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.