Memorial Day weekend, the weekend I finish up the Northern Neck Region of Virginia. I started my travels heading south on 17 and coming across Good Luck Cellars. With plenty of chatter across twitter from both Good Luck Cellars and other bloggers, I decided this would be a good starting point. I pulled up to the newly renovated tasting room. On the right, an olive oil display. And to the left, leather chairs and couches all set up around a beautiful fireplace. In front of the living room setup, is the main tasting bar, beautifully crafted with glasses and bottle racks displayed on the back wall. To the left is the overspill tasting bar, an almost miniature version of the main bar. Based on my experiences with Ingleside and some of the wineries further north, I brought some high expectations to Good Luck Cellars. I was not disappointed.
All wines were from the 2010 Vintage, starting with the Vidal Blanc ($16). Honeysuckle aromas breaking way to crisp and clean flavors of peach, smoothed out with a 1% residual sugar. Good Luck Cellars offered a Vignoles ($19), which is a hybrid of Seibel & Pinot de Corton. For a wine packing a 1.5% residual sugar, it was citrus packed from start to finish with rich flavors and a crisp ending. Not bad at all. Next was the Virginia Governor’s Cup 2011 White Wine Bronze winning Chardonel ($16). It was full of tangy, sweet fruit flavors from the subtle nose to the sweet fresh finish. As for Roses? The Rip Rap Rose ($14) was a bit too sweet for my liking with a blend of 70% Vidal Blanc and 30% Chambourcin. At 3.5% residual sugar, it carried an almost neutral nose but packed sweet strawberry and cranberry flavors to the end.
The Cabernet Sauvignon ($22) is aged for 18 months in French oak, and caught me off guard a bit. This Cab. Sauv. is medium bodied and offers flavors of light spice and pepper, with a subtle berry flavor on the buttery finish. I have noticed so far that this region of Virginia is very fond of the Chambourcin grape. Their Radiant Red Chambourcin ($16) was very black cherry heavy with notes of cedar, hitting hard with a tart finish and light spice. Not a bad Chambourcin, but still a bit sweet for my palate. The last of the fleet is the Petit Verdot ($20). I have grown to be a big fan of the 100% Petit Verdot varietal as of late, and this one was right in my wheel house. Aged for 22 months in French oak, this cherry and blackberry explosion progressed into a light jammy flavor, toned down with a smooth and buttery finish. A couple years in the bottle and this Petit Verdot will be a homerun. Excellent wine. Overall, I was pleased with what Good Luck Cellars had to offer, and would give them 3/5 corks on the Pour House scale.
Up next was The Dog and Oyster Vineyard, located just steps from the Hope and Glory Inn. The first thing I noticed about this vineyard was the two ENORMOUS cork screws on either side of the road that leads to the tasting room. I knew as I was approaching the winery, this was indeed the vineyard grounds, just by those two sculptures. As I entered the small shanty tasting room, I began to reminisce of the beaches I frequent in Rhode Island. The decor inside is absolutely gorgeous. Pastel colors on the furniture and old beach house finish just gave you the impression you were sitting by the water. They also offer a lovely oyster tasting paired with their wines alongside Ingleside.
The Dog and Oyster currently only produce two of their own varieties. So, to sweeten the proverbial pot, they include a fleet of Ingleside wines (great choice). Six wines for six dollars, and you can keep the stemless glass with cute Dog and Oyster logos. I’d say that’s a deal! Not to mention, they will are also offering gourmet hotdogs. You can argue all you want, that no wine pairs well with a hotdog, but I would disagree. It’s unique and different, and oh what an atmosphere. When you finish your tasting, you can step into their gift shop and pick up any of the wines you enjoyed, as well as any wine accessories that you’d like. You must be asking yourself, well how was their wines? Let me just state that I bought a bottle of each of them because they were well worth it! The Chardonnay ($19.95) was very fruit forward with notes of honey, pear, and citrus on the nose. The flavors of citrus and pear were very refreshing and finished perfectly; crisp and clean. The Merlot ($19.95) wafted notes of spice and tobacco on the nose, and incorporated flavors of cherry deep in the heart of this medium bodied wine. Excellent wine! Overall, I’d give them a 3/5 corks but, with an expanded offering, this place has some serious potential.
Next up on this excursion was Jacey Vineyards. It was kind of an interesting visit because recently their ABC manager, without notice or explanation, told the manager that they had to stop selling their wines. The good thing is, they have a restaurant there for lunch and still offer tastings. Jacey Vineyards is located a couple minutes from Athena Vineyards. I was able to try four wines which were all pretty good, aside from their first attempt at a Zinfandel. I can’t knock them for trying to grow and harvest a Zinfandel because, well, nobody in Virginia can grow or make one.
My tasting sheet looked something like this:
Vidal Blanc Dry: bright citrus aromas, citrus dominated by lime flavors finishing dry and smooth
Vidal Blanc Sweet: citrus aromas toned down, with green apple present over the palate, finishing sweet and round
Zinfandel: floral heavy, very light bodied, finishing heavy on toasty oak flavors
Petit Verdot: light oak on the nose, floral notes carrying you to the end, finishing very light and dry
The situation made reviewing Jacey Vineyards very difficult, again thanks to the Virginia ABC. The atmosphere here was more like a restaurant than anything else, and the varieties of wine weren’t too extensive. That being said, the Petit Verdot was delightful, and would have tasted a lot better had they dropped the Zinfandel from the tasting. Overall 2.5/5 corks. Once their ABC situation is resolved, they scale back on the restaurant setting, and incorporate a few more varietals, the winery could grow to be much more than it is now.
