Anytime I can combine wine tasting with travel, I am all about it. And that’s just another reason to love Virginia. With around 250 wineries located throughout the state, you can bet no matter your travel location there’s probably a winery or five in the near vicinity.
That was certainly true on our trip to Urbanna, which took us straight through the Chesapeake Wine Trail. We stopped at several wineries on our way to Urbanna and a couple on our way home the next day, making for a very happy weekend.
Our first visit was to was Ingleside Vineyards, one of the oldest wineries in Virginia dating back to 1980. Ingleside has around 50 acres of vines and serves up delicious and award-winning wines. We especially enjoyed the dry-style Petite Manseng and the light but very smooth Sangiovese, a grape you don’t see growing too often in Virginia.
We actually hadn’t planned on visiting Jacey Vineyards, but we were hungry and saw that they had a tapas restaurant on site, so we were off.
The grounds were incredibly scenic, but we saw no evidence of a restaurant on the property. Not sure what the deal is with that. We opted instead to sit in the informal tasting room to try the wines and snack on a meat and cheese plate (literally, no crackers and bread were involved, which I found a bit odd) to tide us over.
I’d read a few poor reviews of the wines online, so I wasn’t expecting to be blown away by the tasting. And while it wasn’t our favorite stop of the weekend, I was actually pretty impressed by some of the wines. A Sauvignon Blanc was perfectly crisp and fruity, and two versions of Zinfandel – one dry one sweet – surprised me. The bottles are all incredibly affordable, most under $15, and full glasses of wine are only $3.
I also read a few complaints (and heard the same from fellow tasters at other wineries) that Jacey keeps irregular hours and is often closed. But, if you find yourself in the area on a day when they’re open I highly recommend stopping in with a picnic to take advantage of the gorgeous property and affordable wine.
Good Luck Cellars
Good Luck Cellars was our final stop of the day. We shared most of the tastings and didn’t drink anything additional except for one shared glass of wine while we recharged our cell phones.
Good Luck poured our second favorite wines of the weekend, after Ingleside, with a good mix of whites and reds, dry and sweet. I enjoyed the whites the most, but also really liked the Inheritage (a play on a Meritage, and a good way to get around that label fee) a rich Bordeaux-style blend inky in color with a long, lingering finish.
Breaking for Food at Merroir
I’ve blogged about Merroir before, and my love for this beautiful eatery on the bay hasn’t waned a bit. There’s nothing better than fresh from the sea crab and oysters, served up with a side of this view.
We were planning to eat in Urbanna, so we shared a mix of raw and roasted oysters and each had a cup of warming corn and crab chowder – everything was delicious.
This place is serious about their local oysters, which they fish right out of the water in front of the restaurant. Leftover shells even serve as gravel under the outdoor seating. Love it.
Vault Field Vineyards
Sunday, after our morning walk, delicious breakfast and mini golf, we were thirsty again and set out for two final stops. The first was Vault Field Vineyards, a very small operation with an impressive array of varietals growing on their 5+ acres of vines.
Unfortunately, the wines left a bit to be desired. From what I gathered, they’ve had issues with harvesting recently due to poor weather conditions, so most of the wine they were pouring was quite old. White wines from 2010 were visibly oxidized. The reds were an improvement, but still showed their age and a lack of tannic structure that would have aided in their shelf life. I don’t at all like to knock a winery’s efforts, but I also don’t want to misrepresent our experience. That said, a foursome of tasters to our right seemed to enjoy the wines more than we did, so it’s still worth checking out.
I should also note that tastings at Vault Field are free, which is rather unusual, and there wasn’t anywhere I could see for sitting and enjoying wine on the property. This is more of a place to stop in quickly while on the Chesapeake Wine Trail.
General’s Ridge Vineyard
Last, but not least, we found ourselves at General’s Ridge Vineyard, a short drive from Vault Field. Owned by a retired general, hence the name, this winery boasts around 30 acres of vines and a bright and airy tasting room.
The tasting here is extensive, and the wines quite good, they also offer two fortified dessert wines which was a nice change of pace. You can order hot plates of food and sit down with your wine to enjoy views of the vineyards.
While we made a valiant effort, we weren’t able to get to all of the stops on the wine trail. We missed Belle Mount Vineyards this time, and skipped over The Dog & Oyster Vineyard because we’ve visited them previously. I highly recommend Dog & Oyster for an intimate wine tasting experience at a family owned winery with great oyster-friendly wines. Take your pup!
One Last Stop for Produce
On our way home, we couldn’t resist stopping at a local farm stand in Montross to load up on fresh veggies for the upcoming week. These were peppered all over the sides of the road along the wine trail.
Have I convinced you to check out the Chesapeake Wine Trail? If so, mark your calendars for November 8th, 2015. The wine trail will be hosting a Fall Oyster Crawl at all its wineries, featuring special oyster and wine pairings. How fun is that?