First visit to Wisdom Oak

My new boss has recommended Wisdom Oak Winery to me for more than a year. I’d never heard of it, and she gave the caveat that they were small-production and sometimes ran out of some wines, so check before going. Well, last week they won a gold medal in the Governor’s Cup competition, so I figured I’d better get there before the unwashed masses descend upon it.

Husband had a conference for work and was busy all day so I grabbed a friend and went. It’s shockingly close to home for me, though the turn off the main road is basically to a one lane road that basically felt like a bike path and scared me to death on the way out. I was certain it had to be a one way road and even asked how to get out…. fortunately it was very low traffic.

We had a reservation, which was really important because there are only three tables in the tasting room, though you can also sit in other areas. They have an expansive outdoor area, but with cool rain that wasn’t going to happen.

They are sticking with the “choose a flight” tasting room model, bringing that flight to your table. While I like this approach (a byproduct of pandemic safety protocols) in general, I do miss the interaction you get at a tasting bar, asking questions about each wine and the winery’s philosophy. Nonetheless, we did bend the ears of the two tasting room staff who helped us out.

I went with pours of the North Garden White, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Chambourcin. Now you know, I have never liked a chambourcin. I have often mentioned it as being akin to smuckers (my friend said Welch’s because its cheaper). Let me be very clear. This chambourcin deserved its medal. More on that in a bit.

The North Garden White is a nice white wine, and it’s really perfect for a very hot day. As I sipped it, I pictured myself midday in the summer on our screened in porch watching the sun pass over and sear the grass in the yard, being refreshed with every sip of this wine. As a blend of Chardonnay, Traminette, and Petit Manseng, it had maybe an echo of sweet to it, but was dry. I thought I got an unexpected hint of oak (tho I am certain they said stainless steel fermentation) but again, I’m not terribly familiar with Traminette, and that could be what I was picking up. My friend asked me what fruit I picked up, and the only one I could sense was pear. This would be a good wine for summer for sure.

The 2019 Cabernet Sauvignon was a good standard cab. It had a good bit of oak flavor to it, but it blended nicely. They had four different bottles on their menu, each barreled in a different type of oak. I asked if they would do an event with the four to compare. That could be an amazing experience, though with my uneducated palate, I’d just sit there and be like “I taste oak.” But getting the chance to see the impact of these winemaker choices on wine flavors is so interesting. The cab was very good, and I enjoyed the sample of it. I’d have it again.

So that Chambourcin. It was deep, influenced by oak, but also dark. The fruit you usually get from this varietal was there, but not as overwhelming and forward and jammy as usual. It really was a qualitatively different example of this varietal. There was no hint of sweet, no sense of missing peanut butter sandwich. I liked it enough that I ordered a full glass.

I also had a glass of the Petit Manseng. I think this was my favorite of the day. I do see this as a perfect summer wine. Dry petit manseng, done right, is simply a stunning wine. I appreciated the flavors and crisp overall nature of the wine. Winner of the day.

Had we more time with the staff, I would have asked a lot about the process for making the Chambourcin. I am very curious how they got here. I truly believe it’s largely about how you farm the wine that has a massive influence of the wine taste and quality, so I’m really wondering what they are doing to get here. Of course there may also be cellar influence, and I’m equally as curious about that as I do not care for high-intervention wines – I get enough chemicals from other processed food and drink sources. But if our hybrid grapes are actually capable of surviving in the climate change we’re seeing now, and make wine this good from them, the future is not lost.

All in all, I recommend a visit to Wisdom Oak. We did have a little bit of a nice chat with the staff, but they were working very hard, and I hate pulling them from other customers. Some club members came in to pick wines up, so there may have been high traffic expected due to a club release.

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