Monday, October 15, 2012

Valerie Hill Winery

We finally got the time to make a trip to our new local winery, the first to open in Frederick County. Valerie Hill winery is situated in the western part of the county about midway between Winchester and Stephens City, about a 15-minute drive from downtown. It opened this past summer.

The concept for the winery is fairly unique in my experience; the closest I can think of is the Winery at La Grange where the vineyards have been planted around a historic property. The 1807 brick farmhouse has been lovingly restored and must have been very sumptuous in its day. The wines are being made at Veramar in Clarke County from grapes sourced from wherever they can be found. The first vines, Norton, have been planted on a small, low-lying plot behind the house.

The Stone Chimney; Norton behind
I have to wonder at the choice to plant Norton, never one of my favorites, and I especially wonder about planting the vines in a low-lying bowl that is sure to be one of the coldest sites on the property. But if any grape can tolerate cold weather, surely it is the fairly bulletproof Norton.

We tasted through the lineup and the star was the 2010 Chardonnay which was very well done indeed. The two reds are, unfortunately, from the 2011 vintage, the 2010 having sold through in the last couple of weeks. 2011 was unkind to everyone in Virginia and without long-standing grape contracts, Valerie Hill was not in line to get good fruit in 2011. I do have to say that despite being very light-bodied and missing a lot of stuffing, the 2011 Cabernet Franc has quite a beguiling red fruit nose. The signature Stone Chimney Red was just another 2011 red, another victim of the horrible rain in September 2011.

We chose the Cabernet Franc to take out back to enjoy with our little picnic. Our friend Boo Snider was playing guitar and singing out on the patio; we sat in the shade of a black walnut tree overlooking the baby Norton vines. Ann made an incredible loaf of rosemary-lemon bread to go with goat cheese, prosciutto, and a jar of fig and grape jam that she made just recently. I kicked in a mini-terrine of Berkshire pork, bacon, pistachios, Port, porcini mushrooms, and green peppercorns.

2011 Cabernet Franc: Great Nose!

Ann Digging in to her Fig Jam
Pork, Porcini, Port, and Pistachio Terrine
We wish Frederick County's first and so far only winery all the best!

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