Who wants to party on a dreary, rainy day? I do! Especially when it’s a wine club pickup party!
Because when I walked into the tasting room, there was a big fire in the fireplace and the promise of good wine from magnums of rosé at the end of the counter. Talk about lifting your mood.
I’m always a little early, because as an epic introvert I really want my choice of seats, preferably where I can be by myself to jot notes, sip wine, and be with my thoughts. I checked in and was sent to the Garden Room.
Kent was running today’s tasting. Walsh is up and running at a high level of production of their own wines, and I think there is a custom crush business of sorts on site too – I know they make wine for October One and several other smaller producers. In fact, on their site they are now sort-of “incubating” several brands in their tasting room, as well as hosting the bar takeovers where independent brands without tasting rooms can serve at their counter and they continue to sell their wines after the event. This is one of the great exemplars of how Virginia Winemakers are supporting each other on this journey – getting new brands up and on their feet and providing access and exposure to all kinds of customers. Walsh has several winemakers overseeing the process, and Kent has been there since 2017.
The tasting of club wines began with the second vintage of Walsh’s 2022 Hickory Ridge Albariño. I was lukewarm on the first release of this varietal, as I am with Virginia Albariño in general. Albariño is very up-and-coming in Virginia, and it feels like everyone is making one now. One winemaker from Central Va told me he thinks it is the fad of the moment and will pass, and another told me it’s much more suited to thrive here, much better than Viognier (not my favorite at all). This one had a ton of zing and pizzazz to it. While some in the tasting were saying that it was very similar to what they remember of the 2021 Walsh Albariño, I feel that this was a good bit brighter, the tropical fruit was clearer in it,and I enjoyed it more. Could be my preferences evolving, who knows?
Kent explained that the Hickory Ridge site is a cooler site and the grapes there often ripen later that other grapes, allowing them to let it hang, and it probably builds up more acidity due to that. That may explain my perception of more zing and fun to it, and it had an almost effervescent (no, this wasn’t bubbles or secondary fermentation – it was just the sensation on the tongue) quality to it.
Kent had a lot to share about their plans for Albariño on this site and the Bethany Ridge site, as they currently grow an acre there. They’re looking toward releasing a white blend that will be age-able from this site, with Albariño, Viognier, Chenin Blanc, and Petit Manseng. I’ve found at least one other blend that put Viognier with Chenin was actually wonderful – with the Chenin’s bright and happy feeling masking Viognier’s tart and woody quality that I dislike. So I’m very excited about this site-specific blend.
The Albariño is for club only and will sell out quickly – they produced 100 cases, and I kept all four in my allocation.
The second wine for tasting was the 2022 Plateau Rosé. This is bottled fun with bubbles. I found it slightly sweeter than I remember last year’s being. It’s a blend of Cabernet Franc and Merlot from the Twin Notch Vineyard. They get it to 95% fermented and then bottle it to finish off the last bit in bottle to present a young, lightly bubbly wine. This is fresh and fun. Plateau always sells out, and this is for the club only. I did trade back two of my bottles for regular Twin Notch Rosé. Summer is coming and I plan to host Rosé on the patio frequently.
As usual, the powerhouse I love is last. This one did not disappoint. We completed our tasting with the 2020 Bethany Ridge Cabernet Franc. They did add about 20% of Petit Verdot from this vineyard into the mix. The vines were planted in 2018, but the grapes are showing great flavor and development already. I just sat and swirled and smelled for bit, because the wine opened nicely in my glass – I think I will decant a bottle for a bit at some point, because I think this one changed just during the tasting. At the start it was a soft wine with a light to medium body but at the end of the sip it seemed to change its mind and started putting out a sensory experience. I haven’t had this with Cabernet Franc before where it opens up like that. It repeated on the second taste too. The notes describe a “lingering finish,” and this definitely has it, and it’s a houseguest you don’t want to see leave.
Kent shared that this is from the “Castillo Block” in the Bethany Ridge Vineyard. It’s got great drainage and shallow soils and they’re excited about the potential there. They’re growing Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Merlot there and are planning for a Castillo Block blend – that’s really exciting.
Turns out this Cabernet Franc was a silver in the Governor’s Cup competition. It missed gold by one point. You know how I feel about points, scores, and ratings. But at least that means no one will swipe my stash before I can buy more :). All four bottles here were keepers.
Walsh continues to wow with the amazing wines and well-designed experience visiting, which is why I’ll make the 2+ hour trip still to go there. Many of their vines are still young and developing, so it will be really exciting to see how their wines develop in the coming years.
On a rainy day, the sunshine is at Walsh.
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