Help with VA/DC Wines?

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T3rry D3an
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Help with VA/DC Wines?

#1 Post by T3rry D3an »

Hello!

So we moved from SF to DC last year. We miss Napa/Sonoma wine country so much - and we are hoping that everyone out there is safe (between the pandemic and the fires!).

As we start this new chapter in our lives, we've been told a lot of things about the wineries near our current home (i.e. DC, Northern Virginia). Some say, "yea, there are some great ones out there!", others say "they're great for what they are!", and others admit "yea ... don't really bother ..."

So we need some help! We're hoping to find wineries that fall into any of the following categories:
(1) great to visit (picturesque setting, friendly hosts, tolerates/encourages children/picnicking), with wines that are at least passable
(2) for the nerds: playing to the terroir, these might not be using the big-money grapes of California (Cabernet, Pinot Noir, Chardonnay), but really making great, interesting, nerdy wines that'll really impress a group of berserkers/sommeliers
(3) for the pockets: someone's gotta be coming in and throwing a good amount of money to plant new grapes, hire fancy consultants, construct big tasting rooms.

So tell me your favorite Category (1), (2), and (3) places [and of course, bonus points if they satisfy more than one category!]! Also would love it if someone was open during the pandemic - but even if not, we can wait!

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Re: Help with VA/DC Wines?

#2 Post by Matthew Brown »

Don’t bother with trying to categorize or pigeonhole wineries around here into categories. Approach them fresh and for what they are. It’s more about exploring an area and how much you want to drive between visits. If you do a search there’s been a few threads recently that can sum up a lot of what you want. Leesburg has a strong pocket of wineries around it to explore, but a strong favorite for quality and a nice drive/view would be Linden, and you could definitely hit up several in that area as well. RdV is fairly high level, definitely high $$, but not open to the public for tastes or tours afaik. The other option is hitting up the Charlottesville area for several choices if you want to make that kind of trek.
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Re: Help with VA/DC Wines?

#3 Post by kyledorsey »

I am not super well versed in Va wines, but I have enjoyed what I've had from Early Mountain Vineyards. https://www.earlymountain.com/

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Re: Help with VA/DC Wines?

#4 Post by Howard Cooper »

You will like local wine stores more than local wineries.
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Re: Help with VA/DC Wines?

#5 Post by Anthony C »

Agree with Howard and Matthew. There are some gems around here for wineries, but many are wedding venues that make grape juice. Even the ones that try hard still charge a "markup" for getting you in the door and just aren't worth it once you know what $35 *should* get you in a chard. I had a thread here earlier that got a lot of good replies from some of the gems to seek out, a lot of them recommended by Howard and Matthew here. Linden is probably the best close to DC, but central Virginia (Charlottesville area) is probably the best concentration of them. White wines and Cab Franc seem to be the most consistent year over year, but some exceptions.

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Re: Help with VA/DC Wines?

#6 Post by Sarah S »

I second (or third) Howard. Bassins (MacArthur Beverage) is a shop with a good selection and they have tastings. Also keep in mind from a purchasing standpoint that most wineries and shops (including K&L) ship to DC. Give them the address of the nearest fedex (for me it’s 5225 Wisconsin Ave- friendship heights) as your shipping address...K&L has great shipping prices and since you don’t pay sales tax, the tax you save will likely cover cost for priority overnight (by 1030am) shipping.
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Re: Help with VA/DC Wines?

#7 Post by doug johnson »

1) Glen Manor
2) Linden
3) RdV

The nice thing is they are all within a 30-40 minute drive of each other.

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Re: Help with VA/DC Wines?

#8 Post by Bob Davis »

Living in the Charlottesville are we have yet to taste more than 2-3 wineries that we would put on par with anything in California. The reds are generally under-ripe and made for current consumption. The whites are usually better but almost always overpriced to CA wines and even France.

We have seen very few wineries that made bad/flawed wines but it seems that all work from the same recipe. The climate prevents wineries from branching out. The reds are almost always Cab Franc, Petit Verdot, or Merlot. And some Tannat. Some Cabs here and there and Moss makes some good Cabernets. One of the few.

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Re: Help with VA/DC Wines?

#9 Post by K N Haque »

Well, as for #2, I don't have wineries to recommend, but the wine geek grape of Virginia is definitely Petit Manseng.
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Re: Help with VA/DC Wines?

#10 Post by Josh Grossman »

I've never visited but Chrysalis did well in a Norton challenge (if you like Norton).
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Norton_(grape)

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Re: Help with VA/DC Wines?

