Quievremont Winery

Quievremont has actually been open for a while, but only recently opened a formal tasting room. It’s a shame they weren’t better known before, because I really enjoyed my visit!

While driving there be careful about using a GPS; the address took me to their old tasting room/farm, which is NOT where you want to go. But the Amish-barn style tasting room is very nice, with a wonderful view of the farm and pond. I visited only a week after their formal opening so furniture was sparse, but that should fix itself in another few weeks. Fortunately, the patio is ready.

They have 9 or 10 acres of vines, making their wines almost 100% estate (they get some Syrah from elsewhere but that’s it). Some vines were planted in 2008, but many are new. In fact the tasting room’s front lawn is full of new plantings. They also have Malbec planted (although I’m not sure if they will bottle it or use it for Bordeaux blends). The later wouldn’t surprise me since the owner told me they intend to specialize in Bordeaux styles (the family name is French, after all).

Owner/wine maker John Guevremont is a retired Marine Corps aviator, for whom ‘retired’ is a lose term. But his French-Norman name must have a strong pull on him, since he decided to open a winery that focuses on Bordeaux-style wines.

My server was wonderful. He talked me through all their wines, and even cleansed my glass with wine between tastings (most places use water, but wine does a better job clearing out the previous flavors). He did an admirable job trying to convince me to join their wine club, but they are a tad bit far away from me!

As for the wines:

Steel Chardonnay: OK. I like my Chards heavily oaked, so this wasn’t my style.

2014 Merlot: The nose had lots of earth and dark cherry. The body was likewise earthy. Pretty good.

2014 Cab Franc: Like the Merlot, earth & dark cherry. Maybe this is a stylistic thing for them?

2014 Cab Sauvignon: The American Oak barrel shined thru, because I got some nice vanilla. It seemed more mellow than the Merlot of Cab Franc. I almost got a bottle, but was interrupted by…

2014 Meritage: If the other wines were earthy & black fruit, this seemed much lighter, like red cherries. Soft, too. I was so impressed I bought a bottle of the 2012 Meritage.

Rose: Dry style, not bad but I’m not much of a Rose drinker.

Vin de Maison: Table red (Syrah and some others): Not bad, but I was still dreaming about the Meritage so it was hard to pay attention!

Quick note; the name “Quievremont” is a bastardization of the French word for “Goat Mountain”, hence the pictures of goats on the label. Even better, this is a working farm that has goats! It’s not exactly on the agenda, but if you ask politely they may allow you to visit the farm and pet some farm animals.

My server was wonderful. He talked me through all their wines, and even cleansed my glass with wine between tastings (most places use water, but wine does a better job clearing out the previous flavors). He did an admirable job trying to convince me to join their wine club, but they are a tad bit far away from me!

As for the wines:

Steel Chardonnay: OK. I like my Chards heavily oaked, so this wasn’t my style.

2014 Merlot: The nose had lots of earth and dark cherry. The body was likewise earthy. Pretty good.

2014 Cab Franc: Like the Merlot, earth & dark cherry. Maybe this is a stylistic thing for them?

2014 Cab Sauvignon: The American Oak barrel shined thru, because I got some nice vanilla. It seemed more mellow than the Merlot of Cab Franc. I almost got a bottle, but was interrupted by…

2014 Meritage: If the other wines were earthy & black fruit, this seemed much lighter, like red cherries. Soft, too. I was so impressed I bought a bottle of the 2012 Meritage.

Rose: Dry style, not bad but I’m not much of a Rose drinker.

Vin de Maison: Table red (Syrah and some others): Not bad, but I was still dreaming about the Meritage so it was hard to pay attention!

Quick note; the name “Quievremont” is a bastardization of the French word for “Goat Mountain”, hence the pictures of goats on the label. Even better, this is a working farm that has goats! It’s not exactly on the agenda, but if you ask politely they may allow you to visit the farm and pet some farm animals.

Bluestone Vineyard

Very nice visit to a vineyard that has one of the nicest views I’ve seen in a while. Bluestone makes 5000 cases/year, and has about 18 acres of vines, plus they lease some vineyards and get grapes from elsewhere. So…not a big producer, but not a nano-producer by any means.

