Trick question – how much do you love your mom? Maybe more importantly – how much does your mom love you? What would she sacrifice for you? These are important questions in understanding how Narmada got started.
Narmada was founded by Sudha and Pandit Patil, both originally from India. Pandit wished to study in the U.S. but lacked the funds to do so. Undeterred, he applied for a scholarship to New Mexico State University – and earned one. But that scholarship didn’t cover a plane ticket. To pay for it, his mother sold her family jewelry to pay for the ride over. Narmada is named after her, because she’s the reason this winery exists.
Now, THAT’S what I call a backstory!
Sudha and Pandit married when she was 17. Their parents arranged the marriage – but on the condition Pandit had to not only take her with him to the States, but also further Sudha’s education. He agreed, and Sudha pursued her education with vigor. First came a BS in Chemistry from George Mason, followed by a dental degree at Georgetown, and lastly an MS from the University of Maryland.
Over the years they indulged in their passion for traveling, and with traveling came an interest in wine. As the 1990s arrived the Patils started thinking of retirement. But while driving home from dinner at The Inn at Little Washington they discovered a farm down the road from Grey Ghost was for sale. As Grey Ghost was already a favorite of theirs, the idea of starting a vineyard was intriguing.
While both of their parents had a farming or gardening background, looking back Sudha admits they had no idea what they were getting into. But fortunately for all of us who love Virginia wine, in 1999 they purchased the property. The vineyard was planted five years later.
The initial plan was to grow organically – but Mother Nature had a vote on that decision. After fighting weather and Japanese beetles, in 2005 they switched strategies started to utilize pesticides. Now, Narmada has 10 varietals planted on almost 20 acres of vines, split about evenly between vinifera and hybrids. Occasionally they purchase fruit from Horton – usually Tannat – but most of their wines are made from estate fruit.
Sudha has been the winemaker since they opened in 2009. One thing that always struck me about Narmada’s wines is they often seem to have a spiciness to them, which I attribute to her cultural and educational background. It also helped that she took classes with Jim Law, who she calls the “guru of Virginia wine”. Now Narmada makes around 3000 cases/year.
As soon as you walk in, you can sense the Indian theme permeating all aspects of the venue, whether it be the décor, the soft music in the background, or the even the food. That’s right – they have Indian food here! I admit I indulged myself with some samosas.
As for the wine, Narmada boasts a large selection from sweet to dry with several options that lie in-between. Sudha kept pouring…and pouring…but I obviously wasn’t going to say ‘no’ to anything. My tasting experience started off well and everything just kept getting better and better (no that’s not the alcohol talking – it really was that good).
2015 “Dream” (Traminette): Subtle for this grape, light and crisp.
2015 Mom (Vidal and a bit of Chardonel): Some pineapple on the nose, semi-sweet but only barely.
2017 Chardonel: Made in neutral barrels; some citrus on the nose and palate.
2018 Gualabi (Rose): Made with Chambourcin and a dash of some other grapes. Lots of strawberry and watermelon notes.
2014 Reflection: Chambourcin heavy; semi-sweet.
2015 Melange: The first of two Bordeaux-blends that I tried; the fruit notes are there but not overly so.
2014 Yash-vir: Another Bordeaux-blend; bold but well balanced. My second favorite of the day.
2015 Cabernet Franc Reserve: Suvi’s favorite; some spice and pepper notes while retaining red fruit.
2017 Merlot: Another winner; 100% Merlot fruit, noticeably earthy.
2014 Cabernet Sauvignon: Very round mouthfeel; smooth tannins. I swear, every time I thought I had a favorite the wines just get better and better!
2016 Petit Verdot (with a splash of Cab Franc): Jammy nose, plumb and blackberry notes.
Legacy: Traminette heavy but with Vidal and Chardonel; sweetened with mango. I’m not a sweet wine drinker but I really liked this one.
Allure: A desert wine made with Chambourcin and a little Tannat; the nose reminded me of bourbon (which is a good thing).
2014 Midnight (Chambourcin): Semi-sweet; very fruity. Reminded me of a sagria.
2016 Tannat: MY favorite of the day; and that says a lot since there was a lot to love here. Great nose; smooth but full bodied. Just an all-around amazing wine.