring your own picnic foods to enjoy as well. Pearmund Cellars has about 25 acres of vines with about 15 of those acres dedicated to Chardonnay grapes. They produce about 6,000 to 7,000 cases a year and all of the grapes they use to produce their wines are from Virginia. I like the fact that I’m drinking local! Overall, Pearmund Cellars is a solid bet for Virginia wine lovers. To plan your visit, check out their website at www.pearmundcellars.com.

New Kent Winery: Bigger is Not Always Better

New Kent Winery, just outside of Richmond, is part of the planned retirement community called Viniterra. Right now, the only parcel developed is the winery, so there are roads that the builder funded that effectively lead to nowhere. Keep this in mind if you decide to visit. You can’t get lost…just keep passing through the roundabouts and eventually you will see the vineyards and winery and you’ll know you’re in the right place! Viniterra has 2,200 acres planned for residential and 2,500 acres planned for national forest buffers, equestrian trails and riding centers. A destination spa is also set to break ground in the next year. However, the winery is supposed to be the center of all the action.

The tasting room is quite large and can easily accommodate 50 to 100 people on a busy weekend afternoon. It looks like a mountain resort and there are beautiful hardwood beams to admire if you look up. Admittedly, I was impressed that 85 percent of their building materials are recycled. Unfortunately, their tasting room staff are much less impressive. They don’t seem to have the right skills or the right numbers to meet the demand. When I visited on a steamy Saturday afternoon there were 20 people being served by one person. It made no sense whatsoever. It was not possible to have a one-on-few conversation about the wine or the tasting experience except with the person standing next to you. The wine steward, Robert, gave us a formal presentation on the wines we were tasting. It felt more like we were in a tour group at Monticello or one of the Williamsburg artisan shops than a typical Virginia wine tasting room. I was terribly disappointed, because even big tasting rooms can provide intimate experiences (ever been to Veritas in Charlottesville?), but this one does not.

I was not overly impressed with the wines that I tasted or the customer service. I paid $5 at the hostess desk for my tasting of seven wines — four whites and three reds. The hostess asked me to walk over to the wine bar for Robert to assist me.  Unfortunately, it took Robert a good five to seven minutes to recognize me and he only had four customers! Not a good multi-tasker I guess. Finally, he greeted me and I introduced myself and my wine blog, hoping to get to taste the wines. But, guess what? He asked me to wait another five minutes before a wine tour bus arrived so that I could be part of a massive tasting for 20 people. Poor Robert was not aware that Lady Vino does not like to be kept waiting, especially with an empty glass in her hand on a hot day.

While waiting for my tasting, I admired the huge, 20 foot convex wine bar. It was a truly beautiful conversation piece. The top had insets of marble, special hardwood imported from South America, as well as ingrown pine and walnut. New Kent produces about 7,500 to 8,000 cases a year with even more capacity. They currently have about 27 acres of vines. Tom Payette,  the winemaker/consultant has been crafting wines since 1985 and he’s the only Virginia Winemaker to win the “Winemaker of the Year Award” from Vineyard and Winery Management Magazine.  

The wines in the tasting included two Chardonnays, two Merlots (one did not taste like a Merlot at all), a Mertiage, a Vidal Blanc, and a red dessert wine made from Cabernet Franc and Concord grapes called Sweet Virginia. The wines were all reasonably priced from $14.95 to $23.95, however I did not enjoy any of them enough to make a purchase. This is a rarity for me. I did , however, get to keep my New Kent Winery logo tasting glass and I’m perfectly happy to enjoy other vineyard’s wines in the glass!

If you’re curious about the winery and you’re passing through the Richmond area, you might want to stop by. Don’t go out of your way however, at least until the destination spa is open in a few years. To plan your visit check out www.newkentwinery.com.

James River Cellars…it was Love at First Sip!

I visited James River Cellars at the request of friends who live in Smithfield. Little did I know that I would fall absolutely head over heels in love with James River Cellars. With all of their wines, you can taste the fruit and the clean finish. Their wines are absolutely delicious to me since this is the kind of wine I prefer! Additionally, all of their wines are reasonably priced between $10 and $20 and the tasting room staff go the extra mile to delight you. This is my kind of place!

James River Cellars is conveniently located about one and a half miles off Interstate 95 near Richmond in a charming manor house. Their tasting room is on the first floor of the home. The wine bar is on the small side, but I imagine they could set up other portable tasting tables if needed. They also have wine related merchandise for sale in an adjacent room. If you want to linger on a nice day, there is plenty of outdoor patio seating under big shady trees. There is a playground for kids and you can even bring your dog for a visit if you like. They don’t have doggie biscuits, but they do serve mini pretzels at the wine bar for palette cleansing…which also might be used to hush up your puppy if he’s waiting impatiently for you outside!

For a $5 fee, you can taste 15 different wines. I can honestly say that I enjoyed every wine across multiple vintages, red and whites, and dry wines and sweeter ones…this is a rarity. The winemakers  are James and Mitzi Batterson. James has a business background and wears the chief winemaker hat. Mitzi is a microbiologist and serves as the winery business manager. My most favorite wines were the 2008 Reserve Chardonnay, a 2008 Rad Red named in honor of a friend of the owner who passed away from cancer (they donate funds to the Massey Cancer Center), a 2006 Meritage, and a 2007 Petit Verdot which is a 2007 Gold Medal winner. Also worth mentioning are their 2009 Soude Creek (a 100 percent apple wine), the 2008 Gewürztraminer (a Governor’s Cup Gold Medal winner), a 2008 Vidal Blanc (yet another Gold Medal winner), and the 2008 Colonial Red (produced in limited quantities and tastes like a cinnamon-ey apple pie which would make for a great Thanksgiving after dinner sipper!).

The winery produces about 5,000 cases a year and they celebrated their 9th birthday on June 8th. Special events at James River Cellars include Fridays on the Patio where they feature live music, light appetizers, wine tasting, and good cheer for $14 a person. They also have a free summer open house July 3, 4, and 5 from 11:00 am to 5 pm where you get to enjoy their summer wines. Anytime you make purchases you’ll enjoy a 5 percent discount on 3 bottles, a 10 percent discount on 6 bottles, and a 20 percent discount on 12 bottles.

James River Cellars is at the top of my Virginia wineries to visit list! They offer high quality wine at reasonable prices, the tasting room staff members are knowledgable wine lovers who are chatty and have great stories to share with you, and the environment is warm and welcoming. The only drawback is that they’re located right behind a golf driving range so the view of the vineyard is combined with the view of their golf-loving neighbors. Then again, if you like wine and golf, this might be an ideal location! For more information and to plan your visit to James River Cellars visit www.jamesrivercellars.com. Please tell them that their number one fan, Lady Vino, sent you!