Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Vineyards in the Valley - Shenandoah

Virginia's Shenandoah valley is a rich agricultural area. And like many such valley's includes many artisans of various types. And in this case, vineyards and wineries, which was the whole point of having a honeymoon here.

During the first breakfast at the Bed & Breakfast we stayed in, we commented to the owner about the ceramic skillets that he used for the omlettes. He said that he got them from a nearby pottery studio, the Art Studio Pottery, on the outskirts of town. So that was our first stop. When we arrived, Joan was working on her garden, and she showed us around. We got two skillets, then went on a tour of her studio downstairs. We talked about the making of glazes, the difficulty of marking the pieces (she was using a rubber stamp to stamp 'Shenendoah Valley' on her pieces, which would get filled in along the way), and making a chop, which Louis mentioned (and Joan was rather impressed by).

Vineyard #1 was the North Mountain Vineyard in Mauertown, VA. We were greated by their 14-year old dog, then went up for the tasting. We and another couple were the first ones in for the day. We figured the owner was of german descent based on the accent, and had a wonderful time telling us the stories behind the different wines they had. And among the wines was chambourcin, so now when asked what the color was for our wedding, we can point to a bottle instead of describing it as 'burgandy, but with more purple.' We got two bottles here, including a Chambourcin.

A few days later, we went back to the North Mountain Vineyard for their picnic lunch, because we felt like taking a day to just enjoy some wine and sit back and relax. We debated on the way up if they would remember us from our visit their Thursday, Sha declared that we are cute and interesting enough. Louis figured they saw plenty of people. When we got there someone else was minding the counter, but as we set up, the owner who helped us Thursday came and informed her that we were a newlywed couple here on their honeymoon. Seriously impressing the lady at the counter with her powers of observation, until the owner let her know we were there earlier to taste the red wines. This time, we tasted some white wines and a couple of sweet wines, settling on a bottle of white and a bottle of sweet table wine. The other owner also came by to chat as he overheard we were on our honeymoon. He was prior service in Germany and had gone through jump school, although he was communications, not airborne. The picnic lunch was fried chicken, potato salad, potato chips, pickle and beans, along with their Oktoberfest wine. We at, read, relaxed, and just took in the sights and sounds of the country home. Then we were invited on a cellar tour, which was normally something that had to be paid for (or you have to buy the really good wines). We learned about the bringing in of the grapes, the three vineyards they have (including one outside New Market), the three sources of oak for the barrels, the toasting of the barrels, and how North Mountain distributes wines. Alas, they do not ship outside Virginia because of the difficulty, so the only way to get it is either to visit the vineyard, or ship it to someone in Virginia in advance of a visit. We are already coming up with such people.

Vineyard #2 was the Shenandoah Vineyard. This was probably the most marketed of the vineyards in the valley. And it was the busiest as well. Wines were so so. We did get one bottle though.


Sha with grapes at the Shenandoah Winery

Vineyard #3 was the Wolf Gap Vineyard. The vineyard was deep into the back roads of the valley. When we arrived, we met the owner, Will, also known as 'Wolf Gap Willie.' He is retired Air Force, and we joked that when he killed a fly 'air-to-air'. He told us that he actually was not planning on opening that day until we called about coming. We got a blend that he created as well as a Chambourcin (notable as the wine that our wedding color was named after). We stayed a while on his porch eating a ham and cheese plate and admiring the scenery, which included the Wolf Gap which the vineyard was named after.


Wolf Gap from Wolf Gap Winery

Vineyard #4 was Cave Ridge. The girl was the daughter of the owners, and had returned to the Valley after being in Ohio for a while. The winery looked nice, but wine was only soso. We did get couple bottles.


Sha and gate at Cave Ridge winery

We went to Vineyard #5, Misty Ray Vineyard in Harrisonburg. This was a place in someone's house who was also only open by appointment (i.e. I called Wednesday about coming.) It was a house at the end of a cul-de-saq. Phil had a small selection of table wines. We got two bottles, and he gave us a couple of house wine glasses as wedding present (he had asked us how long we were married because he guessed it was not very long)

What impressed us the most about the Shenandoah Valley was the accessibility of the people. In all but one winery, we were served by the owners. In three of the wineries, our visit included much friendly conversation and interaction (which included them learning we were on our honeymoon). Two of them were open on the day of our visit only because we had called ahead to let them know we were coming.

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