#11 Post by Ben M a n d l e r »

There are people making excellent wine in Virginia. The pricing is difficult, in part because there is no economy of scale or shared resources, and in part because the main business model for most wineries is to bring local tourists out for days at the winery with picnics and wine, so they focus a lot of resources on the experience. That can actually make it a pretty fun weekend activity - take a picnic, go out to some wineries, have a good time.

My favorite wineries that I visited in my few years living in DC (2016-2019) were:
Early Mountain - good Bordeaux blends, arguably the best Chardonnay in Virginia, maybe tied with Linden
Michael Shaps - superb Petit Manseng, Petit Verdot (IMO the two most promising grapes in Virginia), Tannat
The Barns at Hamilton Station (Michael Shaps is also the winemaker here) - closer to DC than Shaps' Charlottesville location. V. gd Petit Manseng
Veritas - Excellent Petit Verdot, good Viognier, some other gems to be found
Ox Eye - Best Pinot Noir in Virginia. Admittedly, this is not saying a whole lot, but it's an impressive feat in itself
Barboursville - most of their basic tasting is worth avoiding, but the library tasting gives you access to some good wines, including a good Nebbiolo and their Octagon Bdx blend
Paradise Springs - only an hour's drive from DC, fun place. They have a sister winery in Santa Barbara, but the Virginia stuff is actually good. Good Meritage, good Petit Verdot, good PV/Tannat blends. In my experience the whites were less impressive.
Stone Tower - their estate Hogback Mountain and Windswept Hill Bdx blends are actually fully ripe, well structured, good wines. They're also $70. So is their varietal Petit Verdot, which is asking a lot when other wineries are making good versions for half that price. But the wines are genuinely delicious and it's a fun day out near Leesburg, only an hour's drive from DC. They also make a delicious Port-style wine from Norton grapes. Porton.

I don't personally love Linden because they are pretentious and exclusionary and I don't like tasting at places where I literally have to hear someone say "we don't want *those kinds of people* here". That said, the wines are good, and Jim Law has been a very important part of improving the quality and community of Virginia wineries.

A few other places worth considering:
Benevino Vineyard Cabernet Franc at Delaplane.
Various Nortons at Chrysalis - quality is variable, but it's worth it just for the experience I think. Some of it is pretty good. The carbonic stuff is, in my opinion, missable.
Boxwood is trying really hard to make good wines from major Bordeaux varietals in Virginia. That's a tough ask, but the best versions are good. The tasting room is a little sterile and small.

I never made it out to Glen Manor but I've heard good things. I've also never been to RdV - too pricy for me - but supposedly the wines are excellent.
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Re: Help with VA/DC Wines?

#12 Post by Jay Opperman »

Rdv is a lovely experience.Quite impressive and the wines are more European than California in style.They have done an amazing project near Middleburg.

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Re: Help with VA/DC Wines?

#13 Post by Howard Cooper »

Sarah S wrote: August 23rd, 2020, 6:58 pm I second (or third) Howard. Bassins (MacArthur Beverage) is a shop with a good selection and they have tastings. Also keep in mind from a purchasing standpoint that most wineries and shops (including K&L) ship to DC. Give them the address of the nearest fedex (for me it’s 5225 Wisconsin Ave- friendship heights) as your shipping address...K&L has great shipping prices and since you don’t pay sales tax, the tax you save will likely cover cost for priority overnight (by 1030am) shipping.
Didn't the OP say that he lives in Northern Virginia, not DC. Unless he works in DC (and can ship to DC at his work address), is shipping to DC an option? I don't know what shipping rules are in Virginia, but I know more places ship to DC than to Maryland, where I live.

As for good stores in DC, Bassins is excellent for most types of wines. Weygandt Wines in Cleveland Park mostly has wines imported by Peter Weygandt's Weydandt-Metzler operation, but that is a good thing not a bad thing because they import so many good wines that are not available at most wine stores. Schneiders on Capital Hill is also an excellent store.
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Re: Help with VA/DC Wines?

#14 Post by Brian Gilp »

Ben M a n d l e r wrote: August 23rd, 2020, 9:25 pm I don't personally love Linden because they are pretentious and exclusionary and I don't like tasting at places where I literally have to hear someone say "we don't want *those kinds of people* here". That said, the wines are good, and Jim Law has been a very important part of improving the quality and community of Virginia wineries.
By “those kinds of people” was that in reference to the limo/party crowd that’s out in force most weekends? If so, then this doesn’t surprise me at all. Jim has long held the belief that Virginia wineries should be about the wine and not weddings or rolling parties.

