On the Wine Trail to Winding Road Cellars

After our stop at Greenhill, dad agreed to the adventure and we drove down backroads through Fauquier County to get to 66 and then to Markham, where we stopped in at Winding Road Cellars.  It is aptly named, as the road is perfect for an Italian sportscar/SUV (looking at you husband).  We were unfortunately tailgated down the entire road by people from Maryland, who mercifully turned off at the winery next door, as I didn’t want to have to fight them at this winery.

Let me start by saying that as you see in the picture above, the setting is stunning.  This is a perfect place for a beautiful day on the deck overlooking vines and pond.  There was a party bus there, but we had the tasting room to ourselves as it was early, and the busload was in the basement having a birthday party.

The tasting menu had five wines on it, and we began with a 2012 Chardonnay.  She shared that this was done “in reverse,” meaning that it was fermented in oak and then aged in stainless steel.  She didn’t share why, other than to just look at the impact of the process on the wine itself.  The wine was pleasant with what felt like a nutty quality at the end to me.  It didn’t have the buttery taste that I don’t care for in chardonnay, but it also wasn’t as crisp as I usually like.

Next up, the 2014 Twilight – a white blend done all in stainless steel.  The co-owner, who was running our tasting, said that her husband keeps the blends a secret, even from her!  This was a nice white and I had trouble identifying grapes in it (and remember I don’t come anywhere near thinking that I am an expert in any way!).  I suspect Vidal Blanc and maybe something like a petit manseng – it didn’t have sweetness, but it was very neutral in that way.  There was a light hint of floral notes, but nothing big or overwhelming.  It was crisp, and this was my best in show wine here.  She recommended pairing it with spicy food, and I could see that working well.

Taste number three, the 2014 “Gloaming” – which, despite my perfect score on the SAT verbal, I did not know was a Scottish word for Twilight.  And it was a twin for the twilight – same grapes from the same vineyard and harvest, but rather than being all in stainless steel, this was done in oak.  The wine itself was more golden than clear, and that reflected in the flavor – the presence of the oak was strong and it added a thickness and viscosity to the wine that surprised me.  I did not like this version of the wine, as I don’t care much for oakey white wine.

Taste number four, start the reds – Tribute.  This red blend was once again a secret.  She did let us in on the fact that the dominant grapes were Cab Sauv and Cab Franc.  They did come through in the flavors, and you could see it was approaching a Bordeaux style blend.  I could tell this was a good wine, but there was a little tart at the end with a hint of fizz that made me think the bottle was having a secondary fermentation – probably just a problem with that specific bottle.  The blend itself was nice, and if we had more time I may have asked for another pour to check and engaged her with whether there was a bottle specific problem.  Dad picked it up too, I found out on the way out.

Finally, the 2013 cab franc.  This is a wine they released a year ago, having spent four years in oak.  It was a soft and smooth cab franc, and had all the right characteristics, albeit muted, probably by the time in oak, but I’m trying to remember in the 2013 vintage was the heavy rain year that caused grapes to soak up more moisture during ripening and show less complexity, or what happened….. It was a good taste, but I felt it wasn’t competing with other cab francs in the same price range.

My overall feeling is that this is a nice spot, and probably an awesome place to spend an afternoon – there is nice intimacy, and probably lots of opportunity to talk with the owners (the other co-owner seemed to be busy with the party downstairs, so couldn’t stop to talk) about their process.  They are definitely doing some fun stuff – fermenting/aging the same blend in two different ways to see how they develop differently.  This is the kind of work that really intrigues me.

I think they are in a stage of developing – the co-owner noted that they didn’t have their own equipment, and the bottle indicated that the wine was bottled at Mediterranean Cellars, so they are building and growing their winery.  This is a place I may check out again in a year or so to see how they are developing and changing, as I think their wines, especially the Twilight, have some real potential.

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