Chester Gap Cellars

Back to wine for a quick update. We visited Chester Gap Cellars about a week ago to see what their lineup looks like at the moment.

Chester Gap’s tasting room & deck

Chester Gap was founded by Bernd and Kristi Jung, who planted their vineyard in 2000, made their first vintage in 2004, and then opened the tasting room in 2006. Bernd is originally from Munich and came to Virginia with Kristi by way of Florida. (He was out tooling about the vineyard with a friend, both with a bottle of beer in their hands.)

All of Chester Gap’s wines are estate-grown, so you’ll get a good sense of Virginia wine character here. They had two whites on the tasting list, a 2010 Viognier and a 2010 Viognier Reserve, the difference being that the reserve was finished in French oak, giving it more of a creamy, vanilla finish than the regular Viognier (fermented in stainless steel). We also got to try a 100% Roussanne, not on the tasting list but which happened to be open. This is a white Rhone blend and is (to my knowledge) hard to find as a pure varietal.

On the red side, we sampled a Merlot and a Vintner’s Red (their Bordeaux-style blend), and again got to try a red not on the main tasting list — a pure Petit Verdot, generally used for blending in Bordeaux-style wines but found more and more in Virginia as a varietal as it does very well in our hot, humid climate.

The star for me was their dessert wine, a 2010 Petit Manseng (5% RS) that was really fabulous — pineapple nose and taste, with a clean, pear-like finish. If you think of wines as being either like skim milk, full milk, or cream in terms of how they feel in the mouth, this was definitely in the cream zone. I could imagine it being good after dinner with, say, a nice Manchego cheese. And obviously this was one of the three wines we picked up that day, along with the Vintner’s Red and the Viognier (stainless version). (Just as an aside, a dry Petit Manseng was in our most recent Sunset Hills estate club selection and we’re looking forward to taking both that and the Chester Gap PM with us to the beach in several weeks, the dry version to have with dinner and the sweet wine for after dinner for comparison. It’s interesting to compare wines that way, I think.)

View from Chester Gap’s deck

Afterwards, we stepped out onto the deck to enjoy the great view. Their tasting room is on a site that’s just over 1,000 feet in elevation, and the sweeping view of the valley toward the general Washington D.C. area is really splendid. I imagine it would be fabulous in the autumn, when the leaves begin to turn.

The winery dogs

The two winery German Shepherds were out and about, mostly taking it easy in the shade since it was over 95 degrees that day and rather humid. The dog at the lower right is the mom (can’t recall her name — maybe Sasha?) and the other dog is her son, Demon (!). One of the other guests at the winery told us that Demon is actually quite pleasant when he comes up on the deck to greet visitors but that he’s a terror for intruders in the vines. Whatever. He certainly sounded rather fierce when he was barking at some birds that swooped down too low.

All in all, a very nice visit in every respect.

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