I’ve visited a number of times and have taken friends as well. We’ve never had a bad time or been mistreated. That being said, I have seen people not understand that Linden has set up rules and enforced those rules and felt they have been slighted. Generally, this involved the use of the deck on the weekend which was restricted to Linden club members.

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Re: Help with VA/DC Wines?

#15 Post by Anthony C »

In Virginia, I like Vienna Vintner for wines. $15 Rose through $1000 1st growths (mostly in the $30 to $50 range from all over). They have weekend tastings (used to anyway) and monthly wine dinners. They are close to my work, which is bad on the old wallet.

I can't speak for all locations, but the Fairfax Wegmans has a good wine shop and premium wine room (French heavy) and the Nutley St. Safeway has a decent fine wine room (very Cali heavy).
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Re: Help with VA/DC Wines?

#16 Post by Jason R. »

Brian Gilp wrote: August 24th, 2020, 4:34 am
Ben M a n d l e r wrote: August 23rd, 2020, 9:25 pm I don't personally love Linden because they are pretentious and exclusionary and I don't like tasting at places where I literally have to hear someone say "we don't want *those kinds of people* here". That said, the wines are good, and Jim Law has been a very important part of improving the quality and community of Virginia wineries.
By “those kinds of people” was that in reference to the limo/party crowd that’s out in force most weekends? If so, then this doesn’t surprise me at all. Jim has long held the belief that Virginia wineries should be about the wine and not weddings or rolling parties.

I’ve visited a number of times and have taken friends as well. We’ve never had a bad time or been mistreated. That being said, I have seen people not understand that Linden has set up rules and enforced those rules and felt they have been slighted. Generally, this involved the use of the deck on the weekend which was restricted to Linden club members.
My impression of Linden from members of my tasting group who’ve known Jim for years is what Brian says.

My sense from my friends is that Jim (and therefore Linden) is serious about their wines.
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Re: Help with VA/DC Wines?

#17 Post by Jason R. »

Agree with MacArthur’s (Bassins) as a great shop.

In NoVa (Arlington) I would highly recommend Arrowine. They have good relationships with some good importers, including Thomas Calder. Their email ‘specials’ each week is my advice. The emails often have sharper pricing than what’s in the shop on hand. They also have a solid charcuterie and cheese selection, as well as bringing in various unusual meats (wagyu, bison, and boar, etc... from different sources in addition to d’Artagnan)
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Re: Help with VA/DC Wines?

#18 Post by Sarah S »

Howard Cooper wrote: August 24th, 2020, 4:20 am
Sarah S wrote: August 23rd, 2020, 6:58 pm I second (or third) Howard. Bassins (MacArthur Beverage) is a shop with a good selection and they have tastings. Also keep in mind from a purchasing standpoint that most wineries and shops (including K&L) ship to DC. Give them the address of the nearest fedex (for me it’s 5225 Wisconsin Ave- friendship heights) as your shipping address...K&L has great shipping prices and since you don’t pay sales tax, the tax you save will likely cover cost for priority overnight (by 1030am) shipping.
Didn't the OP say that he lives in Northern Virginia, not DC. Unless he works in DC (and can ship to DC at his work address), is shipping to DC an option? I don't know what shipping rules are in Virginia, but I know more places ship to DC than to Maryland, where I live.

As for good stores in DC, Bassins is excellent for most types of wines. Weygandt Wines in Cleveland Park mostly has wines imported by Peter Weygandt's Weydandt-Metzler operation, but that is a good thing not a bad thing because they import so many good wines that are not available at most wine stores. Schneiders on Capital Hill is also an excellent store.
I live in Potomac and work in Rockville, but I ship to the FedEx office in Friendship Heights- 5225 Wisconsin Ave NW, mentioned above. The shipment arrives by 1030 and I pick it up during my lunch break. Assuming the OP is in NoVa, driving to DC for pickup shouldn’t be a huge issue, and it seems that nearly everyone ships to DC.
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Re: Help with VA/DC Wines?

#19 Post by Sarah S »

I also forgot to mention that Chain Bridge Cellars is an excellent small shop in McLean. Sadly it appears that their sales floor is closed, but they have free delivery with $100 purchase to Arlington, Falls Church, McLean, Tysons, Vienna and Great Falls and it looks like they are doing some sort of virtual tasting this Saturday. Bassins also currently has a $100 minimum for curbside pickup.
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Re: Help with VA/DC Wines?