I finally reached Athena Vineyards. Among the writing community, I hadn’t heard good things about Athena. Giving the benefit of the doubt, I decided to give it a shot and see what they had to offer. Instead of going into detail of the wines I tried, I’d rather display my tasting notes below with my wine enthusiast-esq ratings and give you the skinny on the wines I did enjoy. Of the 12 wines I tried, I enjoyed 2 of them. The staff at Athena was VERY pleasant and they had a cute Westie mascot. The tasting room was pleasant, and resembled my great Aunt’s kitchen back in Rhode Island. Dark mocha colored fixtures, a lot of trinkets and decorations, and just a very warm, welcoming feeling. The wine however, was a different story. I don’t believe in bashing wineries, I try to find positivity in each place (unless, of course, you are Quattro Goomba’s in Middleburg). A lot of wineries appreciate the critique on their wines and obviously don’t expect everyone to enjoy them. Every individual has their own preference and palate. That being said; the 2007 Meritage ($30) was an excellent blend of 34% Cabernet Sauvignon, 33% Cabernet Franc, and 33% Petit Verdot. A very well balanced wine with flavors of spice and oak, and offered soft tannins finishing with very light notes of vanilla. This was a very well made wine. The other wine I enjoyed was the Safe Harbor ($30 normal bottle or $40 ship shaped bottle), their porto style wine. This wine is made with fortified Chambourcin that is modeled after traditional port with a shorter barrel aging. Very rich but not overly sweet as most ports can be. Great job on this one. The rest of the tasting notes — well feel free to read below. Overall rating 2/5 corks.
Athena Vineyards Tasting Notes:
Athena’s White ($14): fruity nose, very light bodied, spice on the finish (83 Rating)
Chardonnay ($19): huge oak nose, citrus notes overpowered by oak, light buttery finish (82 Rating)
Nightingale Chardonnay ($14): very-very floral nose, granny smith apple and floral notes to taste, finish dry and crisp (82 Rating)
Athena’s Rose ($14): huge floral aroma, jammy taste, not too sweet yet not too dry, not really sure on this one (83 Rating)
Nightingale Red ($14): butterscotch heavy in scent and taste, spicy finish, so so (84 Rating)
Galleon Treasure Red ($15): butterscotch on the nose and light flavors of the same with some very light fruit, finishing with peppery notes (84 Rating)
Cabernet Sauvignon ($19): jammy aroma and flavor, smoked oak finish, save your money (82 Rating)
Sweet Notes ($12): raspberry and blackberry from start to finish, too tart (83 Rating)
Athena’s Sweet White ($10): licorice and anise aromas with much of the same across the palate, finishing sweet and a little syrupy (83 Rating)
As the day came to an end, it was time to squeeze in one last winery: Belle Mount Vineyards. I’ve read bad reviews about Belle Mount Vineyards, some bashing the wines and others going after the whole establishment. Again, unless the staff is extremely rude or I see cockroaches crawling up the walls, I try to strictly make it about the wine. Let me start by saying that I left with a bottle of their Chardonnay. It was pretty damn good. The tasting room may resemble a ski lodge or a trading post for a camp grounds, but the history of the grounds give you an idea of why. You can camp, hike, fish, and/or rent a cabin on the property. I agree, not your traditional winery scene, but it is unique. The wines that I tasted were okay. My personal favorite was the Chardonnay ($14), of which I purchased a bottle. Aromas of fresh fruit give way to flavors of coconut and pineapple that finish beautifully with hints of butterscotch. Very different and refreshing to say the least. I wasn’t a huge fan of the Workboat Red ($13), which is their Chambourcin varietal. It was a bit too smoky and oaked. The Chesapeake Light ($22), their Petit Manseng varietal, was sweet with honey and pineapple flavors, but not my favorite of the fleet. Lastly, the Merlot ($18) was very berry forward in both scent and taste, but very high in tannins. Decent wine, but a bit too sharp for my liking. If you are looking for a traditional winery, you won’t find it here. However, the Chardonnay is definitely worth mentioning and is a great value at $14. Overall, for my preference anyway, I’d give Belle Mount a 2.25/5 Corks.
As the day came to close on the Belle Mount trip, I was thankful that I did manage to come across some decent wines. The best variations were offered at Good Luck Cellars and The Dog and Oyster Winery; however, if you are in the area, I’d strongly recommend you to stop by all of the wineries. If you do, make sure you let them know that you read about them at the Virginia Pour House.
Good Luck Cellars
1025 Goodluck Rd, Kilmarnock, VA 22482
Overall Rating: 3/5 Corks
The Dog and Oyster Vineyards
170 White Fences Drive, Irvington, VA 22480
Overall Rating: 3/5 Corks
710 Train Lane, Heathsville, VA 22473
Overall Rating: 2.5/5 Corks
3138 Jessie Ball Dupont Memorial Highway, Heathsville, VA 22473
Overall Rating: 2/5 Corks
Belle Mount Vineyards
2570 Newland Road, Warsaw, VA 22572
Overall Rating: 2.25/5 Corks