Northern Neck wines flow like its rivers
by Lisa Hinton-Valdrighi
Long known for its blue crabs, fish and oysters, the Chesapeake Bay region is now peppered with fields of green and purple grapes. Vineyards and wineries are popping up where fields of soybeans and corn once grew. Along with its agriculture and seafood industries, the region is now becoming a destination for wine lovers in search of mom-and-pop vineyards and wineries.
The former Northern Neck Wine Trail is now the Chesapeake Bay Wine Trail and includes some 13 wineries, scattered on large and small farms from King George through the Northern Neck and across the Rappahannock River to New Kent County. Since The Rivah Visitor’s Guide first wined its way along the trail, four years ago, sipping the nectar of local vintners, five new wineries have been built or are operating on the Northern Neck.
The original trail included five wineries in Richmond, Westmoreland, Northumberland and Lancaster counties. The trail now includes wineries as far north as Potomac Point Winery in Stafford and Oak Crest Vineyard & Winery in King George and southwest to Saude Creek Vineyards in Lanexa and New Kent Winery in New Kent. In between, there are now nine wineries on the Northern Neck. Four of those were visited on our last tour including Westmoreland County’s Ingleside Vineyards and Vault Field Vineyards, Richmond County’s Belle Mount Vineyards and Northumberland’s Athena Vineyards and Winery.
Many of the region’s wines can only be tasted and purchased in the tasting rooms at the wineries or at festivals. All of the wineries have a picnic area where guests can enjoy a glass of wine and their own picnic lunch. So spend a fall afternoon traveling the region’s back roads, where beautiful fields of grapes pop up unexpectedly. And be sure to visit the Northern Neck’s established and its newest wineries.
|At right, Steve Madey pours a guest a sip of wine during a wine tasting at The Hague Winery. (Photo by Lisa Hinton-Valdrighi)|
The 139-acre plantation with three houses, including a main house and guest house, includes a five-acre vineyard with 6,000 vines. The Madey’s first vintage was in 2008 and the tasting room opened in August 2009.
Located in a renovated 1933 barn, the tasting room has an outside bar and pergola-covered patio. Its gift shop includes all of a wine lover’s favorites—cheeses, crackers, glasses and all the essential wine-related items like stoppers and pourers.
The Madeys produce 800 cases of wine per year. They don’t produce on sight but send their grapes to a winemaker in Charlottesville.
Wine lovers can only purchase the Madeys’ wines at the tasting room and at the Tappahannock Farmers’ Market several times a year.
“The essence of success in this business is selling [wine] in the tasting room,” said Stephen.
A tasting of all seven wines is $5.
The Madeys’ Chardonel is probably the best seller, said Stephen. For those with a sweet tooth there is the winery’s Cynthia Dessert wine, so named after the owner.
One to try: The 2010 Chardonel was a silver medal winner at the 2011 Governor’s Cup. The judges said it had a medium body, silky and layered. The Muscat shows through. It pairs well with a spicy food.
|Sarah Spence sets up a wine tasting at Jacey Vineyards. (Photo by Lisa Hinton-Valdrighi)|
Grapes were planted on the 150-acre farm in 2004 and first harvested in 2010, according to general manager and winemaker Delaina Cooper. The planting originated with Vidal Blanc, Cynthiana, Petit Verdot and Zinfandel varieties. Expansion began with Albarino, Malbec, Sauvignon Blanc and Cabernet Sauvignon.
There are eight acres of grapes in five different varieties on the waterfront farm. With a dock on Mill Creek, it is one of only two wineries in the region that can be reached either by land or water. Boaters can walk the short distance from the dock to the wine tasting room or can call ahead for a pick-up waterside.
The tasting room and dining room, which serves lunch and dinner Thursday, Friday and Saturday and brunch on Sunday, overlooks the vineyards and is adjacent to the actual winemaking room. Although Cooper has 25 years in the restaurant business, she’s new to winemaking and has the aid of a consultant.
Jacey offers five wines with a six, an Albarino, to be released next year.
A $5 wine tasting includes a sip of all five wines, a keepsake glass and a full glass of the wine lover’s favorite. A free tour of the winery is also offered.
