Barrel Oak Winery
Munchkin and Pomeroy got so caught up in the grand opening excitment at Barrel Oak Winery (BOW) they almost forgot to post.
What a day! The big stone fireplace was still an open hole in the wall; the railing had yet to be connected upstairs; and there were bathroom glitches. But the tasting room and the wines were ready for the the crowds that came pouring in off I-66. Host Brian Roeder welcomed the Wine Dogs warmly, and led us through a tasting of seven basic-flight and five reserve wines in between greetings from his buds and even a congratulatory call from home.
Sharon serves as winemaker, and her basic wines are solid. The BOWHaus White recently took Gold at both the Virginia State Fair and again at the 2008 Indy International Wine Competition. We can attest that it's light and fresh and a great patio-sipping wine on a hot summer day. Even Munchkin, a confirmed red wine drinker enjoyed, although she is partial to the BOWHaus Red (note the pawprints on the bottle).
Pomeroy found the Merlot easy to drink, while Munchkin was torn between her usual fav the CabFranc (great peppery finish) and the velvety smooth Petit Verdot. Not to be missed are the dessert wines, the pineapply Late Harvest Viogner was great, but overshadowed by the Chocolate Lab. This rich red blend aged with real chocolate is a dessert in itself.
Flowers lined the tasting bar, including an arrangement bearing good luck wishes from Holli and John at neighboring Three Fox Vineyards. The Roeders are helping promote synergy among Fauquier County's wineries and businesses, even bringing in the alpacas from the Full Moon Farm. There are beautiful alpaca items for sale in the spacious tasting room as well. Brian has seen to every detail, playing up advantage of setting and incorporating rocks from the Blue Ridge and wood from barrels into the design.
Chester Gap Cellars
Front Royal, VA
The Wine Dogs made their second visit to Chester Gap this weekend to pick up more bottles of the their new summer standard... the 2006 Rose, an exquisite blend of CabFranc, Petit Verdot, and Merlot bled off the fine grapes grown on the estate.
It was April when Roy and Munchkin first fell into the Gap... actually, they decided to spring up on Chester Gap Cellars to check out the new tasting room and patio deck (the a picnic table was crafted by the local tech class). For years, owners Bernd and Kristi Jung had been doing their tastings under a canvas tent behind their home.
"We focus on the wine," Bernd told the Wine Dogs, and the results certainly show. This wine is Quality with a capital "Q." Merchants and restaurants in DC and across Virginia are lapping it up (as did the Wine Dogs). The Chester Gap label can be found in more than 80 establishments, including Dean & Deluca and Whole Foods, or look for it when dining at Bistro Bis, the Georgetown Club, Charlie Palmer's and the Inn at Little Washington, among others. Not bad for a small vineyard that produces 1,500 cases a year.
German-born Bernd has been making wine since mid-1980s, arriving in Virginia via Florida. A five-year quest for a site more reminiscent of his native Bavaria, with rolling hills and and lush mountains brought the Jungs to Virginia. As soon as they saw the property "on the top of the world," with its eastern exposures for the grapes and stunning views of the Blue Ridge for their guests, the Jung's made an offer. They knew they had found their dream vineyard.
Bernd is an excellent and enthusiastic host. He led our pack through a tasting of seven wines and patiently answered every question barked out at him. The 2006 Sauvignon Blanc is crisp and refreshing, kept cold to discourage malolactic fermentation. The 2006 Viognier has an exceptionally soft feel and was delicious, as is the 2006 Viognier Reserve, fermented in steel, then aged in oak. Even the reds are soft, especially the 2006 Merlot. We tasted both a 2005 and 2006 CabFranc, the former blended with 4 percent Petit Verdot and 4 percent Merlot; the latter only the Petit Verdot to produce a strong nose, excellent mouthfeel and the peppery finish Munchkin loves. She was also impressed with the silver spit buckets.
Meanwhile, Kristi took turns serving other customers and watching the couple's exuberant 3-1/2 year old son, Luke. The Wine Dogs took Luke off her hands, Pomeroy leading him in a lively game of chase and hide and go seek... more fun even than chasing ball.
Chester Gap can be a little hard to find as you approach off 522. Look for the barrel on the left-hand side of the street, right after you pass the turn-off to the right for the town of Chester Gap.
Big wine happenings in the Blue Ridge over the Memorial Day holiday, and Munchkin and Pomeroy will be on the scene to check it out.
Barrel Oak Winery opens its tasting room this weekend, and they're pulling out all the stops with everything from live music to Full Moon Alpacas. You just know a winery whose slogan is BOW-WOW has to be pretty doggone friendly. The Wine Dogs can vouch. We met owners Sharon and Brian Roeder at Fox Meadow last year and they told of us their plans to open a new winery just off I-66. We've enjoyed watching it go up, and we can't wait to meet their trusted but loopy golden retriever, Barley, and new fluffy retriever pup, Justice, on Saturday. Look for baby pics!
Not quite new, but with a considerable facelift is the winery formerly known as Stillhouse. It reopens on Saturday as the Philip Carter Winery of Virginia. Celebration includes music, pony rides, a fencing tourney, and VIP vistors including Thomas Jefferson, Charles Carter (perhaps Virginia's first winemaker), and yours truly. This is a winery heavy with hsitoric overtones... Carter is an ancestor of new owner Philip Carter Strother.
Munchkin and Pomeroy met Philip and his wife Danielle and their wine dog Fairfax (as in Lord) last month when we dropped by to inspect the progress on the tasting room and can be seen here supervising Danielle's clean-up efforts. We left Fairfax in charge.
Three Fox Vineyards
Wine Dogs have a new hang-out in Northern Virginia. Munchkin was on hand to kick off the Buzz Bark Bash Weekend, aka the grand opening of the new dog-friendly patio at Buzz on Slaters.
For those who unfamiliar with Buzz, it's a great addition to the local scene in North Old Town. Already a hit with the mommy crowd and the wired-in set, Buzz's savvy owners are now catering to canines (and their people).
The kickoff featured yummy biscuits and great Spanish wines provided by Planet Wine in Del Ray. The Marques de Caceres rose was perfect for a sizzling spring evening.
Buzz regularly offers wine by the glass, and some special cocktails. This is not your father's coffee house. But it may very well become Munchkin's!