Heading toward Smith Mountain Lake from Roanoke, our first stop for Sunday was Brooks Mill Winery, a small fruit farm winery that has been in operation over 10 years. No grapes are used for any of their wines.
We started with a dry white wine, made from pears - it was clean and crisp. There are 3 different Blackberry wines, done dry, semi-sweet and sweet. All were very good, but the sweet was the standout to me. Next we had Blueberry, done semi dry. My favorite of the day was the Plum wine, also done semi dry. this is not the plum wine you get at a Japanese restaurant! Next up was Peach, leaning to the sweet side, and we finished with Pear again, this time done dessert (too) sweet. None of these would ever be considered “fine wines”, but they were well made, and we were glad we stopped.
Two more reasons to visit the Smith Mountain Lake area: Ramulose Ridge Vineyards and Hickory Hill Vineyards. The 2 are within a mile or so from each other.
Ramulose Ridge is a new winery, they just opened a year ago, but not a new vineyard - they started planting 10 years ago.
All the vintages we tried today were 2012, thier first production. There were 5 whites: Chardonel ($14), Traminette ($14), Vidal Blanc ($14), Muscat ($14) and Viognier ($18). All were quite nice - the Chardonel was our choice here, as it is just not a common wine for VA.There were 3 dry reds: Syrah ($16), unoaked, Chambourcin ($16) and Cabernet Franc ($18). We found all these to be made, but the styles were a bit un-typical.
Then there were 5 sweet wines: Blackwater ($14), a Chambourcin /Cab Franc blend, Blush ($14) a Vidal with a “splash” of Chambourcin, Sweetwater ($14),a sweet version Traminette, Entangled ($14) Vidal enhanced with peach, and finally, sweet Muscat ($14). Of the sweets, we preferred the Blush, but none of them really did much for us.
Ramulose Ridge is a beautiful facility. They do a wine and cigar event every Friday night - even sell cigars, this could be an attraction or fair warning, depending on your point of view.
On to Hickory Hill Vineyards. They have had grapes on site for 30 years, and operating as a winery since 2001. It is a family operation, and almost all the wines are estate grown.
We started with 3 whites: 2013 Chardonnay ($12) unoaked, 2010 Chardonnay ($15) oaked, and the Smith Mountain Lake Mist ($12), a Vidal/Chardonnay blend. We found all 3 to our liking (and exceptional values, compared to what we are used to closer to home.
On the red side: 2008 Cabernet Franc ($16), 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon ($20), Smith Mountain Lake Country Red ($13) a Cab Sauvignon/Merlot/Cab Franc unoaked blend. Kurt thought this last was a steal for that price. And the inevitable sweets: Redbud ($10) a Chardonnay/Merlot blend, Sunset ($11) a Chardonnay/Vidal blend, Smith Mountain Lake Sweet Red Sail ($12) made from Cab Franc/Cab Sauvignon. No favorites here, I’m afraid.Next stop: White Rock Vineyards and Winery. This is another small family operation. Grapes were first planted here in 2000, and now they have 6.5 acres under vine.
Our tasting started with the 2011 Chardonnay - 25 % Chardonel blended in. Then the 2011 “Mojo”, Pinot Gris. The 2012 Pinot Gris was a complete different wine. It was left on the skins and presents an orange hue. Not quite a rose, the 2012 White Merlot, with 1.5% residual sugar (RS) was interesting. Reds included 2012 Merlot, 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon, 2012 Cabernet Franc, ending with Velvet Sky, a semi sweet (2 percent RS) red blend served chilled. They also sell wine freezer bags, just add wine and freeze to make your own flavored slushies - a new one for us.
They have a cozy sitting area for cool weather and a great screened porch area overlooking the vineyards, so White Rock would be a nice place to hang out with a group of friends.
Our final stop for the weekend was the LeoGrande Vineyard and Winery.
We were told harvest has already started here. LeoGrande is a working farm as well as a vineyard.
We began with the 2012 Sauvignon Blanc ($12), 2008 unoaked Chardonnay ($16), 2008 Chardonnay ($20) done in French oak. None begged to come home with us.
On the red side we had 2010 Syrah ($18), 2010 Barbera ($20), 2010 Sangiovese ($16), 2010 Sangiovese Reserve ($22), and finally 2010 Nebbiolo ($25). Of these, I was impressed with the Barbera and the Sangiovese. Kurt also enjoyed the Nebiolo.
I just can’t go into the sweets again - just know they had several. One twist is that they do do an ice wine made from the Sangiovese and Barbera grapes called Autumn Kiss ($18). Didn’t work for me, but I am sure it sells.
So the overall count for the 3 days - 12 new (to us) Virginia wineries, 1 meadery, 1 cidery, and 2 visits to previously visited wineries; 706 miles driven and 22 new bottles of wine to find space for somewhere. Maybe it is time for another “too much VA wine party?”