Since they posted about their upcoming opening I have wanted to check them out, and today was the day! Vacuuming and laundry done early and off I go to the wilds of western Loudoun.
There’s a story with this place. It was North Gate and went up for sale. The Walshes purchased it and set up shop. I never visited North Gate and know nothing about it or its reputation. But what the Walshes have done here is pretty fantastic.
I arrived and a man (who I later realized is co-owner Nate Walsh) offered me a glass of rose and asked me what I would like today. He gave me a menu and sent me to the tasting bar.
It’s a gorgeous property. I never came when it was North Gate so I don’t know how extensive renovations were, but they’ve created a really nice spot to unwind and relax. And the good wine, great views, and awesome decor help with that too.
So I was mighty impressed by the rose greeting at the door, that is a nice, welcoming touch. It adds a bit of class to the overall experience. I proceeded to the tasting bar and settled in for the tasting.
Six wines on the menu. The tasting fee was a little high but the pours were generous, and they are establishing themselves as a winery and need to get on the map and probably pay some healthy startup costs, so I get it.
The rose was pleasant and crisp without the sweet sticky taste some rose at some young wineries can have, which was nice. A great touch here is the labels on the bottles, with notes that describe the wine and process.
I enjoyed the rose, at 90% Cab Franc and 10% merlot. I tend to find cab franc rose on the weaker side – Virginia rose can get very powerful and have lots of punch when the richer, darker grapes are used. This was a fast time sitting on the skins and then pull off to create the rose, rather than a blended rose. I enjoyed it.
The next wine was the 2017 Sauvignon Blanc. I’m excited to see so much SB in Virginia, and I’m sure it’s tough to grow. This was a good one, although the appearance of orange blossom at the end was kind of interesting. It added an unexpected note to the crisp acidity of the wine, with the lemon coming through most of it. I didn’t like the orange blossom ending, but liked the wine overall, and given my current SB kick, bought a bottle to bring home.
The 2017 Viognier was an oaked example of this grape. 75% was aged in neutral oak and 25% in stainless steel. You know how I feel about oak if you’ve read for a while. I feel that the oak (despite being neutral, there was some flavor imparted) added a toasty sensation to it that took away from the Viognier’s pleasant brightness. If the Walshes read this, please know you have a fan who is looking for stainless steel only white wines :).
The 2016 En Passant had a story to it. This is a Bordeaux blend they made from the remaining barrels of wine that the North Gate team left for them. While being a pleasant and drinkable red blend, I felt that this wine did not have what I look for in terms of bright fruit. Rather, it left me wanting a little. Given their other wines, I doubt this is indicative of where they are heading with future vintages and blends.
The 2017 Russ Mountain Merlot was actually another blend, this time 90% merlot, 10% petit verdot. I usually find Virginia merlot to be very soft and kind of weak. This one was pretty outstanding, and I’m thinking that the darkness and depth of the PV really added to the wine. This was a big winner and I enjoyed a glass in the corner while starting this draft.
Finally, the Staggerwing Tannat. Some others at the tasting bar had been discussing this with other wineries’ tannats, and one protesting that he didn’t care for the grape at all. He was convinced to try it and wound up loving it.
I’m always a little hesitant with tannat, because it’s a BIG grape, and it is a tough one to work with. If the winery doesn’t do it right, it really isn’t very good at all. This one was a nice surprise – big and bold as we expect tannat to be, but they were able to keep it soft and under control. I still got the astringency at the end that is typical of tannat, but the overall experience was nice and soft. This is a well-done wine.
The space as a whole is really gorgeous. They did a nice job with layout and decorating, and with it being the first day in the 60s (except maybe for one day a few weeks ago during False Spring), many folks were on the patio enjoying the day outside.
When you head outside, you get a view of the vines on the property which is great. Sarah (not one of the owners) did my tasting and did a great job, and explained that they have several Loudoun County vineyards where they are growing grapes. On the way out the door I got to chat quickly with Sarah (one of the owners) but only briefly because more people continued to come in. They opened for real last weekend, so they are getting lots of “checking the new spot out” traffic. I shared with Sarah that I though the facility was fantastic and the wine was solid. She told me I had purchased “Sarah’s favorite three-pack,” which I thought was funny. I brought home a rose, sauvignon blanc and tannat. I plan to throw the tannat into my eventual Virginia Tannat backyard tasting bonanza, which hopefully will come together one evening with patio furniture and a fire pit.
A few thoughts for them to think about as they move ahead – I always love to be able to chat with the winemaker(s) about philosophy and process, and that wasn’t an option. They were very busy, so I don’t fault them at all, but a thing to consider moving ahead is how can they be more accessible to their guests? Getting their perspective on their wines is part of what I truly love about visiting wineries. The menu had little information, and it would have helped to have the notes that are on the bottles – that’s nice to refer to during the tasting itself. Sarah ran such a great tasting that she brought me each bottle so I could refer to it while I took notes and sampled the wine (and she even trusted me NOT to uncork and pour myself more!). I’m sure they have plans to continue to enhance the experience as it moves forward, after all, this is their second weekend.
I give the overall experience a thumbs up. I’m wondering how the crowds will settle out and whether they will eventually need the reservation system for tastings that their website mentions? Hopefully they will be able to keep up with it and keep it a fun visit. So check out Walsh Family Wine and tell me what you think. I think it’s a strong Loudoun County winery with a good future!