#20 Post by Bob Davis »

Ben M a n d l e r wrote: August 23rd, 2020, 9:25 pm There are people making excellent wine in Virginia. The pricing is difficult, in part because there is no economy of scale or shared resources, and in part because the main business model for most wineries is to bring local tourists out for days at the winery with picnics and wine, so they focus a lot of resources on the experience. That can actually make it a pretty fun weekend activity - take a picnic, go out to some wineries, have a good time.

My favorite wineries that I visited in my few years living in DC (2016-2019) were:
Early Mountain - good Bordeaux blends, arguably the best Chardonnay in Virginia, maybe tied with Linden
Michael Shaps - superb Petit Manseng, Petit Verdot (IMO the two most promising grapes in Virginia), Tannat
The Barns at Hamilton Station (Michael Shaps is also the winemaker here) - closer to DC than Shaps' Charlottesville location. V. gd Petit Manseng
Veritas - Excellent Petit Verdot, good Viognier, some other gems to be found
Ox Eye - Best Pinot Noir in Virginia. Admittedly, this is not saying a whole lot, but it's an impressive feat in itself
Barboursville - most of their basic tasting is worth avoiding, but the library tasting gives you access to some good wines, including a good Nebbiolo and their Octagon Bdx blend
Paradise Springs - only an hour's drive from DC, fun place. They have a sister winery in Santa Barbara, but the Virginia stuff is actually good. Good Meritage, good Petit Verdot, good PV/Tannat blends. In my experience the whites were less impressive.
Stone Tower - their estate Hogback Mountain and Windswept Hill Bdx blends are actually fully ripe, well structured, good wines. They're also $70. So is their varietal Petit Verdot, which is asking a lot when other wineries are making good versions for half that price. But the wines are genuinely delicious and it's a fun day out near Leesburg, only an hour's drive from DC. They also make a delicious Port-style wine from Norton grapes. Porton.

I don't personally love Linden because they are pretentious and exclusionary and I don't like tasting at places where I literally have to hear someone say "we don't want *those kinds of people* here". That said, the wines are good, and Jim Law has been a very important part of improving the quality and community of Virginia wineries.

A few other places worth considering:
Benevino Vineyard Cabernet Franc at Delaplane.
Various Nortons at Chrysalis - quality is variable, but it's worth it just for the experience I think. Some of it is pretty good. The carbonic stuff is, in my opinion, missable.
Boxwood is trying really hard to make good wines from major Bordeaux varietals in Virginia. That's a tough ask, but the best versions are good. The tasting room is a little sterile and small.

I never made it out to Glen Manor but I've heard good things. I've also never been to RdV - too pricy for me - but supposedly the wines are excellent.
Ben, great take on VA wineries in that they have to cater to weekend/tourist crowd. That was our opinion too.

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Re: Help with VA/DC Wines?

#21 Post by Ben M a n d l e r »

Brian Gilp wrote: August 24th, 2020, 4:34 am
Ben M a n d l e r wrote: August 23rd, 2020, 9:25 pm I don't personally love Linden because they are pretentious and exclusionary and I don't like tasting at places where I literally have to hear someone say "we don't want *those kinds of people* here". That said, the wines are good, and Jim Law has been a very important part of improving the quality and community of Virginia wineries.
By “those kinds of people” was that in reference to the limo/party crowd that’s out in force most weekends? If so, then this doesn’t surprise me at all. Jim has long held the belief that Virginia wineries should be about the wine and not weddings or rolling parties.

I’ve visited a number of times and have taken friends as well. We’ve never had a bad time or been mistreated. That being said, I have seen people not understand that Linden has set up rules and enforced those rules and felt they have been slighted. Generally, this involved the use of the deck on the weekend which was restricted to Linden club members.
Ach...since you asked:

My partner and I were tasting there while passing through on the way to go hiking in Shenandoah. A group of four women arrived - not in any way a “party group”, who were coming back from hiking in Shenandoah. They wanted to drop in to taste some wine, just as we did. They asked the woman who was pouring for us if they could taste some wine and then sit down with a glass. She said no, the seating area (deck) was for members only. It was 11.30am on a Saturday and the place was deserted, there was only one other couple there. They took it on the chin and left without complaint, after which she promptly turned to us and said “we don’t want those kinds of people here.” Which was confusing to me because there was almost nothing to differentiate them from us. After we had going through our tasting she said that if we wanted to get a glass and hang out on the deck for a while we were more than welcome to. We are not members at Linden.

So yeah, I thought it was pretty shitty. She could at least have told them that they could taste at the bar if they wanted to. Another group of 4 people - all older and looking moneyed - was happily accommodated before we left.

