After communicating with Ingleside over twitter for sometime, I was finally able to set aside some time to make the trip down to the Eastern part of Virginia, and the Chesapeake Bay Region. The Chesapeake Bay region is home to around 10 or so wineries and vineyards, all within a 20-30 minute proximity, for the most part that is. Now talking to a lot of people within the Virginia wine scene, I was baffled that so few people have actually ventured to these parts of Virginia, so my goal was to explore it, report back to all of you about it, and promote my findings (as long as they are good findings). The trip down Route 3 wasn’t that bad, very scenic, with plenty of farm land and agricultural scenery along the way. As you approach Ingleside, the first thing to catch your eye is the field upon field of grape vines. Most of which from my guess look to be 30 years old plus. Now given spring has pretty much set upon us, the bud break had begun, and the trees over the courtyard were in full bloom. As you approach the tasting room, you enter this particular courtyard, greeted with 15 or so, patio tables and a gorgeous water fountain in the center. On the right hand side from right to left you’re greeted with the banquet building, the historical museum, and to your left the tasting room. As you enter the tasting room, you are greeted straight ahead by a small craft like store, bearing some wine related items, decorations, and other vineyard treats. On the right hand side is the tasting bar, where more than likely you’ll be greeted with a friendly face and a laugh or two (the staff is super friendly, and very entertaining). Chris Flemer, who handles the marketing duties for his family run winery, greeted us at the door and offered to take us around the vineyard and shed some light on not only the facility but the history that built one of Virginia’s great winery and vineyards.
As Chris drove us around the property and through the picture-Esq fields, he was able to shed some light on the history of this great Vineyard. Since the late 1800s the Flemer family has owned and operated this estate, early on as a dairy farm. The dairy farm has since been converted to what now is referred to as the banquet hall, museum, and tasting room facility. Ingleside eventually converted operations over to a nursery, and to this day still offers ornamental and shade trees, shrubs, perennials, grasses, azaleas, broad leaf evergreens, conifers and more. Around 1978 the first vines were planted by Carl and eventually operations were taken over by his son Doug, and in 1980 the Ingleside Winery opened as one of the original six wineries in the state of Virginia. The estate encompasses about 3,000 acres total, and around 50+ acres of wine grape, offering over 18 varieties across the property. The winery production is now overseen by winemaker Bill Swain, who has brought Ingleside to new heights with awards from Virginia Governor’s Cup Competition, The London International Wine Spirits Competition, and most recently posting top accolades at the San Diego International Wine Competition. The property is very rich in history and a stones throw from the birthplace of Robert E. Lee, George Washington, and James Monroe. So a little lesson on the history of the Ingleside Plantation Vineyard, and at this point you must be asking, “What about the wine? What makes Ingleside so great?”…and to answer your questions, well let’s get to it!
As you exit the tasting room, immediately ahead, just past the water fountain is the museum. Chris later explained, his father enjoyed collecting historic artifacts and displaying them in their small museum on the property. It helped showcase the timeline of the area, and give a better perspective and appreciation for exactly how rich in history Ingleside and its surrounding areas actually were. One thing I did find amazing was the original wine bottle seals from the colonial times on display in the museum. If you have the opportunity to tour the vineyard, be sure to take advantage of it. Exiting the museum, off to our left is the banquet facility, that provides a great venue for events such as weddings, meetings, fundraisers, and other functions. The location has a fully functional kitchen and plenty of space to accommodate a couple hundred people.
Now it was time to take a trip to the winemaker facility, my favorite. When I entered the warehouse, I was shocked. I’ve toured plenty of production facilities in my travels, but none that had the capacity that Ingleside has. As you enter past the steel fermentation tanks, you come upon the barrel room, with vintages stacked to the ceiling awaiting bottling. Ingleside has its own high speed bottling and labeling system on site, located directly across from the barrel stacks, and from what I was told this machine is a beast! I would imagine that it should be, when you offer as many varieties as Ingleside offers. Overall, a very impressive facility. After seeing and being up close and personal with the vineyard and its production process, the anticipation mounted. I could not wait to try this wine!
Chris led us up to an extra barrel room directly across from the production facility, which is also attached to the tasting room. The room is often used for private events and overflow during busy days in the winery. Directly in the center of this room is an almost stage like platform that features a few wine racks, a tasting bar, a table setting in the center of the floor with a few chairs, and some heating lamps spread across the middle of the room (for those cold days). Directly in back of the tasting bar, seated neatly along the back wall, are the barrels. On the opposite end of the room are some extra steel fermentation tanks nicely illuminated and spotlighted by some icicle lights around the stage area. GORGEOUS ROOM!
Now for what everyone is anxious to hear about, the tasting. Ingleside Vineyards offers a few different options of tastings. The basic is $5 and offers between six and eight primarily white wines, where the Premium for $7 dollars offers around eight or nine of the more robust and premium reds, or the full tasting for $10 will allow you to try all the wines, which at this point is close to 17! Talking to Chris we decided it would be best to pinpoint my favorites and bounce around a bit. I’m going to highlight in detail my favorites and include my full tasting card below for your reading enjoyment.
