The title…yea another Bottle Shock quote, hold your sarcastic comments on the tip of your tongue please! As for the topic of discussion we have tucked away in the hills of Purcellville, operating solely from solar power, is Sunset Hills Vineyards. The winery is an old farm with a newly restored barn utilizing all original pieces from the original barn from the 1870s, and precisely restored by an Amish team of workers a few years back. As you pull up the gravel road, you’re greeted by a small cottage to the right overlooking the man-made pond, with the vineyard fields to your left and right, and eventually pulling into the parking lot.
As you park you will notice the trail up to the main barn, to your left a small storage shed with covered stone pavilion in its shadows, that holds outdoor tastings and entertainment through the summer months, and a few scattered picnic tables on the lawn. To the right, up the path is the gorgeous Amish restored 8,000 square foot barn. Continuing on up the walkway are the steps to enter the barn, where off to the right you will notice the two tier porches around back, that offer the most breathtaking views of the mountains in the background. If timed correctly, these patios offer some pretty amazing sunset views that photos cannot bring justice to. Upon entering the barn, you are greeted to your right is the Estate Club member desk, further to the right the door to the basement, and center the enormous 360 degree rectangular tasting bar.
Further looking around you will find the seating area to the left of the tasting bar, where the entertainment generally plays, and directly to your left the winery store counter. Above the tasting room bar is the Estate Club Member loft, consisting of two areas of tables overlooking all the action, and exit out onto the Estate Club Member patio which provides you the best seats in the house of the breathtaking sunset views. If you are lucky enough to get a tour of the facility (Just ask!), you will enter the basement down a narrow wooden staircase into the private dining room used for special events, and all restored with beautiful décor and fresh stone masonry. All restoration is very detailed and preserves the history in a very sleek manner. Further through the next set of doors is what I refer to as Nate’s domain, or the winemaking facility where the magic happens. Four large steel fermentation tanks, what I would guess 750-1000 gallon in size, line the back wall of the production room. Right across from the steel tanks is the door to the barrel room, stocked with rows and what seems like hundreds of oak barrels all marked appropriately with the specific type of wine that is fermenting from within. The facility is gorgeous and really preserves the detail of the old barn without question. Now the question here is how is the wine? Well, the newly revamped 2012 offerings have just been released and lets give you an overview of what they are offering.
I arrived this particular Saturday a little early and wasn’t able to taste the 2010 Merlot as it hasn’t been released yet, but will be released soon, and after all, I do get a bottle with my wine club pickup. I ended up doing a tasting of the current offerings also, followed by a couple of glasses of the 2011 Viognier out on the top members deck. This particular day was a bit chilly but it was a Friday and what more to look forward to at Sunset Hills than, well the sunset. So after having a couple of glasses of wine out back, I decided time to finish up with a tasting before I leave. I had already had the Viognier so what else was on the list?
The 2011 Chardonnay ($22), which greeted my nose with bright pear notes, well-balanced acidity with banana and pear toying with my palate, and finished strong yet crisp with flavors of apple and other light fruits. Not bad, and I’m sure with a bit more time, amazing. The 2011 Viognier ($25??) was just released, and packs a very floral aroma with subtle hints of melon, round and very light citrus throughout, finishing ever so delicately (as I already had two glasses, I didn’t NEED to try it again, but what the hell right?). Good, but to follow-up the 2010 Viognier, I wasn’t overly excited for this particular vintage year, but it’s still pretty solid. One of the signature varieties up next, is the 2011 Sunset White ($22). This wine has a 1.2% Residual sugar, made of Vidal Blanc, and offering very fruit forward nose, with hints of honey on both the nose and palate, with a smooth sweet lingering finish. If it were socially acceptable to toss some of this in a water bottle by the pool in the summer time, some of us would be in big trouble.
The 2011 Rose ($22) packs an ever so slight scent of floral notes, with very subtle fruit on the palate, and a silky buttery finish creeping up on your taste buds. Now comes what drew me into joining their wine club, the reds. Minus the Merlot (one of the best Merlot varietals I have had in Virginia) and the Cabernet Franc Reserve, which I’ll be sure to cover both when I open my bottles at home, Sunset Hills was still able to offer the 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon ($26), 2009 Cabernet Franc ($26), and finish up with both the 2010 Nettare di’Tramonto and mulled wine in their tasting this day. The Cabernet Sauvignon, hit my nose with scents of dried cherries, continuing with an oaky-dark cherry blend on the palate, and a lingering, peppery and floral finish. Excellent wine! The Cabernet Franc was also impressive (did I mention 2012 Gold Medal winner at the Governor’s Cup), as it sent an aroma of smoky and spicy notes to the nose and palate, finishing with spices and oh, so smooth. The dessert wines never disappoint at Sunset Hills. The 2010 Nettare di’Tramonto greets the nose and palate with a burst of fruit and honey, but finishes surprisingly light and crisp for a dessert wine. Not as syrupy as most dessert varieties, and I’m sure not as high in Residual Sugar either.
Lastly to toss the nail in the coffin, was the perfect send off, some mulled wine. You know what mulled wine tastes like, and they have perfected their recipe utilizing mulling spices, Cabernet Sauvignon, and apple juice. There is no doubt I love this place, the owners are the kindest and most modest of couples (Diane and Mike Canney) I have met in the Virginia Wine Country, and take pride in providing the BEST wine possible, regardless of the sacrifice in quantity they produce top-notch wines. Notably, in my opinion, one of my personal favorites as well as one of the top wineries in the area!