Add on to that the whole spiel we got while we were tasting, mostly an odd rant about the primacy of Chardonnay and Bordeaux varietals and French oak, actively denigrating wineries in Virginia who choose to grow/make/use anything else, a bunch of weird europhilic romantic nostalgia about the old world, and no interesting conversation about the wines, despite my repeated attempts to get us off the weird story train and into the wines themselves, which were fine. It was probably the least pleasant wine tasting experience I have ever had.

I do genuinely understand that they want to keep things quiet at a small working winery. That must be challenging and frustrating in a time when everyone around you is actively courting big groups. I happen to think they’re going about it in a bad way.
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Re: Help with VA/DC Wines?

#22 Post by Frank Drew »

As of a few weeks ago, MacArthur’s (Bassin’s) was continuing their curbside pickup only policy, no in-store browsing. Perhaps that’s changed.

In order to maintain pandemic social distancing,Linden currently has very abbreviated hours and only for their case-club members. I think that RdV also suspended tastings for a time and don’t know if that’s changed.

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Re: Help with VA/DC Wines?

#23 Post by etomasi »

Alot of the great stores have already mentioned. I would include Gran Cata for South American wines as well as Domestique if you are really into organic/bio/natural wines. The only thing is that most of the DC stores are open for pick-up.

btw, I love Arrowine, and they are probably the best of the top cheese stores in the DMV along with Cheesetique and Bowers Fancy Dairy Products in Eastern Market. They generally get the best producers and affineurs.
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Re: Help with VA/DC Wines?

#24 Post by Graham J »

I did the opposite move last year, from DC to LA, so I know your feeling. In addition to some of the shops others have mentioned, I highly recommend Calvert Woodley up in Van Ness for wine, spirits, and cheeses - they have a great selection (and a pretty good website, too).

Winery-wise I never had a lot of VA experience, but I have had a couple of great bottles from Old Westminster in Maryland. They do a lot of piquette and pet-nat, so if that's at all your thing, I highly recommend. Wishing I could get more of it out here!
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Re: Help with VA/DC Wines?

#25 Post by Brian Gilp »

Ben M a n d l e r wrote: August 24th, 2020, 9:33 am
Brian Gilp wrote: August 24th, 2020, 4:34 am
Ben M a n d l e r wrote: August 23rd, 2020, 9:25 pm I don't personally love Linden because they are pretentious and exclusionary and I don't like tasting at places where I literally have to hear someone say "we don't want *those kinds of people* here". That said, the wines are good, and Jim Law has been a very important part of improving the quality and community of Virginia wineries.
By “those kinds of people” was that in reference to the limo/party crowd that’s out in force most weekends? If so, then this doesn’t surprise me at all. Jim has long held the belief that Virginia wineries should be about the wine and not weddings or rolling parties.

I’ve visited a number of times and have taken friends as well. We’ve never had a bad time or been mistreated. That being said, I have seen people not understand that Linden has set up rules and enforced those rules and felt they have been slighted. Generally, this involved the use of the deck on the weekend which was restricted to Linden club members.
Ach...since you asked:

My partner and I were tasting there while passing through on the way to go hiking in Shenandoah. A group of four women arrived - not in any way a “party group”, who were coming back from hiking in Shenandoah. They wanted to drop in to taste some wine, just as we did. They asked the woman who was pouring for us if they could taste some wine and then sit down with a glass. She said no, the seating area (deck) was for members only. It was 11.30am on a Saturday and the place was deserted, there was only one other couple there. They took it on the chin and left without complaint, after which she promptly turned to us and said “we don’t want those kinds of people here.” Which was confusing to me because there was almost nothing to differentiate them from us. After we had going through our tasting she said that if we wanted to get a glass and hang out on the deck for a while we were more than welcome to. We are not members at Linden.

So yeah, I thought it was pretty shitty. She could at least have told them that they could taste at the bar if they wanted to. Another group of 4 people - all older and looking moneyed - was happily accommodated before we left.

Add on to that the whole spiel we got while we were tasting, mostly an odd rant about the primacy of Chardonnay and Bordeaux varietals and French oak, actively denigrating wineries in Virginia who choose to grow/make/use anything else, a bunch of weird europhilic romantic nostalgia about the old world, and no interesting conversation about the wines, despite my repeated attempts to get us off the weird story train and into the wines themselves, which were fine. It was probably the least pleasant wine tasting experience I have ever had.

I do genuinely understand that they want to keep things quiet at a small working winery. That must be challenging and frustrating in a time when everyone around you is actively courting big groups. I happen to think they’re going about it in a bad way.
Thanks Ben. I know how a bad experience can impact one’s opinion. I have my own set of stories about different wineries, many of which I will never visit again.

