Wednesday, August 16, 2017  



Summer Wines via The Northern Neck

By Deborah Corsa Whittaker

Those refreshing summer wines! Nothing enhances casual summer times on the deck, boat, beach, at a picnic, around the pool, or just enjoying our gorgeous Northern Neck scenery as does a chilled light wine. So kick back and enjoy the company of a few or many friends with wines recommended by the following vintners.

All About Wines on Prince Street in Tappahannock provides international choices of wines and also features a display of locally produced Virginia wines. Owners Deborah Stevens and Karen Hayes helpfully and knowledgeably guided this visitor through selections of delectable summer wines. For those just starting to develop a palette for wines, Deborah recommends beginning with a Muscato (an Italian sweet wine) or a wine blend containing Muscato. Likewise, Karen suggests that a low alcohol content beverage such as Prosecor (a Rose) mixed with orange juice can be enjoyed any time of the day or that a sangria (red or white wines mixed with fruit, brandy, and club soda/ginger ale) will enhance all occasions.

Other crisp, light wines that make great summer refreshment are Cape Roca from Portugal, Vino Verde, and Rapidon River Peach (delicious mixed with club soda). Karen praises the Spanish Verdejo because it is not too sweet and not too dry. “And,” she adds, “don’t forget the Roses! Also remember, many of the lighter wines are not meant to be aged but to be chilled and enjoyed right away.”

“I never sell a wine I have not tasted,” says Mike Robertson, owner of The White Stone Wine and Cheese Company where visitors are treated to the ambiance of a charming French bistro with terra cotta floors, vintage stained glass casement windows as wall treatments, round black tables and chairs, all amid an international selection of wines, available for take away or to accompany this restaurant’s fare. Without hesitation Mike confidently recommends several choices which he considers enjoyable summer wines. Marche by Fabrini, a semi-dry, crisp Italian Chardonnay that has been aged in steel, retains its flavor of fresh fruits. Another semi-dry Italian wine to receive praise is Pinot Grigio by Siema. This medium bodied wine is satisfying with a clean finish. Describing his third selection as “a crisp, light fruity wine that goes great with salads and fish,” Mike endorses Arido (a Sauvignon Blanc) by Mendoza of Argentina. For a wine that is “neither too dry nor too sweet,” the Rose Bricco Del Tati is a nice blend that has hints of strawberry and cherry. By the glass or by the bottle, The White Stone Wine and Cheese can guide you to just the right summer wine.

Nestled on the charming 1835 Buena Vista Plantation near Montross, The Hague Winery displays its wines in a bright, airy tasting room that is housed in a former barn and has large windows overlooking the manse, vineyards, dependencies, and rolling farmland. The open-air pergola offers outdoor seating for an al fresco experience. According to its owner Steve Madey, The Hague Winery’s 2009 Chardonel and Rose wines as well as its 2010 Cynthia Dessert Wine are especially appropriate for summer savoring.

Tasting room manager, Susan Albert, pouring a delightful sampling of the wines created on site, proudly affirms that The Hague Winery’s three summer wines are very popular choices with their many visitors. The 2009 Chardonel is “a crisp, floral white with bright citrus flavor,” and the 2010 Chardonel won a silver medal at this year’s Governor’s Cup and is known as a delightful wine that is great for any occasion.

Highly recommending the Rose, Madey smiles, “I can tell the temperature outside is rising according to the increase in the sale of our Rose.” The winery’s 2009 Rose is a dry, light wine that has a refreshing hint of raspberry. As a chilled summer wine, its fuller body is very satisfying. The 2010 Cynthia Dessert, named in honor of Steve Madey’s wife and co-owner, is a Muscat with a delectable sweetness that has the subtle taste of peach, orange blossom, and tropical fruits. Because the Cynthia Wine has 4 to 6 % residual sugar, it is not as sweet as many dessert wines. Imbibed alone as a chilled wine or served with peaches that embellish its decided peach flavor, this summer wine is a definite people pleaser.

Enthusiastically presenting four summer wines that are “geared to be consumed in summer,” Garry Keckley, manager of General’s Ridge just outside Hague, Virginia, recommends The GRV White, The Chardonnay, The GRV Viognier 2010, and the GRV Rose. Friendly and welcoming, Mr. Keckley presides over the rustic, airy tasting room on the grounds of the lovely vineyard. He stresses that summer wines are easy drinking, fun, and fresh. The White “is a perfect cocktail wine.” It has a “crisp, refreshing, and slightly sweet” quality that most people savor. A blend of Chardonel and Traminette, The White is advertised as “a wonderful summertime picnic wine. With no residual sugar the GRV Viognier 2010 is great as an aperitif or perfect to be enjoyed while watching one of the Northern Neck’s gorgeous summer sunsets. It has a floral aroma and has been one of Virginia’s most successful varieties.

General’s Ridge also offers a Chardonnay which, unlike the other summer wines, is aged in balanced oak (a combination of steel and neutral, three-year old French oak). This gives the Chardonnay more bite than is in steel-aged Chardonnays and is ideal for the wine drinker who prefers a wine with more texture. (Chardonnay, sometimes referred to as ‘the queen of the white wine grape’, encompasses a very wide range of tastes and some are aged in steel and very light.) Keckley highly commends the GRV Rose as the universal wine that goes with everything. It is a great party or cocktail wine made of 1/3 equal blend of Vidal Blanc, Chembourcin, and Traminette, and goes especially well with spicy foods.

Good Luck Cellars situated just outside Kilmarnock right off Good Luck Road, so named by locals because in its early days “good luck” was required to successfully negotiate the narrow, winding passage between Routes 200 and 3. The winery was recently built on a reclaimed quarry which is surrounded by twelve acres of vineyards. Good Luck Cellars’ manager Larry Hulmuth recommends four of the eight wines produced here as good choices for summer enjoyment: Chardonel, Rose, Vidal Blanc, and Chardonnay.. The winery earned the Virginia Governor’s Cup 2011 White Wine Bronze Award for its Chardonel. A hybrid of Seyval and Chardonnay, this Chardonel is Good Luck’s sweetest summer wine with a distinctive fruity flavor that makes this a great wine simply for savoring as a stand-alone beverage. Slightly less sweet is the Rip Rap Rose which also has fine fruity flavors and is enjoyable to share as a refreshing beverage among friends.

Mr. Hulmuth proposes The Vidal Blanc and The Chardonnay for those preferring a dryer wine. These still have hints of fruit, but the Chardonnay has been aged in French oak so it has a little more bite to it while the Vidal Blanc is milder, having been aged in steel. All of the summer wines from Good Luck Winery enjoy a following from visitors and locals purchasing for their warm weather entertaining delight.

Two additional wines not mentioned by our vintners but considered by many to be a worthy selection as a summer wine are Riesling and Semillon. Riesling ranges from very dry to sweet but is lighter than Chardonnay with fruity aromas of fresh apples. A sweet version of unblended Semillon has a strong berry flavor and makes a rich dessert wine.

Hospitality is a natural way of life in the Northern Neck, especially in warm weather, and wine adds ambiance to all gatherings, intimate or grand. Enjoy the beauty of this special place paired with the fun of good friends and the satisfying flavor of the many summer wines available.