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Sunday, December 28, 2008

Flying Fox Vineyard

When you have visited many tasting rooms and vineyards, you grow to appreciate the quirky and personal tasting rooms that you stumble upon. That is the tale of how we came upon Flying Fox, as we have blown by the tasting room on Route 151 on our way to Wintergreen. The Flying Fox vineyard property is really behind Veritas, but it is so small, that they opened a little tasting room that is just after you make the turns for all the other vineyards in the vicinity. It seems to have on and off hours as it really is a one or two man/woman band. On our way home from Pollak, we finally saw it and turned off (right BEFORE the sign) and parked in back. Owner, winemaker and chief bottle washer Rich Evans greeted us warmly and we launched into the tasting from this tiny, personal winery. Rich seems to have things figured out - retired, bought the farm, sold grapes for years to Veritas, self-taught the wine business and started making and bottling Flying Fox (from their weather vane).

As Rich said, "wine is a beverage, not a mission." This makes it a lot more fun - they have their entertaining Flying Fox (in a plane) label wine and their more serious label wine. Their "meritage" blend is called Trio - merlot, cab franc and petit verdot and is quite good, in fact, all were pretty good - not great, but then the prices were more reasonable. He was making room in his back room so was selling his merlot for $100/case of 12. So we bought 6 for $50 (he threw in the wine glasses so he didn't have to wash them) and went home to quaff one with some good cheese and to admire the sunset. It was a nice afternoon! Another time we will report on our visits to other Monticello Trail Vineyards.

Pollak Vineyards

As we were driving in to Wintergreen late on Christmas night, daughter spotted a new vineyard sign off Route 250, just west off I-64. We asked Don at the Devil's Backbone Brewery and he highly recommended visiting Pollak Vineyards. So we looped up to 64 and over to Crozet to try it. Pollak just opened their tasting room in May, so it is all shiny and new and in the spirit of spiffy tasting rooms designed for events and crowds, which surely will come. Like Veritas, it is similar to the major California tasting rooms, which not surprisingly is where their winemaker is from. We were impresssed by the friendly, knowledgable and generous staff pouring. We were equally impressed by the wines, offering a full array of Virginia wines, an excellent Meritage, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Petit Verdot, Chardonnay, Pinot Gris,Viognier, and Rosé. These are clearly a cross of California meeting Virginia. An interesting tidbit is that they grow the plantings differently - tiering them higher and across one another, called ballerina trellising - thus inspiring the logo. Daughter bought the rose, husband loved the Meritage. We view this as a great find and very convenient to Charlottesville. Already the wine tours have found the place, for better or worse.

DelFosse Vineyards & Winery

DelFosse Vineyards and Winery is just off Route 29 in Faber - watch for the turn - it is easy to miss and then wind down a road for about two miles and you are suddenly there - their sunny tasting room overlooks a pond and is a charming place for an informal wedding. We had met Claude DelFosse before via Wintergreen and he started the vineyards in 2003 or thereabouts. (hint - it is pronounced Del Foss).This new venture has a lovely French touch to wine, while using the best of Virginia grapes. Their Pinot Gris and Sauvignon Blanc were soft and had that French touch. Their Viogniers are not as "green" as others in Virginia and the Reserves are sublime. The blend for Reserve d'Oriane, named for their daughter, is lovely.

The DelFosse reds are their best - the blends of Cabernet Franc, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon in their fine rose and Meritage are each unique. Several favorites are named after their sons, so Cuvee Laurent and Grand Cru Olivier are great red table dinner wines. They also have 100% pure Petit Verdot, Merlot and Cabernet Franc wines that will age well and be enjoyed. We paid for two regular tastings and two reserve tastings and shared.

Hill Top Berry Farm & Winery

Honestly, we are not great fans of fruit wines, but Hill Top has some interesting flavors and our son is a fan of honey meads. So on the way to DelFosse, we took the windy road from Hwy 151 (behind the Antique Barn) over the bridge, past the B&B, around a corner to the Hill Top and their little tasting room. In the scheme of things, this one is homey and basic. Owned by three sisters, winemaker Kim Allen was there and we tasted about 8 wines - just a splash. Three of us tasted and shared out of two glasses at $2 each glass (not for taking). Their process of adding honey really brings out the fruit flavors. As a very small winery, they run out of the best sellers often, so the elderberry, Little Heeler blueberry and other serious meads were sold out. But their Raspberry and Bluebarry Melomel hit the spot. I forsee them on top of ice cream or angel food cake. Then onward!

Devil's Backbone Brewing Co.

We were up at Wintergreen Resort, but it was too warm to ski - so our alternate plan was to visit wineries in the area. Fortunately, there are lots in the greater Charlottesville area. We have visited many, and will come back and comment on them as time permits. Granted, we have eclectic tastes, but the objective is to enjoy life and see what's out there.

So our first stop for lunch, logically, was the new brew pub just outside of Wintergreen, the Devil's Backbone Brewing Co, Roseland, VA. The four of us shared two samplers of their beers while pondering our choices and the menu. The brewpub just opened in Late November with a full complement of brewed beers of many varieties, lager and otherwise.It appears that locals and visitors are finding the new brewpub, located just behind the Ski Barn as the bar and restaurant was packed at 3 pm the day after Christmas. Their pub grub was nicely priced, under $10 and we needed sustanance before doing some major tasting around the area.

We tried the buffalo sliders, spinach salad, brewhouse steak hoagie and chicken pita and their most excellent onion rings. All were tasty and hit the spot. Hits on the beer front were the Vienna Lager, the Eight Point IPA, the Ale of Fergus. The Stout was also wonderful, but we had an afternoon of wine tasting ahead.

Fortunately, our waiter Don Rhodes, co-owner and founder of Wine Tours of Virginia, had lots of opinions on local vineyards we should visit on todays adventure. He called Lovingston Winery for us as we learned that they are open for tastings and tours by appointment only and it turns out the owners were out of town for the day. We will try another time as we headed towards 29.