The deck policy has caused issues. I know of A number of complaints over the years. I’ve witnessed the other side of what you saw. A couple came in and wanted to go straight to the deck. One of the tasting room staff explained that it was club only on the weekend and that they could taste, they could buy a bottle and go sit on the lawn, or they could buy a case to join the club which would then give them deck access. The couple didn’t like any of those options and made a small scene while leaving.

As for tasting room spiel, I find that slightly odd. I haven’t been subjected to what you endured and I know that Jim has grown and/or worked with more grapes than those. Even today he makes an assortment of white wines. He bought a concrete egg to experiment with for whites. Full disclosure, I have had at least two lengthy talks about VA viticulture with Jim and could be bias but I don’t feel that he is closed minded. He was one of the early ones to plant merlot when many still thought that the rot pressure was too great. He has made changes as he learns more. A number of years ago he reduced the row width in many sections by planting new rows between old rows. I’m not positive but I believe he was one of the first that suggested I consider Petit Manseng if/when I decided to plant any whites given my hot and humid location.

25 years ago, I worked the tasting room of a small winery. I loved that job but honestly it seems like things are different now and I don’t know that I would enjoy it like I did back then.

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Re: Help with VA/DC Wines?

#26 Post by Dave H. »

Agree with those who suggest you just go out and explore. At worst you "waste" a couple of weekends zipping through pretty areas of the state.
I live in Charlottesville and generally almost never buy Virginia wine, not because I don't like it, but because the competitions for my dollars is fierce and almost always leads elsewhere. But if you're a curious wine drinker, it's almost always interesting to taste what people are making and pouring, even if you don't feel compelled to pick up a $40 bottle of meritage. But there's lots of cool stuff out there and the "wedding factory" wineries are just a small part of it. And even the wedding factories will sometimes have a side line of esoteric stuff.
Lots of good suggestions above. On the geek front, I've been meaning to try this stuff, which is not the norm in our state: https://www.lightwellsurvey.com/
Early Mountain would give you a good sense of what an outfit with no small amount of resources is doing.
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Re: Help with VA/DC Wines?

#27 Post by Ben M a n d l e r »

Brian Gilp wrote: August 24th, 2020, 11:57 am
Ben M a n d l e r wrote: August 24th, 2020, 9:33 am
Brian Gilp wrote: August 24th, 2020, 4:34 am

By “those kinds of people” was that in reference to the limo/party crowd that’s out in force most weekends? If so, then this doesn’t surprise me at all. Jim has long held the belief that Virginia wineries should be about the wine and not weddings or rolling parties.

I’ve visited a number of times and have taken friends as well. We’ve never had a bad time or been mistreated. That being said, I have seen people not understand that Linden has set up rules and enforced those rules and felt they have been slighted. Generally, this involved the use of the deck on the weekend which was restricted to Linden club members.
Ach...since you asked:

My partner and I were tasting there while passing through on the way to go hiking in Shenandoah. A group of four women arrived - not in any way a “party group”, who were coming back from hiking in Shenandoah. They wanted to drop in to taste some wine, just as we did. They asked the woman who was pouring for us if they could taste some wine and then sit down with a glass. She said no, the seating area (deck) was for members only. It was 11.30am on a Saturday and the place was deserted, there was only one other couple there. They took it on the chin and left without complaint, after which she promptly turned to us and said “we don’t want those kinds of people here.” Which was confusing to me because there was almost nothing to differentiate them from us. After we had going through our tasting she said that if we wanted to get a glass and hang out on the deck for a while we were more than welcome to. We are not members at Linden.

So yeah, I thought it was pretty shitty. She could at least have told them that they could taste at the bar if they wanted to. Another group of 4 people - all older and looking moneyed - was happily accommodated before we left.

Add on to that the whole spiel we got while we were tasting, mostly an odd rant about the primacy of Chardonnay and Bordeaux varietals and French oak, actively denigrating wineries in Virginia who choose to grow/make/use anything else, a bunch of weird europhilic romantic nostalgia about the old world, and no interesting conversation about the wines, despite my repeated attempts to get us off the weird story train and into the wines themselves, which were fine. It was probably the least pleasant wine tasting experience I have ever had.

I do genuinely understand that they want to keep things quiet at a small working winery. That must be challenging and frustrating in a time when everyone around you is actively courting big groups. I happen to think they’re going about it in a bad way.
Thanks Ben. I know how a bad experience can impact one’s opinion. I have my own set of stories about different wineries, many of which I will never visit again.