I didn’t get the backstory of the vineyard, but it was easy to tell why they picked this location. The hillside is very scenic, especially with the gorgeous home on top. The tasting room is small (actually in the owner’s basement…but a wonderful basement!), but that should change once the new tasting room is ready (which, sadly, is at the bottom of the hill).

Several tasting options are available; I did the Reserve Reds. What struck me was how well aged the reds are; all were 2013 or 2014 vintages. Not only that, but Bluestone tends to keep their reds in barrel longer than most places, at around 20 months. This is my style of red!

What I tried:

2015 Wilton White (Viognier): Fermented in acacia wood. Amazing woody nose that reminded me of a Chardonnay with a long time in new French Oak. I was shocked to learn this was a Viognier; nearly everywhere else, they tend to have an overpowering honeysuckle nose. But the nose was wonderful and the wine was very soft. Best Viognier I’ve had in a while!

2015 Petit Manseng: The nose was sugary but the palate was not. Tropical fruit notes, and I suspect high acid.

2015 Chambourcin: Fruity; not bad but not a repeat for me.

2014 Cabernet Sauvignon: Very red fruit forward.

2013 Houndstooth red blend: Smokey, with a black cherry finish. Nice.

2014 Petit Verdot: Some bite but not overwhelming, like some PVs can be.

2013 Cadenza (red blend): The word is a musical term for improvisation, the wine maker changes this blend up all the time, so this blend could be dramatically different next year. It was bold up front but the red fruit came out at the end.

CrossKeys Vineyard

OK, this review is a bit biased; I was lucky to have a ‘insider’ give me a personal tasting. Even so, I think I would have given them 5 stars anyway. That’s because CrossKeys delivers a rare trifecta; amazing venue, wonderful service, and most importantly great wine.

Courtesy of CrossKeys facebook page

CrossKeys makes around 8000 cases/year and has 33 acres of vines, all French varietals with the exception of Portuguese grape Touriga Nacional. The business has a wonderful back-story as well. The owners are immigrants who were living in California but decided they wanted to raise their kids in a more rural area; the Shenandoah definitely fit that bill. One day a family friend suggested that given the amount of wine they drank, it would simply be easier for build a winery. Well, that idea planted a seed which years later became CrossKeys.

The first thing you notice is the surroundings. CrossKeys is a popular wedding destination, and the huge building can definitely support them. It also has a bistro, which is great for a nice lunch. While I often get worried that places that are heavy on ‘presentation’ do so at the expense of focusing on the making wine, my tasting demonstrated they avoided this pitfall.

What I tried (and it was a lot):

2015 Chardonnay: Fermented in both steel and new French oak; it retained its crispness but the flavors of the oak also shined thru (note – I’m a big fan of Chardonnays soaked in French oak).

2015 Joy White: Named for the lady who suggested the family build a winery, it had 2% sugar but didn’t have the of cloying sweetness that I despise in many sweeter wines.

2015 Flore: Off dry rose, although I would have thought it was on the dry side. Sorry, roses are not my thing!

2015 Pinot Noir: Light and tart; my lips started puckering up by this point. CrossKeys is one of a small handful of Virginia wineries that even attempt to grow this grape, and I’m glad they do!

2015 Merlot: Nice cherry finish.

2015 Cabernet Franc: Spicy and vegetal notes on the nose, soft finish. It also noticeably avoids the heavy green pepper notes that I often get in Virginia C. Francs.

2015 Petit Verdot: Oh PV, how I love you so! Pretty smooth, as opposed to the immediate intensity many PVs have. Maybe it spent lots of time in barrel?

2015 Meritage: Also smooth, I think it was 34% PV which shown thru.

2015 Touriga Nacional: The national grape of Portugal, this was a very rare opportunity to see this grape bottled in Virginia. It’s not easy to describe; its bold and spicy, but not peppery-spice, more like cooking spice.

2014 Tavern port-style: The wine maker must be a stickler for authenticity, because he made this port-style with the Touriga, which is what ‘real’ ports are made from. One of the nicest ports I’ve had in a while; it lacked the alcohol-y boldness that tend to overwhelm port-styles.

Ali d’or desert wine (Traminette and Vidal Blanc): I tend to avoid desert wines, but I seem to remember liking this (although my notes fail me on the specifics).