As soon as you walk into Preston Ridge, you realize this is a local hangout joint. A slushy machine is right behind the bar, and wine supplies hang off the far wall like you’d expect to see at a hardware store. This place isn’t fancy, but like most watering holes it doesn’t pretend to be.
Lawrence Penn is the wine maker. As descendant of a long line of bootleggers, he proudly (if jokingly) says he’s the first ‘legal’ winemaker in his family line. But he honed his trade by using homemaking wine (and beer) sets, so I guess bootlegging is in his blood.
Given his previous job was in demolition, he probably didn’t plan to be a winery owner. When he told me how he got started I had to chuckle; demolition man to wine maker? I’ve heard of plenty of interesting backgrounds in Virginia’s wine industry, but that was definitely a first!
Preston Ridge makes 600-2500 cases of wine a year and leases 4 acres of vines. But he sources fruit anywhere he can, including California. A considerable amount of his wine aren’t even from grapes; I tried a lot of fruit wine during my visit. Lawrence explained a lot of locals make their own wine, so this allows him to cater to the local palate. Sourcing from multiple places also allowed him to have an expansive lineup.
For those who visit this area, you’ve likely tasted their wines at local festivals – that seems their bread & butter. Lawrence and his daughter went through a full tasting with me while other patrons dropped by for their own libations.
For grape wines, I found I especially liked the 2016 Chambourcin, which was dark and almost chocolaty. But the steel fermented Chardonnay was also light and refreshing.
But my favorites were the fruit wines. The Strawberry reminded me of a strawberry ice cream! But my very favorite was the apple wine, which was lightly oaked and had cinnamon notes. I think any of these would be welcome during a warm day (or even a not so warm day!).