Several weeks ago I had the pleasure of visiting 868 Estate Vineyards under happier circumstances than what we face today. Nevertheless, I think it’s important to recognize a good news story for a change. Winning the 2020 Virginia’s Governor’s Cup award certainly qualifies!
I’d been trying to visit them for a while, but no particular date seemed to work. Then…they WON THE GOVERNOR’S CUP with their 2017 Vidal Blanc Passito, the first desert wine to ever do so! If that’s not enough reason to rush over, then I don’t know what is.
Not only is 868 a winery, it has a full-service restaurant called Grandale Vintner’s Table next to the tasting room. It’s great synergy because it allows them to serve great light fare options at the tasting room. Probably my favorite is the truffle & wine pairing. New flavors are selected every year with their “Shuffle the Truffle” event, which sounds like a delicious way to pick new favorites.
Nancy Deliso showed me around on a Friday afternoon. 868 has 22 acres under vine (plus some on lease), including a mix of vinifera plus Chardonel, Chambourcin, and some Vidal. I was surprise how little Vidal they actually have planted, all of which goes into their desert wine. All in all they make 3500 cases/year, usually using 100% estate fruit.
As I did my tasting I found myself admiring the art on their bottles. It turned out the tasting room is decorated with works from local artists, and the best of those are picked to decorate next year’s bottles. Had the weather been better I would have loved to sit outside on the expansive patio. Next time I’ll have to revisit Grandale for lunch, which I’d frequented several times (I’m a sucker for their pork shank).
Carl DeManno is their wine maker and the one who came up with the idea of making a “Passito” style desert wine; it’s an Italian style which calls for the grapes to be dried until they are raisin-y. The goal isn’t to make a sweet wine as much as something that is rich in texture (although it does have 8% residual sugar). Carl joked it was a “good experiment”, which is the wine understatement of the year.
Sadly the Vidal was off the tasting menu, but I did get to sample basically everything else. I started with their 2017 Chardonel and Chardonnay; the first was light with notes of grass and citrus, the later I could sense was dry with a tad of oak. The 2017 Canvas White was semi-sweet (their only sweet option, besides the desert wine) with good acidity.
Moving on to the reds, I REALLY liked that 2017 Cabernet Franc. Like many of their reds, it was a blend (this time using Cab Sauv and Merlot), which went a long way. The 2017 Merlot was also lovely, with a nice roundness on the palate.
Before I left I had one more place to visit: the barrel room. It so happened Carl was sampling two wines for their members. I tried their 2017 Petit Verdot, which while young was coming along VERY nicely. It seemed smooth up front but spread out nicely. I also tried their 2017 Chardonnay again, this time with some Swiss cheese which definitely mellowed it out. The 2017 vintage kick a@$, and these were great examples.
I’m SO tired of staying indoors already. I want to go out and visit again.