The deck policy has caused issues. I know of A number of complaints over the years. I’ve witnessed the other side of what you saw. A couple came in and wanted to go straight to the deck. One of the tasting room staff explained that it was club only on the weekend and that they could taste, they could buy a bottle and go sit on the lawn, or they could buy a case to join the club which would then give them deck access. The couple didn’t like any of those options and made a small scene while leaving.

As for tasting room spiel, I find that slightly odd. I haven’t been subjected to what you endured and I know that Jim has grown and/or worked with more grapes than those. Even today he makes an assortment of white wines. He bought a concrete egg to experiment with for whites. Full disclosure, I have had at least two lengthy talks about VA viticulture with Jim and could be bias but I don’t feel that he is closed minded. He was one of the early ones to plant merlot when many still thought that the rot pressure was too great. He has made changes as he learns more. A number of years ago he reduced the row width in many sections by planting new rows between old rows. I’m not positive but I believe he was one of the first that suggested I consider Petit Manseng if/when I decided to plant any whites given my hot and humid location.

25 years ago, I worked the tasting room of a small winery. I loved that job but honestly it seems like things are different now and I don’t know that I would enjoy it like I did back then.
I think I’ve given you the wrong impression. I have no qualms with Jim, who by all accounts is a decent guy and has been super supportive of lots of people in the local wine industry. I don’t think that he himself is close-minded. I am sure that he developed his policies in good faith. My objection is to how they are being, or were being (it’s been a couple years) implemented by the people working the tasting room. I have spoken to other people who have also had off-putting experiences there so I know our experience was not unique. And since the thread is about local area wineries to visit, I think it’s worth knowing that the visiting experience at Linden can leave a lot to be desired.
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Re: Help with VA/DC Wines?

#28 Post by J. Migone »

I agree with Ben. It's 💯 a customer service thing. I've met and drank with Ben and he is a super knowledgeable nice guy.

Though I'll say this.... Wine is supposed to be fun and to be enjoyed best with friends. Linden's 4 people max is plain idiotic. They act like you can't enjoy or be serious about wine, while having a good time. If I want to be treated like I'm at the library, I will go to one.

You can have amazing experiences and in my opinion better wine at Kings Family vineyard. OmG! You can even take your family and more than three friends. Also, Barboursville is a stunning property you can enjoy with friends and family. Their Barbera and 2014 Octagon are fun wines. Plus their food is great. I love what they are doing there and they have great customer service.

For the best wine in Virginia and a great experience...RdV. World class wine, but they need to provide more snacks with the tasting.
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Re: Help with VA/DC Wines?

#29 Post by Howard Cooper »

Dave H. wrote: August 24th, 2020, 12:47 pm Agree with those who suggest you just go out and explore. At worst you "waste" a couple of weekends zipping through pretty areas of the state.
I live in Charlottesville and generally almost never buy Virginia wine, not because I don't like it, but because the competitions for my dollars is fierce and almost always leads elsewhere. But if you're a curious wine drinker, it's almost always interesting to taste what people are making and pouring, even if you don't feel compelled to pick up a $40 bottle of meritage. But there's lots of cool stuff out there and the "wedding factory" wineries are just a small part of it. And even the wedding factories will sometimes have a side line of esoteric stuff.
Lots of good suggestions above. On the geek front, I've been meaning to try this stuff, which is not the norm in our state: https://www.lightwellsurvey.com/
Early Mountain would give you a good sense of what an outfit with no small amount of resources is doing.
If and when one visits Charlottesville (and the OP should do so), I think you would agree that wine is not the #1 highlight there. First visit UVa and Monticello. Then, if one has more time, drive over to Skyline Drive, which is gorgeous.

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A Graduate of UVa School of Law, Class of a boatload of years ago.
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Re: Help with VA/DC Wines?

#30 Post by Dave H. »

Howard Cooper wrote: August 24th, 2020, 3:47 pm
Dave H. wrote: August 24th, 2020, 12:47 pm Agree with those who suggest you just go out and explore. At worst you "waste" a couple of weekends zipping through pretty areas of the state.
I live in Charlottesville and generally almost never buy Virginia wine, not because I don't like it, but because the competitions for my dollars is fierce and almost always leads elsewhere. But if you're a curious wine drinker, it's almost always interesting to taste what people are making and pouring, even if you don't feel compelled to pick up a $40 bottle of meritage. But there's lots of cool stuff out there and the "wedding factory" wineries are just a small part of it. And even the wedding factories will sometimes have a side line of esoteric stuff.
Lots of good suggestions above. On the geek front, I've been meaning to try this stuff, which is not the norm in our state: https://www.lightwellsurvey.com/
Early Mountain would give you a good sense of what an outfit with no small amount of resources is doing.
If and when one visits Charlottesville (and the OP should do so), I think you would agree that wine is not the #1 highlight there. First visit UVa and Monticello. Then, if one has more time, drive over to Skyline Drive, which is gorgeous.

