Northern Virginia: Beautiful Country and Quality Wines

After a long hiatus, it is time to return to one of the focuses of this blog: Virginia wines. A few weeks ago, I took a birthday trip (thank you Mrs. Wine with Dinner) to the Leesburg area with some of my closest friends. Leesburg is a lovely town surrounded by beautiful country roads and an ever-expanding number of wineries. Sadly, we did not have time to visit all of them on our one-day trip, so we pre-selected a combination of old favorites and a couple of places we had never visited before. Our trip reaffirmed my belief that Northern Virginia is producing some high quality wines.

Tasting Room at Breaux
The Tasting Room at Breaux Vineyards

Our first stop was Breaux Vineyards, which, to my knowledge, is further North than any other Virginia winery. Breaux always produces quality wines, though many of its best are kept on a separate reserve list and some are only offered to wine club members. While I have done the reserve tasting before (my favorite is their lovely, if slightly overpriced, 2002 Nebbiolo) we did not do it this time around. Even without the reserve tasting, however, Breaux offered some lovely selections. The standouts were the 2006 Viognier and the 2006 Syrah Dry Rose. Sadly, my tasting notes for Breaux are in a temporary state of dislocation, but I will supplement this entry with notes if I can find them.

Breaux’s Front Yard
The View from Breaux’s Front Yard

Fortunately, I have not misplaced my notes from the second winery we visited. Hillsborough Vineyards is one of my favorite Virginia wineries. Owner and winemaker Bora Baki welcomes all of his tasters with a big smile and was kind enough to speak with one of my Gourmet Girl-friends on the phone for 10 minutes when she had trouble finding the vineyard. Mr. Baki is a joy to taste with, and he has managed to produce some wonderful wines for Hillsborough’s ever-growing portfolio. Moreover, within the next year or two, all of the grapes for Hillsborough wines will be grown on site, quite a feat for the relatively young winery.

Hillsborough Vineyards
The Picnic Area and Tasting Room Overlook the Vines at Hillsborough Vineyards

When you stop in, pay particular attention to the 2005 Garnet and the 2005 Moonstone. The Garnet is a light to medium bodied blend of cabernet sauvignon, merlot, cabernet franc, and petite verdot. It is has aromas of violet, plum, and a hint of dark fruit with a palate of red fruit and pepper, 4 Stars1/2, $19.00 per bottle. The Moonstone is Hillsborough’s dessert wine and shows notes of dried apricots, raisins, toasted nuts, and tropical fruits with hints of apple. The wine is sweet, but light on the tongue, 4 Stars 3/4, $17.10 per bottle. Finally, I would be remiss if I did not note Mr. Baki’s kindness in offering me a taste of Hillsborough’s most recent release, its 2006 Serafina, before it was added to the tasting menu. This blush has good acidity and, with a couple of months in the bottle, the hints of tartness will dissipate as the flavors of fresh strawberries grow even more prominent, 4 Stars. Be sure to look for the Serafina when it is released this fall. It will make a lovely picnic wine for your late-season outings.

Service at Hillsborough
Bora Baki Serves Mrs. Wine with Dinner

After lingering a while at Hillsborough, we moved east a few miles to Corcoran Vineyards. While the name may have changed (Corcoran was formerly known as Waterford Vineyards), the quality chardonnay and cabernet franc have not. Sadly, Corcoran was actually sold out of a few of their releases by the time we got there, including their best chardonnay. However, I can recommend the 2005 Cabernet Franc 2005 Meritage and the . The Cabernet Franc is a textbook example of the varietal, with cedar, dark cherry, and raspberry notes and a peppery kick at the end, 4 Stars1/4. The Meritage (merlot, cabernet franc, and cabernet sauvignon) has subtle aromas of red fruit and pepper spice with a palate of cherry, strawberry, and cranberry influenced by just a hint of bitter but moderated tannins, 4 Stars. Hopefully Corcoran will have had a chance to reload their stocks before I return later this year.

Corcoran Vineyards
Corcoran (Waterford) Vineyards New Tasting Room

Skipping for a moment to the our last stop on our one-day tour of Northern Virginia, we tasted at one of my other favorite boutique wineries in the Commonwealth, Willowcroft Vineyard. It takes a little effort to get to Willowcroft’s little barn situated on a hill in rural Virginia, but the trip is well worth it. While the wines may not be as consistent as those of Hillsborough, there are gems under that wooden roof. My favorites are the 2005 Riesling Muscat Ottonel and the 2002 Merlot. The RMO is subtle, with floral and apricot notes, and drier than you might expect — only 1% residual sugar. It is light on the palate with good acidity, 4 Stars1/2, $15.48. The Merlot, not usually my favorite varietal, is rich in red currant flavors, medium to full bodied, and well balanced, 4 Stars1/4, $16.90.

Willowcroft Awards
Willowcroft’s Many Awards

Coming back to the one place I skipped, before heading to Willowcroft we visited Veramar Vineyard for the first time. I must confess that, personally, nothing there impressed me. Not only that, but the service at the tasting bar left something to be desired, even considering that they were having a fairly busy day. The vineyard, however, is situated on a lovely piece of land and would be a beautiful place to stop for some wine and cheese. I suggest putting off a stop at Veramar for a year or two to see if their next vintage releases are better. I know I plan to give them another shot, especially since Dezel over at Virginia Vine Spot found some wines that he enjoyed at Veramar. Maybe I was just a little put off by the service on that particular day.

As one final note, no winery tour in the Leesberg area is complete without dinner at Magnolias at the Mill. Magnolia has delicious food, a varied menu, and flights of high quality wine and beer to go with your meal. It’s the perfect way to end the day.

The Gang at Willowcroft
The Gang In Front of a Lovely View at Willowcroft

Overall, the day trip was a great success. Two friends of mine are getting married in Leesburg soon, so I look forward to touring up their again soon, perhaps stopping at Tarara Winery as well as some of the newer places that I have not yet experienced. I would welcome any advice on the young wineries in this area before my next trip.

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Published in: on August 16, 2007 at 10:01 pm  Comments (7)  
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