Thursday, December 10, 2015

Wine Tasting at Virginia’s The Winery at La Grange

The Winery at La Grange Northern Virginia
The Winery at La Grange restored manor house.
During our Virginia weekend getaway, we decided to do a little wine tasting.  There are over 200 wineries in Virginia.  Virginia wineries make both wine we’ve heard of and drink in other parts of the country and also wine that perhaps isn’t so well-known.  We visited the first winery in Prince William County, The Winery at La Grange (the nearby Winery at Bull Run is technically in Fairfax County), to taste what kind of wine they’re making in Virginia.

The Winery at La Grange used to be the historic La Grange farm.  The manor on the property was built in the late 1700s.  As many places in Virginia do, the house has a Civil War connection as it was used as a hospital during the Civil War.  The owner, Benoni E. Harrison, passed away in 1869 and the manor fell into disrepair.  Investors purchased the property as a fixer-upper and decided it would be the perfect location for a winery.  The restored house and cellar are original. 

Vineyards The Winery at La Grange Northern Virginia
The vineyards of the Winery at La Grange.
The Winery at La Grange opened Labor Day 2006.  The Cabernet Sauvignon vines on the property were planted in 2007, mostly for aesthetic.  In 2010, they decided to use the fruit from the on-property vines and the first harvest was in 2012.

La Grange’s wine is made by Fletcher Henderson who was one of the original investors in the property and winery.  After a short departure, he returned to be the onsite winemaker in 2012.

Rosé The Winery at La Grange Northern Virginia
Rather than creating fruit-forward California-style wines, The Winery at La Grange seeks to create European-style wines that are more terroir-driven.  The gentleman pouring our tastings described Virginia wines as seeking subtle, secondary flavors rather than slapping drinkers in the face with rich fruit flavors.

La Grange’s wines are mostly made with grapes from Virginia, but also with some from Washington State and California. 

General's Battlefield The Winery at La Grange Northern Virginia
General's Battlefield.
During our visit to The Winery at La Grange, our wine tasting included the following eight wines:

2013 Fletcher’s Chardonnay – The Chardonnay is made in the French Burgundy style.  It is not malolactic, but is rather crisp.  It is fermented and aged in French oak for 11 months.  The wine was named after the winemaker because it was different for a Chardonnay and the owners didn’t think it was going to work.  It does work and was one of my favorites.

2014 Rosé – The Rosé is very unique.  It is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon from the property’s Benoni Vineyard and Vidal Blanc.  Unlike most Rosés which are light pink, this Rosé has more of a light copper tint.  It has a sour, tart quality, and is dry, crisp, and acidic. 

2014 Pinot Gris – The Pinot Gris is made with Washington grapes.  It has a fruity aroma, is slightly sweet, and is a great wine for enjoying in hot weather.

N/V General’s Battlefield – This signature wine was first created in 2011 for the 150th anniversary of the start of the Civil War and the Battle of First Manassas.  The unusual bottle shape is in the style of gin bottles of the Civil War.  Fallen oak trees from the Manassas battlefield that were alive during the Civil War were used to make the barrels in which the wine was aged.  The first edition of this wine was bottled in bottles with a blue eagle.  A white eagle graced the bottle the second year, and a gray eagle has been used in subsequent years.  The gray eagle wines were not aged in Civil War oak barrels.  I was excited to try this special wine, but unfortunately it ended up being my least favorite.

2013 Meritage – The Meritage is an American Bordeaux style blend made with Malbec, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, and Merlot.  The Meritage has a very earthy taste.  Meritage is a combination of the words merit and heritage and is a universal term for Bordeaux-style wines made in the United States.

2012 Tannat – Tannat is a French grape that grows near the Spanish border.  It is an unusual grape because the juice comes out red.  Usually grape juice turns red from the skins.  The 2012 Tannat is aged for 16 months in American and Hungarian oak barrels.

2014 Norton – The Norton is a Virginia grape, but oddly enough it is not the state grape.  (The state grape is Viognier.)  While the taste of most wines include terms like cherry, raspberry, tobacco, etc., this wine has a very prominent grape flavor.  The Norton was another of my favorites because it was quite different from other wines I’ve tasted.

2014 Benoni’s Red Blend – Benoni’s Red Blend is a blend of Chambourcin, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Tempranillo.  It is off-dry and slightly sweet.  It is a very drinkable American table wine that pairs well with food.

Ghost Wine The Winery at La Grange Northern Virginia
Ghost wine.
On top of the winery making good wine and having centuries of history including a Civil War connection, the winery also has a ghost.  The ghost of Benoni is thought to haunt the manor, so every day a glass of red wine is left on the mantle in the tasting room for the ghost.  It is said the wine level goes down as the day goes by.  Ghostly thirst or scientific evaporation?  You decide.

In addition to visiting the tasting room, visitors can enjoy the outdoors at picnic tables and Adirondack chairs or head downstairs to the old stone-walled cellar.  Visitors are allowed to bring in outside food if they want to have a picnic outside or dine at one of the tables in the cellar or upstairs.  We grabbed lunch boxes from nearby Annie’s Kitchen Table.

Thank you to Discover Prince William & Manassas for hosting our trip to Virginia and making this post possible.  As always, all opinions are my own.

Katherine Belarmino has been traveling for over ten years on a quest to see as much of the world as possible, experience new cultures, and sample other cuisines and libations. She also writes the travel blog Travel the World, which journals her world travels with her husband Romeo and seeks to encourage others to take the time to travel.