After hanging out at Hickory Hill for a bit, I got the vibe that this is one of those establishments where the atmosphere and camaraderie is just as important as what’s served at the bar. Located on the north side of Smith Mountain Lake, Hickory is a 1920-s era house converted into a winery. Visiting here is a bit like stepping back in time, as you’re surrounded by farm country, southern charm, and wine instead of mint julips.
Wendy Furrow was my server – and Hickory Hill’s wine maker. She told me how her dad Roger Furrow planted the vineyard in 1992 and opened as a full winery in 2001. As the tasting bar got crowded her dad took over my tasting and history lesson, starting with how he got into wine in the first place.
See, Roger was serving in the Army when he was ordered to inventory the Officer’s Club’s wine cellar. As he tells the story you can almost get a visual of him dusting off these bottles with odd French labels, scratching his head while wondering “What does this taste like? Where does it come from?”. That curiosity grew, so when he ‘retired’ he started a winery.
Of course ‘retirement’ and ‘winery’ are two words that are totally in opposition to one another, as operating a vineyard is a tough job (but somebody’s gotta do it). Now Hickory has 4 acres of vines, including Vidal, Chardonnay, and Cabernet Sauvignon, and makes 600 cases/year.
One thing that immediately struck me was how well-aged their reds are. Virginia wineries often struggle to have anything more than 2-3 years old on the tasting menu. But here, seeing 2013 vintages was shocking. Special kudos for planting Cabernet Sauvignon; it’s tough to ripen up elsewhere in Virginia but they are doing a good job of it here.
What I tried.
2018 Full Pond: Chardonnay blend, with a tiny bit of Vidal. Clean and Crisp.
2017 Chardonnay: Made in French Oak, which gave it nice toasty-ness. This went down way to easily.
“Lake Mist” blend (Chardonnay and Vidal): Semi sweet, porch sipping wine.
2013 Cabernet Franc: Very nice, and had a softness to it that likely came with age. Still had noticeable tannin.
2013 Cabernet Sauvignon: Rustic as opposed to soft, while retaining good tannin.
Smith Mountain Lake Country Red: Stainless steel Cab & Merlot blend.
Smith Mountain Lake Redbud (Rose-style): Chardonnay and Cabernet blend. A little heavy by Rose standards, but I like my roses that way so this was actually a plus.
Smith Mountain Lake Sunset (Vidal): Sweet desert-style wine. Reminiscent of ice wine. Crisp and well balanced.
Smith Mountain Lake Sweet Red Sail. Sweet red blend that was Cab-heavy. Good all-purpose wine for sweet and dry wine drinkers.
Thanks to Wendy and Roger for the chat!