Another weekend that I’ve been looking forward to for some time…. This weekend was the Arterra 4th anniversary party! Arterra has rapidly become one of my favorite wineries because of their amazing wine, their awesome staff, their beautiful setting, and the engaging conversations with the owners. Every experience there is just awesome.
Dad and I started with lunch at King Street Oyster Bar in Middleburg. We have a little thing for oysters on the half shell.
Middleburg is the cutest little throwback town in Northern Virginia – it feels like a step back in time to a small town, and it reminds of places like Vergennes, Vermont (without the freezing cold!) with little shops lining the highway street as it passes through the town. There is literally only one stoplight (I’m pretty certain I’m right, but correct me if not!). It’s a gorgeous spot where the only chain store is safeway with a starbucks inside. #Truth. It’s horse country so there is serious money there with horse farms, etc. This charming small spot offers a good selection of raw oysters, and serves up a great salad, crabcake sandwich, or salmon BLT. We’ve always had good meals there, and once again, today did not disappoint.
After lunch, we headed straight to Arterra. And it’s a good thing we did, because the parking lot was already packed full, and we had to park on the hill/slope. One we got into the main tasting room, it was packed with people, and there were tons of customers at the bars. We learned that Jason was conducting Barrel tastings in the cellar, and so we ran downstairs to check it out.
Jason used his “wine thief” (coolest tool ever with the best name ever) to sample from three different barrels for us. All three were 2018 harvest grapes that had been barreled not that long ago. Jason emphasized that despite how brutal the weather was for wine grapes in Virginia in 2018, good wine can still come. The first barrel held 2018 Petite Syrah. This has a nice color to it, and you can start to taste what it will become in another year and a half. It had a lot of fruit to it, and Jason said that would be true of all three because they were so young. The second barrel held the 2018 Petit Verdot. Again, lots of fruit, but shockingly astringent at the end. That’s the characteristic of petit verdot that takes time to soften and mellow out. I’m betting it will be great when it’s bottled and ready to go in 2020. The third barrel was the 2018 Tannat. Again this sample was very fruit forward, and not as tannic/astringent at the end. This one also tasted like it did well in 2018.
Jason commented that he feels these three 2018 grapes taste about the same at this point in the process as those from the 2017 harvest did at this point, and 2017 was a great growing year in which the weather mostly cooperated. He has shared with me in the past that when Tannat and Petit Verdot are done ripening they just stop taking up water and turn it off, so they don’t go overly plump in those wet, wet years. I should have asked about Petite Syrah, whether it does the same thing?
The cellar tasting was a great preview of what is coming, and I cannot wait for him to release the 18 white wines and 17 reds later this year! We went upstairs to the tasting room and decided to get a bottle of cab franc to share a glass and hang out a bit. Some live music started, which was nice, (the crowd, largely around my age, loved “Sister Golden Hair,” “Heart of Gold,” and the other acoustic guitar selections and the place was the most packed I’ve seen it, with people still coming in. Everyone was in a great mood to celebrate Arterra’s birthday. Once we were ready to leave, I stumbled upon one of the 15 “hidden Jasons” in the tasting room, which ended up being a $5 off coupon, so we went ahead and paid for our cab franc and sealed it up to come home.
We drove back through Upperville and Middleburg to Greenhill to stop in and pick up my wine club package. Greenhill was also incredibly crowded, on the main floor as well as in the member lounge. We found space at a bar table and ordered a glass each of the Blanc de Blancs. We listened to the tastings going on around us, and I realized that I had swapped the bottle of Mythology out of my club package, thinking it was the Chambourcin, when it was actually mostly Merlot and about 20% of Petit Verdot blended in ( more on that below). We went ahead and got a glass of the Mythology, and I was reminded that I loved it! So we split a charcuterie platter and talked and watched the crowd.
The space was reserved for an engagement party afterwards so we had to eat and drink quickly. The mythology was really tremendous. The blend of soft and fruity Merlot mixed with the sharp, tannic punch of Petit Verdot was really incredible. This is what I really like about Virginia wine – you can get this type of blend out of it.
So about that club package… it was supposed to be Reserve Blanc de Blancs, Seyval Blanc, and Mythology. I immediately traded the Seyval for a Reserve Chardonnay. I truly believed that Mythology was their Chambourcin, and I really don’t care much for Chambourcin, so I traded it for a regular Blanc de Blancs. Once I realized it wasn’t, and we had a glass of it, i begged for it to be back in the package. Fortunately, our server was awesome and knew he could win tasting bar associate of the month for this, and he did it for me.
The reserve chardonnay was really for dad to take home, because I think he will love it – he had a sample at the Greenhill Christmas party, and liked it a lot then. He also got his 8 Chains North Sauvignon Blanc and Two Twisted Posts Thomas Great Meritage when we got back to his place.
No new spots were visited this weekend, but visiting these two is always a pleasure. I’m wondering how Arterra is considering their growth and popularity, as the crowd was just continuing to grow as we were leaving. The space is beautiful now, but I think word is out about how great their wine is and they are drawing the crowds as a result. Likewise, Greenhill was well over capacity and people continued to come. The regular tasting room was standing room only, as was the member lounge. This is why I tend to head to the wineries earlier in the day, to avoid traffic and crowds. But these two great spots are booming! Share your thoughts in the comments!