“I think we’re the only winery that offers that,” said Cooper.
Although the Vineyard Restaurant offers lunch and dinner, visitors are welcome to bring their own picnics and sit outside on the vineyard-side patio.
According to Cooper, Jacey is the only winery in the state to grow and bottle its own Zinfandel.
Jacey Vineyard wines are only available at its tasting room.
One to try: The Petit Verdot has floral notes carrying you to the end and finishes very light and dry.
|Lea Henderson pours wine made from grapes at General’s Ridge Vineyard and Winery near Hague. (Photo by Lisa Hinton-Valdrighi)|
With 30 acres of grapes and 16 different varieties, it is one of the largest vineyards on the Northern Neck. According to manager Gary Keckler, the vineyard sells about 75 percent of its fruit and “sells to everybody in the state that makes champagne.”
Although the farm has been producing grapes for 12 years, the wineries two tasting rooms, Somewhere in Time and the Vines Room, have only been open since April 2011.
Nine wines and a keepsake glass are offered at a tasting for $6. Wine by the glass, by the bottle and in a Frappe Vino, which Keckler calls a grown-up slurpee, are sold. The winery offers a bistro menu of cheese and bread, smoked oysters, spinach and artichoke dip and smoked salmon and pate’.
“We wanted this to have a cafe, bistro kind of feel, where you can look out over the vineyard,” said Keckler.
The winery held a release party for its 2010 GRV Red in September.
“We are so happy with this as our first red wine [in the tasting],” said Keckler. “It’s nice and soft and smooth with a broad based food application.
“We want our wines to be reflective of the fruit,” he added.
General’s Ridge wines are available for purchase at the winery tasting room and also at the Northern Neck Gourmet in Warsaw, All About Wine in Tappahannock, The Inn at Montross, Denson’s in Colonial Beach and The Mooring Restaurant in Kinsale.
One to try: The GRV Rose is the winery’s most popular wine. A blend of Cab Franc and Chambourcin with a hint of Vidal, it exhibits strawberry notes and fruit forward smooth finish. It pairs with bruschetta and Hawaiin pizza.
|Visitors sip wine in front of a warm fire on a cool fall afternoon at Good Luck Cellars near Kilmarnock. (Photo by Audrey Thomasson)|
The earth remaining from the mine was full of sand and gravel - perfect for cultivating grapevines.
The property includes 92 acres with 12 acres of vines and 12 different varieties.
Paul is the chief vintner and winemaker. And the wines are made on-site in a sterile cellar, where self-guided and employee-guided tours are offered.
The tasting room, which connects with a large banquet area, opened in July 2011. A cupola offers visitors a dining area where wine and a picnic can be enjoyed with a bird’s eye view of the vineyard and surrounding grounds.
There are 10 wines available to taste. Guests may taste either the winery’s reds or whites for $4 each or all 10 for $8.
Although the winery doesn’t have a gift shop, it does sell red wine vinegar and olive oils, including five different flavors from simply extra virgin to basil- and orange-infused. And of course, the winery sells its own wines!
A 2011 Voignier is being released this month and soon to be released is a red Inheritage blend.
One to try: Four Blonds was released only six weeks ago and is an equal blend of Vidal Blanc, Seval Blanc, Chardonel and Traminette. A crisp and fruity wine, it has a sweet finish.
|Jennifer Britt sets up a wine tasting at The Dog and Oyster Vineyard in Irvington. Photo by Audrey Thomasson|
Guests are greeted by two large and unforgettable corkscrews. Behind them are six acres of Vinifera and French American Hybrid vines with four varieties of grapes.
Owners Dudley and Peggy Patteson so named the vineyard to honor the rescue dogs that rescue the grapes from deer and other grape lovers. The dogs live on the grounds. The oyster in the name comes obviously from the Chesapeake Bay seafood.
The Wine Stand offers a gift shop and tasting room overlooking the vineyard. The porch is decorated in rustic nautical and makes visitors feel as though they are sipping wine in a beach house.
The Pattesons have partnered with the granddaddy of Northern Neck wineries to offer selections from both Ingleside Vineyards and Dog and Oyster to offer wines from two Northern Neck vineyards.
