Ashton Creek Vineyard

Ashton Creek reminds me of an urban winery. Located about 20 miles due south of Richmond, you pass by several neighborhoods before finding their winery/event center. While generally speaking I find wineries that emphasize the wedding venue part of the business tend to have a poorer selections of wines, my concerns were allayed by an excellent tasting. Well trained, friendly staff too. They are still new, but I think they are going in the right direction.

The interior was nice, and they had a good selection of small dishes like flatbreads & salads, in addition to charcuterie boards. In many ways, it reminded me more of a wine bar vs. a winery. It’s a shame I didn’t plan to have dinner here.

While they have 5 acres of grapes (including some planted in front of their building), for the time being they are getting grapes from Bluestone Vineyard (in the Shenandoah). But Ashton makes its own wine, which I think demonstrates its commitment to making a good product.

In addition to this line up, they had some guest-ciders. As for the wine:

Seyval Blanc: Crisp, citrus or apple notes (my friend & I disagreed on which). I’m not much of a white drinker and even more rarely a Seyval drinker, but I really liked this one.

Traminette: As you expect from this grape, strong floral nose. If you don’t like this grape, theirs won’t change your mind. But if you do, a good selection.

Rose: Strawberry nose, pink color, semi-sweet.

Moscato: This was a surprising edition because I never see this grape, and it was made on the dry side. Great honey & fruit nose, silky body. A winner!

Cab Sav: Dark fruit notes (I got plumb), very dark color. Pretty good

Cab Franc: My tasting notes fail me, but I seem to remember this was the only part of the line up I didn’t care for.

My biggest complaint is they are so short on inventory, they aren’t selling bottles of the Moscato, Rose, or Cab Sav. Hopefully once they settle in, this will soon change.

Muse Vineyards

Muse has been one of my favorite wineries for a while. Even when it was just getting started, their 2009 Clio red blend won the Virginia’s Governor’s Cup award in 2015. So to say I was anxiously awaiting for the formal tasting room to open is a major understatement.

I’d been visiting Muse for years even before the new tasting room was open (they were doing tastings in their production area). Owner (and former ambassador) Sally Cowal usually lead those tastings, to the point where she would recognize me by name on my not infrequent visits. But this occasion was special – their new tasting room had just opened, so a new pilgrimage must commence.

The drive there is a bit challenging; you have to go down a steep slop to the banks of the Shenandoah river and cross a low stone bridge. Early closings because of flooding is definitely a thing here. Although when that happens, the brave (or just really thirsty) can make the trip over a higher and much narrower walking bridge down the road and earn themselves a free tasting as a reward for their effort.

Wineries can live and die by the quality of their fruit – but Muse has a secret weapon. While their 30 acres under vine has all the varietals you typically see in Virginia, they specialize in French varietals that you almost never see elsewhere. Gamay? Sure thing. Chenin Blanc? Got it. Grenache? No problem. Marsanne? Mourvedre? Roussanne? Check check check. They even have some Nebbiolo thrown into the mix. It’s hard to over estimate how unique this collection is, because while all are difficult to find in Virginia, I don’t think any single vineyard anywhere in Virginia can boast this assortment in one place. When I learned that Gabrielle Rausse – one of my favorite wine makers of all time – sources fruit from here, I knew it had to be extra special.

What I tried:

Thalia white blend (forget the year): Minerally & floral. Interesting nose and delicate body. I’m typically not a white drinker but I loved it so much I bought a bottle.

2015 Sav Blanc: Lemon, citrus notes, medium acid.

2014 Chardonnay: Oaky, buttery nose and oak on the palate. Their 2013 Chardonnay was one of my favorite Chards anywhere in Virginia. This wasn’t quite as good, but was still pretty darn good.

2014 Rose: Made with Gamay grapes. Peach on the nose, and peach colored.

2012 Calliope: Made with Grenache and Syrah. Light bodied red with some spice. Liked it.

2010 Clio (Bordeaux red blend, equal parts Cab Franc, Cab Sav, Merlot, and Petit Verdot): Blackberry on the nose with a pepper finish.

2011 Clio: Same blend as the 2010, but smoother.

It’s a shame I came on such a cloudy day; the gray pictures don’t match the warmth of the interior!