Last weekend I took a trip out Route 50 with a buddy of mine to visit Chrysalis Vineyards, one of my all time favorites, out in Middleburg, VA. The wines were good, as always... but that's not the story. While sipping a glass of rose out on the patio, I flipped through the new 2010 Virginia Winery Guide, and saw a new little dot in the Northern Virginia Region marked Paradise Springs. "Holy Crap," I exclaimed, "Fairfax has a winery!" Seeing as how we were wild and crazy guys out on a manly adventure, we promptly downed our sweet pink wine and hit the road.
Paradise Springs is on the outskirts of the tiny village of Clifton, just northeast of Manassas. Clifton itself is such an odd little place; driving through town on Route 645 is like passing through an upscale Mayberry, with its general store and wooden churches, interspersed with Victorian manors and high end eateries, like Trummer's On Main. We headed through town and south, past newer mansions that would give those by Great Falls a run for their money, and down a winding one lane road to a sizable log cabin that was our destination.
As we would soon learn, the cabin is an early 19th century construction built on a property that has been in the owners' family since the early 1700's. In 1955 the cabin was refurbished by a protege of famed architect Frank Llyod Wright for use as a summer home. Jane Kincheloe and her son Kirk Wiles inherited the property some years ago, and in 2007 followed through on a long discussed family plan to turn the 36 acre estate into a farm winery. Though the wines are all presently made offsite, Paradise Valley
just broke ground on their own winemaking facilities this past Saturday,
which they hope to have up and running by year's end.
The property itself is very pretty. Picnic tables litter a rustically manicured, hilly yard, bordered by forest on all sides. When we arrived, a band was finishing their set under a white awning set just below a field of young grapevines. Inside, several people mingled in the comfortable, warm wood-accented and richly appointed kitchen area that serves as the winery's gift shop. The tasting room is in the basement; a super-cool, very low-ceilinged space evocative of the cellar of a French chateau.
PV offers up a selection of eight wines -- four reds, three whites and a rose -- for the reasonable tasting fee of $7.00. Since their own vines are so young at this point, wines are made from grapes purchased from a wide variety of locations around Virginia, and made by a team of consultant winemakers, including Chris Pearmund of Pearmund Cellars and The Winery at LaGrange. The wines are not cheap, ranging from $21 to $32 per bottle, but they are nearly all excellent. Though the Nana's Rose ($23) was a little sulpheric and kinda grapey, and the Vidal Blanc ($23) kinda bland, the rest were solid. Most displayed characteristics I've learned to be typical of Pearmund's wines; dry, balanced, and light on fruit and oak. The 2008 Viognier ($27) was classic Virginia, with a full body, mild oak influence, good acid, and soft pear and apricot fruit. The 2008 Cabernet Franc ($22) is aged in locally sourced oak, is a light and soft example of the type, with mild plum fruit, and just a bit of tannin on the finish. The 2008 Norton ($29) was hands down the finest of the lot. Though the most noble of American varietals, Norton still often comes off gamey or foxy; not so PV's, which has great balance, rich dark berry and earth flavors, and a lengthy finish, implying years of potential aging in bottle.
All the wines are available by the glass ($6-$8), and I am told there is light fair to be had, though I regret to say I didn't find it in my short stay. Almost worth the price of tasting is the rather large, high quality sampling glass that comes free with the sampling fee.
It was nice to discover that Fairfax's first winery seems to be a winner. The wines are really great, but of such low production that I doubt you'll see them much outside the tasting room, and the aforementioned Trummer's On Main. I look forward to seeing what they do when they get their vines start producing and the winery up and running.