Mark Hollingsworth is the vineyard manager for both The Dog and Oyster and Good Luck Cellars.
The Dog and Oyster currently only produces two of its own varieties but offers six wines in its $6 wine tasting. Four are from Ingleside.
Dog and Oyster wines include a Chardonnay and Merlot.
One to try: The Chardonnay has hints of honey, pear and citrus. Cold fermented in stainless steel tanks, it is a light and crisp win. It pairs perfect with chicken and crab cakes or oysters.
A wine trail passport can be purchased at the wineries. When visiting each winery, guests have the passport stamped. A visit to seven earns wine lovers a 10% discount on wines from the tasting rooms of Chesapeake Bay Wine Trail members for one year.
Chesapeake Bay Wine Trail
Athena Vineyards & Winery | 8
3138 Jesse Dupont Memorial Hwy., Heathsville, VA 22473
580.4944 | athenavineyards.com
Open: January–April, Saturday noon–6 p.m.
May–December, Wednesday–Sunday, Noon–6 p.m.
Belle Mount Vineyards | 4
2570 Newland Road, Warsaw, VA 22572
333.4700 | bellemount.com
Open: March–December 15, Wednesday–Saturday, 11 a.m.–5 p.m.,
Sunday, Noon–5 p.m. and by appointment.
General’s Ridge Vineyard | 5
1618 Weldon’s Dr., Hague, VA 22469
472.3172 or 703.203.7216 | generalsridgevineyard.com
Open: Thursday Noon–5 p.m., Friday Noon–7 p.m.,
Saturday Noon–6 p.m., Sunday Noon–5 p.m.
Good Luck Cellars | 10
1025 Good Luck Road, Kilmarnock, VA 22482
435.1416 | goodluckcellars.com
Open: Thursday and Saturday, 11 a.m.–6 p.m., Friday 11 a.m.–8 p.m.,
Sunday Noon–5 p.m.
Ingleside Vineyards | 3
5872 Leedstown Road, Oak Grove, VA 22443
224.8687 | inglesidevineyards.com
Open: Monday–Saturday, 10 a.m.–5 p.m., Sunday, Noon–5 p.m.
Summertime open until 6 p.m.
Jacey Vineyards | 9
619 Train Lane, Wicomico Church, VA 22579
580.4053 | jaceyvineyards.com
Open: April–December, Wednesday–Saturday, 11 a.m.–5 p.m.,
Sunday, 11 a.m.–3 p.m.
New Kent Winery | 13
8400 Old Church Road, New Kent, VA 23124
932.8240 | newkentwinery.com
Open: Tuesday–Sunday, 10 a.m.–6 p.m.
Oak Crest Vineyard and Winery | 2
8215 Oak Crest Drive, King George, VA 22485
540.663.2813 | oakcrestwinery.com
Open: April 1–December 23, Wednesday–Sunday, 10 a.m.–5 p.m
or by appointment.
Potomac Point Winery | 1
275 Decatur Road, Stafford, VA 22554
540.446.2266 | potomacpointwinery.com
Open: Sunday–Monday, Wednesday–Thursday, 11 a.m.–6 p.m.
Friday–Saturday, 11 a.m.–9 p.m. Closed Tuesday.
Saude Creek Vineyards | 12
16230 Cooks Mill Road, Lanexa, VA 23089
966.5896 | saudecreek.com
Open: Wednesday–Monday 11 a.m.–6 p.m.
The Dog and Oyster | 11
170 White Fences Drive, Irvington, VA 22480
438.9463 | hopeandglory.com
Open: Thursday–Monday, 11 a.m.–6 p.m.
The Hague Winery | 6
8268 Cople Highway, Hague, VA 22469
472.5283 | thehaguewinery.com
Open: April–November, daily 11 a.m.–5 p.m.;
December–March by appointment
Vault Field Vineyards | 7
2953 Kings Mill Road, Kinsale, VA 22488
472.4430 | vaultfieldvineyards.com
Open: February 13–December, Thursday–Saturday, 11 a.m.–5 p.m and
Sunday, Noon–5 p.m. or by appointment. Summer open until 6 p.m.
January–February, Friday–Sunday, 11 a.m.–5 p.m.