Carriage House Wineworks is (at the time of writing) Virginia’s newest winery, opening in September 2020. Right now they are taking visitors by appointment only, but that shouldn’t scare you off! Co-owner and winemaker Mike Fritze is happy to do a tasting at his vineyard.
Managing a winery is a tough business, but since Mike was already a home winemaker/wine judge and his partner Bruce Beddow is a longtime wine grower, they likely had a fair idea of what they were getting into. Bruce was already selling fruit to other Virginia wineries, so making a full-fledged winery was a logical next step.
Today, Mike owns 5 acres of vines at his property of Quartz Creek, while Bruce owns another 12 at nearby Windhorn Vineyard. Having 17 acres of estate vines (almost all vinifera) is a great way for any winery to start, but for vineyards as well as wineries it’s all about LOCATION LOCATION LOCATION.
It so happens, both the vineyards and winery are in a great spot. Planted on a gentle slope above Catoctin Creek, the vineyard is well positioned to shrug off cold air and excess water. Mike isn’t the only guy to realize this; you can see Staggerwing Vineyard and Bethany Ridge one hill over. Given Nate Walsh’s high praise of those sites, I’m confident Carriage House is in a good neighborhood. It also helps over a dozen other wineries are not far away.
While Carriage House has a tasting room, right now it’s only for club members. Not to worry; Mike is doing tastings by appointment at the vineyard – which not coincidentally is adjacent to his house. Hopefully when the COVID-19 situation is better visitors can do their tastings indoors, but I definitely enjoyed my visit in his backyard looking at the vines.
Mike and his wife Gerri sat us down during a rare brake for a tasting and chat about vines. Mike was especially proud that all his wines were made from fruit produced within a several mile radius of his farm. Following the tasting, we went on a tour of the vineyard.
All of Mike’s wine is on the younger side. That said, 2019 is a great vintage to start with, so no complaint there.
2019 Rosé (Chambourcin, with a little Cab Sauv): Good acid, nice color. The Cab gave it some earthy notes and complexity. I went home with a bottle.
2019 Vidal: Liked it! Dry, herbal notes.
2019 Chardonnay: Citrusy, made in steel.
2019 Petit Manseng: Little bit of pepper, which I found to be unusual. Also unusual is it was lower on the acid levels than I’m accustomed to (which in this case was a good thing).
2019 Merlot: Black currant on the nose. Soft, would be nice chilled.
2019 Cabernet Franc: Savory! Fruit on the nose. Not viscus.
Late Harvest Vidal: Very light and citrusy. Paired well with the rice crispy shared with us by some fellow guests.
Make sure to call ahead for an appointment!