Southern Living has partnered with Virginia.org to form a guest blogger network. Today’s post is provided by guest blogger Jessica van Dop Dejesus of The Dining Traveler. Check back every Monday and Thursday for new ways to explore the state of Virginia.
One of the things I love the most about visiting vineyards is that no two vineyards are alike. After visiting hundreds of vineyards, it still amazes me that even those within close proximity can produce such different wine. The experts say that all begins with the terroir, how the specific habitat and soil composition affects the quality and flavor of their wine. When I heard Greenhill Vineyards in Middleburg, VA offered a “Grapes to Glass” tour in which they take their guests through the production process from the vines to the finished product, I was intrigued.
My birthday was approaching so I gathered a small group of friends to celebrate at Greenhill Vineyard and experience the tour. As you approach the rolling hills lined with vineyards in Loudoun County, you start to feel miles away from the hustle and bustle of the city. Although only an hour and a half away from Washington, DC, you are truly transported to a whole new world with the crisp country air and relaxed atmosphere. This mild winter has also helped make weekend escapes more doable!
When we arrived at Greenhill Vineyard, we were welcomed by the vineyard tour coordinator, Anthony Downing. I had met him at a tasting at the vineyard before and was taken by his passion for wine. A sommelier by trade, Anthony knows his wines. Having grown up between the United States and France, he has an affinity to the French winemaking process. I believe it is no coincidence that the vineyard winemaker is Frenchman Sébastien Marquet, who has become a force in the beautiful revolution of Virginia winemaking. A perfect pairing.
To have a sommelier give a tour of a vineyard truly changes the experience. The enthusiasm is like no other. On a brisk fall day, Anthony took our group outside to talk about the vines and the terroir. He was impeccably dressed: crisp button down, wool jacket with a silk square but down to earth at the same time. He elegantly kicked the ground to loosen the soil and showed us the unique characteristics of the specific vineyard. He talked about the evolution of the vines, the climate challenges, and how these elements influence the taste of the vintage of that particular year. He said: “As a winemaker, one must be a farmer, meteorologist, and everything in-between!”
After our outdoor lesson in terroir, we were guided through the production process. Our tasting table was set in the middle of the cellar. This is a working cellar- not just for tasting, it is fun to see the production going on around us. There, Anthony shared stories about the vintages, and even let us have a sneak peek of what is to come as we tasted right from the barrels.
After our tasting, the group concluded that there are two winners: the Greenhill Vineyard Blanc de Blancs (a sparkling wine) and Superstition, a blend of 25% Cabernet Franc, 25% Malbec and 50% Tannat. We can even say that the tour was grapes to Oscars as their Blanc de Blancs was gifted to all the 2016 Oscar nominees in their gift bag!
My guests and I truly enjoyed the experience. Not only did we get to taste one of my favorite Virginia wines, but we also learned about the winemaking process.
For more information and to plan your trip, visit virginia.org/wine.