Shakespeare and Shenandoah wineries

We just got back from a great visit to the central Shenandoah/Charlottesville area, where we saw a couple of plays in Staunton at the American Shakespeare Center (King John, Cymbeline) and, of course, visited wineries.  I’ll have a posting soon on the writing front but wanted to share some quick takes on the wines and wineries.

Pollak:  This remains one of our very favorite wineries in Virginia.  Many of the whites being released now were made under Pollak’s new winemaker, Benoît Pineau, and are very nice.  We came home with some Chardonnay, Viognier (Virginia’s signature white), Pinot Gris (not common in Virginia), and Durant White (Chardonnay-Viognier blend).

Pollak Vineyards tasting room

Pollak Vineyards tasting room (with a little water damage on the floor from Hurricane Sandy)

But it was a red that stole the show for us:  the 2010 Cab Sauvignon.  This was a real treat, not least because it’s hard to grow Cab Sauv here — it just doesn’t ripen in time. But Pollak is using a new clone that ripens earlier. This wine was great, raspberry, blackberry, and a hint of cocoa on the nose, supple tannins, and a long, long finish. (I’m enjoying a glass now, in fact, even as I type.) We got a hot baguette, some Amish sharp cheddar, and homemade strawberry jam and had a great lunch before heading off for a play.

our lunch at Pollak

Our lunch at Pollak

Flying Fox:  We swung by Flying Fox in between Pollak and Lovingston, and enjoyed catching up with the folks there. Our favorites here were the 2011 Viognier, grown on the vineyard owned by the owner’s sister at Stuart’s Draft across the mountain, and the Cab Franc, with a spicy nose, red fruit and pepper taste, and an unexpected long creamy finish. Wow! Flying Fox is near several nature preserves and hiking trails, if you’re interested in the outdoors.

View from Flying Fox

View of the Blue Ridge from Flying Fox

Lovingston:  As at Pollak, our favorites here were reds.  I liked the Reserve Merlot (2006), with its smoky, mushroomy nose and taste, and the Estate Reserve (2008), with dark fruit nose and taste with a pepper finish; this last was more tannic but not harsh.  The Pinotage was a treat, very rich and full of red fruit.  Lovingston’s winemaker is Riann Roussouw, from South Africa, and he makes Pinotage in honor of his South African heritage.

Lovingston Winery

Lovingston Vineyards’ entire red wine production

Ox-Eye:  We visit Ox-Eye every single time we’re in Staunton for the theater.  The tasting room is in an old railroad weigh station that’s been restored and is about three blocks from the Blackfriars’ Playhouse where the Shakespeare Center puts on its productions. Both are right in the heart of the small historic district in town. My favorites here were the Riesling, with a nice honey-crisp taste, and the Lemberger (also known as Blaufränkisch). Both are rather unusual wines for Virginia but Ox-Eye can produce them because their vineyard in Swoope is higher in elevation and cooler in temperature.

Ox-Eye Vineyards tasting room

Ox-Eye Vineyards tasting room

In addition, Ox-Eye was offering a wine called Brad’s Stickdog Petit Manseng, which had a lovely, rich pineapple nose and taste. It’s made by a winemaker friend who doesn’t have a tasting room of his own.

wine barrels

Wine barrels on the weighing platform

So if you like the outdoors, mountains, theater, and wine, please consider a visit to the Staunton area if you’re coming to Virginia. There’s a lot to see and do, and you won’t be disappointed.  Cheers!



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