Visiting Vintage Ridge & Aspen Dale Wineries

It’s been a while since I did a post about wineries, so let me combine two that are on opposite sides of I-66 from each other near the villages of Delaplane and Marshall, about 60 miles west of Washington DC.  Both are smaller wineries that make great food wines and in fact pair their tastings with food.

Vintage Ridge is on the north side, just outside Delaplane, and makes some very interesting and unusual wines. The tastings here are done by pairing two wines at a time so that you can compare them directly side by side. Of the seven wines we tasted, six were done this way, and only the first wine was poured solo. All their wines are Virginia-grown and are on the dry side.  They offer food-wine tastings on the first weekend of every month.  (We were there in the middle of the month so didn’t get to try the pairings.)

Vintage Ridge tasting room

Vintage Ridge tasting room

The first wine was Maiden Voyage, a mix of Vidal Blanc and Mourvèdre (an unusual grape for Virginia). It had a very definite hint of licorice both on the nose and on the palate. They recommend pairing with something like smoked trout.

The first two paired wines were a Merlot and a Syrah. Both were good, a little earthy in their aroma, with the Merlot also having a bit of dark cherry to the taste and the Syrah a hint of smokiness.

Next up was their Cab Franc and Petit Verdot. The Cab Franc had that nice light peppery finish combined with dark fruit (like blackberry or dark cherry). The Petit Verdot was more tannic with a bit of earthy, mushroomy taste. I could imagine it going well with a nice steak, for instance.

The last pair was the Dragon Dance Syrah Rosé and Summer Night (Vidal Blanc). The Dragon Dance was a pretty, light melon color and in tasting, started fruity then finished with a hint of floral tones. Summer Night had Vidal’s characteristic stone fruit taste with a short and rather dry finish (despite having 1.5% residual sugar).  We brought a bottle of Summer Night home and later paired it with some homemade pâté and then with some Appalachian Tomme cheese, both of which brought out the stone fruit in the wine and went quite well with it.

They happened to have their Long Shot Petit Verdot Rosé open, so we also got to try that at the end. I liked it; it had a light cranberry nose and taste, with a crisp finish (and, surprisingly, a hint of cinnamon!). It would be a great wine to serve at Thanksgiving.

Vintage Ridge cabin

Historic cabin at Vintage Ridge entrance

About two weeks laters, we visited Aspen Dale Winery at the Barn again. We’ve been there several times before and have always enjoyed the visit. The winery is in an old barn on a historic property near the home of 19th-century Supreme Court chief justice John Marshall, famous for several notable rulings that form the basis for legal precedents that still exist today.

Aspen Dale farmhouse

Aspen Dale’s old farmhouse

Aspen Dale had five wineries on its tasting line-up. The first was Mary Madeleine’s Rosé, which had a somewhat grassy, almost Sauvignon Blanc-type nose to me, even though it’s mostly Vidal Blanc (95%), plus port wine to give it a nice pink color. This was served with medium cheddar cheese. Before the cheese, the wine had a slightly grassy, peachy taste with a crisp finish, but the cheese brought out a bit of strawberry and the crispness was mellowed a bit.

Second was Sarah’s Chapeau (Vidal Blanc and Sauvignon Blanc, 50/50 blend), served with brie. Before the cheese, this again had a bit of a grassy nose and then a citrus taste with a hint of apricot. Afterwards, again the crispness mellowed and the apricot came out more.

Next was Hildersham, 100% Sauvignon Blanc, served with green sage Darby cheddar cheese and then white chocolate (tasted separately, not together!). Before the food, I got a pear/apple scent and then a citrus taste with a crisp finish. After the cheese, the pear taste came out more, and then after the white chocolate, the apple definitely seemed to be more prominent.

The first red was Parris Country Blend (80% Merlot, 20% Cab Franc), served with plain pheasant sausage (which was fabulous!). Before tasting, the wine had an earthy, leathery, dark fruit scent, and the taste was a nice dark fruit/earthy mix with a light peppery finish. After the sausage, though, the pepper smoothed out.

The second red and last wine was Rockawalkin’, a Bordeaux-style blend of Cab Sauvignon, Petit Verdot, and Malbec, served with jalapeño-Monterey Jack pheasant sausage and then a goat cheese/dark chocolate combo. Before the food, the nose was kind of mushroomy with dark fruit. With the sausage, the dark fruit came more to the fore, and with the goat cheese/chocolate, the wine had a nice smooth taste.

We stayed for a glass of wine, my husband picking the rosé with the Parris Country Blend being my choice. Having a full glass of wine gave us a better sense of the taste. The rosé had a hint of raisin to it, which makes sense given that it has 5% port. And as my red aerated, the typical green pepper of the Cab Franc came out more in the smell. Both were great!

Aspen Dale tasting room

Aspen Dale’s tasting room

I hope these notes on various Virginia wineries will perhaps inspiring some of you to consider visiting us and trying out our many wonderful wineries and wines!  In the meantime, cheers!

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