When my in-laws offered to take Cecile for a long weekend, Jon and I accepted without a moment's hesitation. Trying to narrow down what to do with our time, on the other hand, took a little more deliberation. I wanted to run away to Napa. Jon, my most practical partner, planned a few fun in-town outings, including an afternoon at two Virginia wineries. Our first stop: the 1 o'clock tour at RdV in Delaplane, Va. Tastings are limited to 12 guests per tour and are by appointment only--details we learned after reading an article in the Times last summer. It seems Rutger de Vink, the vineyard's owner, is trying to establish a very different sort of wine-tasting experience than the one I had last fall.
From the car, we spotted the vineyard from the road; but we drove right past the gated entrance, which isn't very obvious, and after learning a little bit more about de Vink, likely the way the former Marine intended. Following a quick u-turn, we drove onto the property and around a bend or two. Long rows of leafy vines stretched up a steep, sun-facing slope, and a farmhouse-like building appeared. We walked in, were handed a glass of bubbly (not from RdV, but from neighboring vineyard), and were invited to stroll around, but to stay close. No romping about the hillsides allowed here.
^^My man with a plan ;) ;) This is his don't-take-my-picture face.^^
The place was trying very hard to feel like Santa Barbara. Exposed beams and stable lights hang overhead, lightly stained wide-plank floors are underfoot, and there is a cowhide or a deer skull around every beadboard-clad corner. And the view out the window was beautiful, albeit the Shenandoah has nothing on the Santa Ynez.
^^A bubbly inspired selfie :)^^
Finally, the rest of our group arrived. We were marched down the stairs and the tour commenced. Our guide was Jarad Slipp, a freshly anointed Master Sommelier. Slipp was very nice and knowledgeable, and very patient with the crowd. He was also very, very proud of the Bordeaux-style wines RdV produces.
^^Boreholes from RdV's hillside had my inner-geologist going all sorts of crazy.^^
RdV's caves were gorgeous. Fellow tour-goers commented how the below-ground labyrinth of stone and stucco were reminiscent of the caves at Opus One. Finally (finally!!), Slipp led us to a table set with charcuterie boards, and at each setting, two tasting glasses--one filled with their 2010 Lost Mountain, another with 2010 Rendezvous.
When Jon booked our tour, he was under the impression RdV still paired their wines against leading bottles from Bordeaux and California, as they had in the past. And it's too bad they don't, because at a $50 per-person price tag, RdV's tasting is good, but I'm not sure it's that good. Don't get me wrong: We enjoyed the wines. We enjoyed the wines very, very much. There is a richness and depth to their structure--something you don't expect to find from grapes grown just an hour and a half from D.C. It just would have been nice to have been offered another half glass during or after the tasting ... especially after waiting through an hour-long tour without anything to sip and swirl. In the end, we bought a few bottles of RdV's wine (two of which we intend to let lay for eight to ten years: whoa, patience). But unless the tasting changes to half the time or twice as much wine, I'm not sure that we'll be heading back for another tour anytime soon. Absolutely worth checking out, but probably just once.
Our next stop: Linden Vineyards in Linden, Va. We're told it was owner Jim Law who effectively put Virginia wines on the map (after TJ, obviously) and who actually apprenticed Rutger de Vink himself. As one would expect for an older vineyard, the vines at Linden covered much more square footage on the farm than at RdV. We also were welcome to walk amongst the grapes at Linden. I suppose, unlike RdV, Linden actually trusted us to be responsible adults and avoid stopping on roots or eating the fruit. Who knows. In any case, it was nice to be able to take a stroll in such a beautiful setting, especially following an hour in the car earlier that morning.
Inside, Jon and I enjoyed a sampling of Linden's offerings. The tasting consisted of seven or so of their wines, served with some simple crackers, but didn't include tastes of their Hardscrabble or Late Harvest bottles, which were the pours we were most interested in trying. So Jon signed us up for their last 30-minute special reserve cellar tasting at 4 o'clock. It was a good move.
Downstairs we tasted Linden's older vintages and single-vineyard wines from both the 2010 and 2011 harvest. We were asked to compare the two years, keeping in mind the type of weather that impacted those seasons. The wines were very different from the Bordeaux-style blends at RdV, and not just in price. We didn't pick up any Hardscrabble, but because I'm a sucker for dessert wine, we grabbed a Late Harvest to throw in our wine fridge. We also snagged one of their 2010 Petite Verdot, which they weren't pouring but is worth trying, apparently. We shall see.
After our second tasting of the day, we did what I wanted to do at RdV: sit down outside and enjoy a glass. And so we did. It was nice to get away, and even nicer to be able to come back home at the end of it all. I have my doubts about wine tasting in Virginia becoming comparable to a California vacation. But this was truly a good use of our time off. Cheers to that.