First up is the Pinot Grigio 2011 ($15.95), that consists of 76% Pinot Grigio & 24% Chardonel, and is stainless steel fermented. The Pinot offers up aromas of pear and subtle hints of green apple, smooth crisp apple and fruit flavors, and finishes very crisp and clean. This is a PERFECT wine to pair with a variety of dishes, including seafood, some light chicken dishes, a nice salad, or even by itself. Another white that I was a fan of is the Chardonnay 2010 ($15.95) that is made of 100% Chardonnay grape, and barrel fermented in neutral oak barrels. The scents of light fruit and peach rush forward, and offer a BURST of mango, finishing very soft and well-balanced. As many of my readers already know, I’m not a huge Rosé fan, but Ingleside’s made me a believer. Made from 100% Sangiovese, this European-style rosé offers strong aromas and a velvety smooth strawberry taste, while finishing dry with a fresh and good balance to it. Excellent! Now my FAVORITE wine from Ingleside, the Sangiovese 2008 ($19.95), made from 85% Sangiovese, 11% Charbono, and 4% Graciano. Instantly I could detect subtle hints of oak and dried cherry, and the palate was pleased with luscious flavors of light plum and dark cherry, medium bodied, and a finish complimented by a soft tannin structure that lingered for what seemed like minutes; Definitely not a bad thing! I really wish I could paint a picture to describe how good this wine was, but it’s pretty much impossible, so try it for yourself.
Moving onto the Petit Verdot 2007, which is made of 100% Petit Verdot, and recipient of a silver medal in the 2012 San Diego Int’l Competition. The Petit Verdot offered light, toasty oak notes and a touch of nutmeg on the nose. The palate was big in every sense of the word, specifically flavor and structure, exhibiting dark fruit and oak flavors throughout. The body was medium to full-bodied and very firm in tannin structure, finishing with lingering spice flavors. What’s that you say? A Petit Verdot Reserve 2007 ($26.95)?! I was actually quite impressed with floral bouquet on the nose of this Reserve, the spice flavors that carried across the palate and finish, and the tannin structure on this was perfectly balanced and round for such a robust wine. There is no wonder why this took home the GOLD Medal in the 2012 San Diego Int’l Competition, as well as a Silver in the Virginia Governor’s Cup this year. The last wine which will be available in the coming weeks, is the 2007 Syrah ($??). This wine is going to be a knockout! It offers very fruit forward aromas of blackberry, dark cherry, and light hints of oak on the nose. The taste is just BURSTING with a perfect blend of ripe blackberries and oak, finishing firm with a lingering spice flavor that may show obtuse tart characteristics. Personally, I love this wine, and everyone is different, so some may prefer to rack this bottle for a few months to net the best results. I actually would enjoy this wine by itself or paired up with some fresh Italian cold cuts and mild cheddar.
Speaking of which, after finishing our tasting, Chris was nice enough to invite us to have a glass of wine on the courtyard, and enjoy a plethora of cheese and crackers, cold cuts, and just good old conversation. Talk about a day of perfection. As I wrapped up I ended up leaving with a few bottles of my favorites: Pinot Grigio, Chardonnay 2010, Sangiovese 2008, Petit Verdot 2007, Syrah, and a bottle of Robert E. Lee Reserve (per Chris’ recommendation). Again, I’d like to take the time to thank Chris Flemer and Ingleside Vineyards for their amazing hospitality, and for setting up a wonderful experience at their Vineyard. For all of my readers, there is more to the Virginia Wine Country than just the Northern Virginia and Charlottesville area, be sure to explore ALL them. Not to mention with the warm weather fast approaching, the various bed and breakfast options in the area, and close proximity to the bay, the Chesapeake region offers an amazing opportunity and setting for a Spring/Summer getaway. Make sure to add Ingleside to the top of your list!
Chesapeake Chardonnay (100% chardonnay/ $12.95):Floral Citrus nose w/ apricot flavors finish smooth and light
Blue Crab Blush (69% Sangiovese, 31% Cabernet Sauvignon / $11.95):Strong aroma and flavors of strawberry, medium sweetness, finishing slightly tart
Chesapeake Cabernet Merlot (66% Cabernet Sauvignon, 34% Merlot / $12.95):Notes of pepper on the nose and lightly on the palate accompanied by flavors of dark fruit and cherry, finishing with light notes of spice and subtle oak
Cabernet Sauvignon 2005 (90% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Petit Verdot / $17.95):Tobacco notes on the nose, dark fruit and light oak, strong peppery finish
Merlot 2006 (76% Merlot, 11% Petit Verdot, 7% Cabernet Franc, 6% Charbono / $17.95):Tobacco and leather on the nose, dark cherry with notes of tobacco on the palate, medium tannins and spicy finish
Cabernet Franc 2007 (78.7% Cab. Franc, 7.1% Cab Sauv., 7.1% Merlot, 7.1% Malbec / $19.95):Big full-bodied wine with cedar and floral notes prominent, dark cherry flavors with hints of oak toward and through the finish
Blue Crab Red (Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah / $11.95): Hints of floral notes mixed with fruit forward scents, with dark fruit (blackberry?) flavors, diminishing smoothly and semi-sweet on the finish
Sweet Virginia Rose (70% Sangiovese, 20% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Chambourcin / $13.95):Hints of rose and strawberry on the nose, with big cherry flavors, lingering developing strawberry flavors on the finish
October Harvest (93% Petit Manseng, 7% Riesling / $18.95):Nose of peach developing with flavors of peach and vanilla on the palate, with a sweet cinnamon on the finish…very good
Virginia Gold ($34.95):Hints of toasty oak and spice on the nose and palate, finishing with strong tannins but very well balanced
Robert E. Lee Reserve ($24.95)
Virginia Brut ($34.95)
Overall Rating: 4.5/5 Corks
Ingleside Plantation Vineyards
5872 Leedstown Rd.
Oak Grove, VA 22443