Weeks ago I was perusing my favorite local DC food blog, metrocurean, and got inspired by the Hurricane Wine Tasting post that blogger Amanda wrote about her recent winery trip. Having been to Barboursville recently, and loved it, I was antsy to take a trip out 66 to the wineries closer by, and Amanda provided me and my group of friends with the perfect trip planner. So the six of us set out on an afternoon trip.
Our first stop was Linden Vineyards. We piled in the cars and set out with our trusty GPS to guide us. We had heard this winery was one of the best in the state, and knew it was pretty prestigious and they were serious about their wine. So we were slightly surprised when we turned onto a 3-mile dirt road, but figured, well, if they say it’s this good, I guess you gotta work for it… And so we drove, and we drove, and Matt’s car got all kinds of dirty, but finally we arrive at Linden and it’s just gorgeous. See above. The porch faces the mountain (well, hill, if you’re going to get technical I suppose), people were having picnics on the lawn, the sky was blue.
So we went inside. It’s not too terribly inviting inside, just one single counter, no tables. We had a group of six, and the sign clearly said no groups larger than six. And they mean it. Amanda’s post had warned that the porch was reserved for “members” (ie: people who have bought a case of Linden wine during the calendar year). I didn’t think it would be quite so strict.
It was that strict. We tasted our wine, and were reminded that the porch is only for case club members. So basically we got to go outside, stand, stare and then leave. Not super friendly. And for the wine? Now I don’t claim to be ANYTHING close to a wine connoisseur, so I could be totally off-base here, but it wasn’t very good. The whites kind of tasted, to me, like… coughwatercough… in my opinion. Again, in MY OWN PERSONAL opinion. Don’t yell at me in the comments, please. So, overall, not so impressed with Linden. Not super-friendly, not homey, not overly welcoming, and um, you know, they got stuck mid-transition turning the water to wine. We left Linden, again, with the trusty GPS and realized that all that time spent winding down that dirt road was useless, as we drove PAST where we got on it on our way out on the nice paved road. So, note to self, GPS full of crap when not used in a city. If you try and repeat this trip, do it by google maps or mapquest. The GPS just throws you way out of your way.
(grapes in the mountains by Jasmine Zick)
Next on our agenda, according to Amanda, was Naked Mountain. Now, there’s a name I can get behind. Naked Mountain! The slogan is “drink naked” – and how can you not love that? They already have cool points over Linden. Naked Mountain was PACKED. The tasting counter was smooshed full of people. We finally got some counter space after 15 minutes or so. It was three bucks to taste seven wines. Four whites and three reds. We paid, and tasted. I swear the guy who was pouring the wines was twelve. Or at least he looked it. I’m assuming Naked Mountain is family run, and he’s got to be eighteen to serve (right?) so maybe it’s just convenience, but “here’s your 2004 oak barrel chardonnay, with buttery undertones” coming out of a twelve year old’s mouth just isn’t as convincing as it is out of someone legal to drink. Aside from that, it was pretty good.
The Barrel Fermented Chardonnay was nice, the 2004 was my favorite. I also liked the Merlot. (Which can be a sin, apparently.) We decided to settle down and sit outside, a few of us grabbed some wine and some gouda and we headed out to the porch, which overlooks the vineyards. A much friendlier, welcoming place than Linden, Naked Mountain lets you sit for as long as you like, and everything is reasonably priced. The cheese was cheaper than at your local Whole Foods, and just as good quality. The view was relaxing, the sun warm, and it was pretty much the perfect fall afternoon activity.
On our way out of town, we decided to stop by the local pumpkin patch. They had a sign along the entrance to 66 and we took a gamble. We wound up at this field on the side of the road next to an orchard. There were tons of pumpkins still on the vine, and lots of good round and juicy ones. We checked out all the good ones, and decided on a tall one for me, and a shorter rounder one for my roommate. They were VERY reasonably priced, at $2 for a 7 pound pumpkin. They also sold smaller pumpkins for baking, and the woman selling them was a true pumpkin aficionado and was able to give strict pumpkin cooking instructions.
All in all, a very very good fall afternoon. Relaxing in the October sun, drinking wine and picking the perfect pumpkins!