Signed,
A Graduate of UVa School of Law, Class of a boatload of years ago.
I went to and work at UVA. Love the place and the area. And yes, I spend my free time hiking and biking and what not, not touring local vineyards. But the poster asked about tasting wine. [cheers.gif]
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Re: Help with VA/DC Wines?

#31 Post by Anthony C »

Another UVA alum here. Sadly when I was there I drank more cheap beer than good wine.
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Re: Help with VA/DC Wines?

#32 Post by John H. »

Lived in DC for 6 years. Can't comment on wineries because, after some extremely underwhelming experiences I never really pursued them. But I'll give another vote for Weygandt in Cleveland Park as my favorite wine store on the planet.

I love the entire Weygandt portfolio, which is Burgundy-centric, including loads of fantastic declassified juice, but by no means exclusively Burgundy. Lots of Jura and Austria represented as well, including some killer, killer deals on some really unique and well-made stuff.

But most impressive are their tastings. IMO better than any I've experienced. On a normal weekend, the stuff they pour for free is a step - or two or three, really - above what you get at other wine stores. And about once a month they have a "grand tasting," usually focused on a single varietal. At these, there are like 10-15 wines open, usually ranging in price from $20-50. Like, good stuff. I rapidly learned a lot about wine and really developed my palate.

My theory is that, as an importer in a jurisdiction unbound to the three-tier system, their profit margin was so high that they could afford to pop good stuff at those tastings. After all, they aren't paying the wholesale that another retail shop would pay; they just buy direct from the wineries.
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Re: Help with VA/DC Wines?

#33 Post by k s h i n »

Bob Davis wrote: August 23rd, 2020, 7:52 pm Living in the Charlottesville are we have yet to taste more than 2-3 wineries that we would put on par with anything in California. The reds are generally under-ripe and made for current consumption. The whites are usually better but almost always overpriced to CA wines and even France.

We have seen very few wineries that made bad/flawed wines but it seems that all work from the same recipe. The climate prevents wineries from branching out. The reds are almost always Cab Franc, Petit Verdot, or Merlot. And some Tannat. Some Cabs here and there and Moss makes some good Cabernets. One of the few.
+1, I agree wholeheartedly.
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Re: Help with VA/DC Wines?

#34 Post by R Scott Hughes »

Having lived in the DC area for the last 30 years (currently in NoVa), the first thing that I can say about VA wines is that they are much, much better than they were 20-25 years ago. I remember attending the Virginia Wine Festival a couple of decades ago and being shocked that at most, I found 2-3 wines (not wineries) that were drinkable. Searching for a wedding venue 5 years ago, I hit quite a few of the wineries within 90 minutes of DC and found more to like. That being said, I don't drink VA wine strictly because the wines don't compete on price vs quality.

As others have accurately described, many of the VA wineries are wedding venues first, wineries second. I would attribute this to the economics and marketability of VA wine. While I am sure that you have already looked here (https://www.virginiawine.org/) it is a good resource if you want to map out a day trip or two. I would start in the area around Leesburg. I haven't been to any local wineries in 5 years so my intel is definitely dated.

A winery that I think captures (1) and (3) would be Tarara - lots of $$$ went into this place. If I recall correctly, views of Sugarloaf Mountain and plenty of places to picnic. I recall liking the wines at Fabbioli when I visited - definitely more about wine than about venue. Add in Breaux (plenty of space for picnic) and 868 Estate and you have the base for a good outing in the beautiful VA countryside. Depending on time you could add in Sunset Hills and 8 Chains. If you are taking kids and not in a hurry, plan your route to take you across White's Ferry either coming or going - a fun diversion for the kids.

Again, my first hand experience is a bit dated but I found that the best VA wines I have had were Viognier and Cab Franc. I have read that Petit Manseng and Petit Verdot do well in VA as well but haven't experienced that.

On a random side note, I was on the island of Anguilla a few years ago and went into the local wine store that focused on French wines and saw a bottle of Barboursville Octagon. A pretty good, if not over priced, VA wine - seemed like a pretty random place to see a VA wine.
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