So, now we’re into the afternoon of our second day. Originally, we had planned several winery visits for this Saturday – a few in the morning, then lunch, then a few more. But, as we’ve previously noted, the tastings were taking longer than typical, and for all the right reasons. Considering time constraints and quantity consumed, over lunch we discussed the itinerary and decided to cut two stops from our afternoon list (sorry Valley Road and Veritas, we’ll catch you next time).
Blue Mountain Brewery
And speaking of lunch, we returned to a very popular local eatery (and, honestly, one of the only sit-down places to eat in the area). Blue Mountain Brewery in Afton is part restaurant, bar, brewery and social hub. It’s big and inviting, with a large outdoor dining area, a super friendly staff, good beers and upscale “bar food.” Their brew selection is extensive, with something for everyone, and we highly recommend the pretzel appetizer, the BBQ pulled pork sandwich, and their Creole Cuban press.
This wasn’t our first time to Afton Mountain Vineyards. It’s one of our favorites, especially for the view. We’ve even talked about one day renewing our vows beneath the outdoor arch/arbor, which is directly in front of the vines.
Now, we’ve said before that one less-than-wonderful visit doesn’t mean you should abandon that winery forever. The difference from year to year is one of the beautiful things about wine. We’ve loved Afton Mountain’s wines in the past, and we’ll certainly love them again in the future, so, to us, we’ve enjoyed their previous vintages.
That said, there were a few standout selections. We’ve only recently discovered Albariño, a typically light, dry white that – when thoroughly chilled – is one of the best things in the world on a hot summer day (see our previous Drinking Green with Vinho Verde post). Afton Mountain had the only Albariño we recall seeing in Virginia, and it was everything that we wanted it to be. This was also our second encounter with Tannat (having tasted it for the first time the day before), which is part of their Bacco red blend. After our tasting we soaked up some warm sun on an otherwise crisp day with a dry Rosé and a light Cabernet Franc.
Cardinal Point Winery has always been one of our three must-stop wineries in Virginia. This is where we first fell in love with dry white blends, specifically their perennial award winner, Quattro. Compared to most of the other wineries on our list, Cardinal Point’s tasting room is relatively small, modest, and rustic, but no less inviting and charming (any winery with a friendly dog and/or cat on staff gets an extra star from us!). Here, they are all about the wine, and it shows.
We left Cardinal Point with a few bottles of A6, their Viognier/Chardonnay blend that is bold up front and long-lasting on the back end. We actually preferred the A6 over the Quattro this year, which was unexpected. We also picked up a Riesling that has a great green apple tartness, as well as their Hopped Chardonnay (the hops add unique herbal, earthy notes that complement the grape surprisingly well).
We’ve never been disappointed by their Rockfish Red, an “every day” light red blend that goes well with anything, or just by itself. And this year we were blown away by the 2017 Petit Verdot, which was deep and dark and hearty – the kind of red you drink with a knife and fork.
- It doesn’t always have to be about the wineries. Add a brewery (or cidery, or even a distillery) to your route for some variety.
- Sometimes less is more. Wine tasting should be about fully embracing the experience at hand, even if that means visiting fewer wineries.
- Be honest about the wine. Just because you loved it before doesn’t mean you’ll love it this time…
- … and just because you don’t love it now doesn’t mean it won’t be great again next year.