Virginia is for Wine Lovers! I’m not joking. According to the Virginia Wine Board’s website there are 251 wineries in the State.
Recently, I trekked to the Richmond area where I managed to have a Virginia wine experience. While there are a number of wineries within a reasonable driving distance from Richmond proper, the closest is probably James River Cellars just north of Richmond in Glen Allen.
The winery is easy to get to – a short way off I-95 on US Route 1. The winery is set back from the road, and the drive up to the tasting room takes you past a driving range. When I stepped in the front door, I was immediately greeted by the winery staff. Friendly and knowledgeable, the staff took me through a full range of wine options for the very modest fee of $5. Normally, the fiver gets you samples of 13 different selections. If you’re lucky – like I was on my visit – they may have an additional selection or two open which they will share as well. Below are the wines I got to try.
2013 Reserve Chardonnay
2014 Chardonnay (un-oaked)
2014 Petit Manseng
2013 Vidal Blanc
2013 Rad Red – 43% Cabernet Franc, 30% Petit Verdot, 20% Chancellor, 7% Sangiovese
2012 Cabernet Franc
2012 Monitor vs CSS Virginia – 47% Cabernet Franc, 44% Merlot, 9% Tannat
2012 Meritage – 45% Merlot, 33% Cabernet Sauvignon, 11% Cabernet Franc, 11% Peti Verdot
2014 Montpelier – 63% Pinot Gris, 20% Chardonel, 17% Chambourcin
2014 Hanover White – 45% Chardonel, 45% Pinot Gris, 5% Petit Manseng, 5% Muscat
2013 Real Santa Red – 58% Merlot, 42% Touriga Nacional
2012 Petit Verdot
2012 Hanover Red – Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Touriga Nacional
There was a lot to take in during this tasting. Even so, I thought they had a number of selections I might like to buy. The Reserve Chardonnay had bright acidity, a silky mouthfeel and citrus flavors including lemon and grapefruit.; the Petit Manseng had flavors of spiced stone fruits; their Petit Verdot was smoky and earthy; and there are two wines I’d call specialty wines which would make great additions to holiday celebrations.
Those specialty wines are the Chambourcin and Real Santa Red – a blend of Merlot and Touriga Nacional. The winemaker has added sugar to the Chambourcin which for me makes it a bit like berry (cranberry?) sauce in a bottle. It is definitely a dessert wine, in my opinion. Then there is the Real Santa Red to which they have added cinnamon. Although not dessert-wine sweet like the Chambourcin, I think Real Santa Red would be a nice accompaniment to holiday pies (apple, pumpkin, cherry, etc.) and cakes.
If you find yourself in the area, you should definitely stop by the winery. If you can’t make it to the folks at James River, their wines can be purchased from the winery and shipped or at a number of retailers in Central Virginia. See their website at jamesrivercellars.com for details.