Keswick Vineyards presented the most consistently elegant wines we sampled. On our visit to the tasting room, which is surrounded by rolling vine- yards and forest, the owners’ son poured four especially memorable wines for us.
2011 Verdejo. This Spanish variety had a fresh, green aroma and a sweet suppleness that clarified into limey acids. Lively but restrained.
2011 Rosé. A blend of five mostly Bordeaux varieties, this refreshing wine moved from strawberries to grapefruity acids to a chalky finish. 2010 Merlot. The beautifully jammy nose grabbed me immediately. Voluptuous with dark fruit and black pepper, but very well structured.
2010 Cabernet Sauvignon. Just bottled, this wine had aromas of cherries and cocoa, ripe red fruit flavors and well-balanced tannins. Again, a fine structure.
Barboursville Vineyards grows the Bordeaux varieties that excel in Virginia, as well as several from Italy, the home country of the owners, the Zonins. Numerous wines are available in the crowded tasting room, but we preferred to enjoy them in the tranquility of the restaurant, Palladio.
NV Barboursville Brut. A lovely sparkler with elegantly small bubbles and florality both in the aroma and taste. Some yeast as well, and round, orangey acids.
2011 Reserve Chardonnay. Expected oakiness on the nose, but also something green, a harbinger of the lively flavors to come. Balanced and light on its feet, moving from fruit to butter to bright acids.
2010 Barbera Reserve. Enticingly jammy aroma. On the palate, deep red fruit flavors got a lift from food- friendly acids before being grounded by medium tannins and a finish of iron.
2007 Malvaxia Passito. Made from Moscato grapes air-dried in the “Passito” shed, this seductive wine smells like a fine Sauternes. Luscious wood and honeyed fruit flavors were ably balanced by surprisingly zesty acids. Pure delight.
Jefferson Vineyards grows vines where Thomas Jefferson attempted to start the American wine industry. This winery has some well-made whites, but the reds really caught my attention.
2011 Cabernet Franc. Actually a blend of 2010 and 2011 fruit (2011 was a poor vintage for reds), this wine had a light body but dark fruit, with noticeable structure and a satisfyingly earthy finish.
2010 Petit Verdot. Jefferson Vine- yards was the first Virginia winery to bottle this Bordeaux blending grape as a varietal. (Many wineries have since followed.) It had a dark, jammy aroma; meaty, plummy flavors; juicy acids; and wisp of tobacco at the end.
2009 Meritage. Aged 24 months in oak. Very rich, with a chocolaty nose, jam and vanilla on the palate and a cocoa nib finish. Ample acids and medium tannins kept things balanced.
Horton Vineyards makes some of the most unusual wines in Virginia, experimenting with all sorts of seldom-seen varieties in a castle-like winery. NV Sparkling Viognier “Dom Virginion.” You won’t often see sparkling Viognier, because “it’s a pain to produce,” according to the winemaker. A surprisingly yeasty aroma, tiny bubbles, tropical fruit flavors and a zing of acids.
2009 Tannat. What fun to see a Tannat, a red rarely found as a varietal outside Uruguay. Its spiciness and gaminess had me fantasizing about pairing it with elk steak or venison tenderloin.
2007 Pinotage. The only Pinotage (blended with 18 percent Tannat) I encountered in Virginia, this well- structured wine tasted much fruitier than I expected, without the meaty quality I associate with South African expressions of this variety.
Trump Winery has the same winemaker it did when it was Kluge Estate, the ill-fated venture of the unpopular Patricia Kluge. I especially liked the sparkling wines (see below), and the slick tasting room also serves a small menu of salads and appetizers. NV Blanc de Blancs. The strawberry nose took me aback, and indeed, this 100 percent Chardonnay started sweet. Up-front apples resolved into refined bubbles and a finish of juicy acids.
NV Rosé. Mostly Chardonnay with a 5 to 10 percent Pinot Noir dosage, this wine had an almost honeyed aroma, and again, the palate started sweet. But yeast and lemony acids balanced the currant flavor admirably. NV Blanc de Noirs. Red berries dominated the almost jammy nose. Rich fruit gave way to bracing acids and a dry finish with a hint of yeast.
Pippin Hill Farm has a range of perfectly drinkable wines, many of which are characterized by limey, almost pointy acids. But the rather forgettable wines here are secondary to the spectacular views. Settle in on the terrace, order a glass of the Cabernet Franc or Meritage, and have lunch overlooking the rolling countryside leading to the distant Blue Ridge Mountains.
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