For more on Virginia Wineries you can click on through VirginiaWine.org – the winery map here is helpful. Next trip out I’m looking forward to going to Three Fox Vineyards (they have a bocce ball court!), as well as the newbie in town, Barrel Oak Winery. Oh, and I want to try Rappahannock Cellars, also. Any suggestions from you, oh faithful reader? What is your favorite Virginia winery?
(photos from me, as flickr user Needlesspaces, Rebecca, as well as flickr user RSchley, and our friend Jasmine, who doesn’t have a flickr account that I’m aware of.)
I’ve been to about five wineries and like the wine at Linden the best (although their exclusive porch/deck is for the birds). I really like their Claret. In general though, VA wines aren’t nearly as good as those from California, Oregon, NZ, Australia, and of course France, but it’s still fun to drive out into the country on a nice weekend afternoon.
We’ve had a great time at Bluemont Vineyard both times we’ve been out there. It’s just up the hill from our CSA, and they use the farm’s berries for their berry wines. Their porch has an really amazing vista, and a really zippy viognier.
My favorite vineyard would have to be Pollak Vineyards near Charlottesville. Not only is their wine fantastic, but the staff is extremely knowledgeable about each of the wines.
About Linden Vineyards: My, my – how snooty can you be? Grow up. Rules are for following, miss. I happen to like the place and the wine, and I’m not a case club member either.
Tarara Winery in Leesburg, VA has some nice festivals during the summer. You can do a great wine tour in Nelson County, VA, my favorite winery there is probably Afton Mountain. The Veritas winery has a super-snazzy tasting room… http://www.explorenelsonwine.com/
My friends and I did a similar journey last weekend, but to an apple orchard instead of pumpkin patch. We were similarly very disappointed with Linden’s new rules. We had visited the winery two falls ago and fell in love with the facilities and enjoyed the wine. For weeks we were looking forward to having a picnic on their hill and enjoying a bottle or two of their wine. No Dice this year!!
We were informed of the same rules, which regrettingly were not shared in an email response to our request for names of orchards near Linden after we visited their winery. We were surprised by the signs of six or less parties, but were okay with that rule, as a party of four who thought the limitation would promote a more peaceful environment. However, we could not understand how they would benefit from turning away weekend guests who did not want to commit to their case club membership. I also note that the details of membership were never fully described to us. The membership was used more as a barrier than an invitation.
The woman at Linden was kind enough to refer us to Fox Meadow winery, which was a blessing in disquise of the whole experience. The options of standard tasting ($4) and premium tasting ($6) were nice at Fox Meadow. The staff was very friendly, and the wine selection was good. They even offered picnic tables on the premises and a view of the mountains. Just gorgeous.
I highly recommend Fox Meadow winery! Oh, and do visit the Apple House store on Rt. 55 for their doughnuts and kettle corn.
I like almost everything at Barrel Oak Winery, with the Chocolate Lab, Bowhaus Red and Seyval Blanc being my faves. And I don’t normally like Virginia wines much. They’re very friendly, and have a patio with a great view of the valley and mountains. They’re open late on Friday nights, too – music on the patio in the summer, and movie nights inside now.
Visited Naked Mountain in the spring and the place truly is in a beautiful setting – def worth a visit. I’d also recommend Corcoran and Hidddencroft vineyards in Loudoun county. Took a fantastic trip on the weekend including using the ferry at Poolesville to cross the Potomac. Certainly went down well with the in-laws!
My wife and I have lived in the area now since 2006 and we haven’t been out on the 66 for a drive yet. We are from Nevada. So we have been priviledged with Napa/Sonoma wines. In fact my wife’s grandmother lives in American Canyon, right next to Napa. We got married in Napa and I am becoming quite the wine connoisseur.
I guess that is what I get for have a child, attending grad school and working for a nonprofit get me. No time and no money. Well, this up coming weekend, that might not be the case. We actually have been talking about it for a while. It could happen.
Wish me luck.
Thanks for the post to keep my mood in the right place.
Man, my grammar and syntax sucked there. Sorry about that.
WHAT? Two years you’ve been here and you haven’t headed out to Shenandoah????
Put the laptop down now, Will, and get your ass in the car.