Saturday, June 12, 2010

The Wine Trail Less Traveled By…

Armed with a Virginia Wine Map and our dad’s GPS, my sister and I set out for another winery adventure. This time we decided to hit a few locations on the Southern Virginia Wine Trail. Despite having lived in Pittsylvania Country nearly 18 years of my life, I had not crossed the county line to explore much of Halifax County, Virginia. On our recent travels we learned that Halifax Co. remains mostly rural farm land.

Our first stop was Bright Meadows Farm Vineyard and Winery. We actually thought the GPS was programmed for another vineyard, but we knew we had reached an important destination because the small 117 year old restored barn had brightly colored flags and signage to alert you of their presence. After ringing the old cast iron farm bell, we were greeted by a sweaty, shirtless farmhand who quickly ran off to retrieve one of the owners, Ms. Archer. We explored the surrounding landscaping which was creatively mulched with wine corks. The tasting room is very small, but certainly allows for a more personal tasting. We very much enjoyed learning about their wine making process. They try to avoid using pesticides and strive to live a natural organic lifestyle. Using their wine corks as mulch is just one way they try to do their part with recycling efforts.

They offer ten different wines for tasting. I was pleasantly surprised by their wine. These wines are simple and easy to drink. They offer several fruit wines such as Blackberry or Apple. Normally I would shy away from these, but I must admit these were lovely. They do not add any additional flavorings, so they are very pure and not too sweet. I purchased the Blackberry as well as BAG which is a blend of blackberry, apple and concord grapes. There is nothing too complex about these wines, but they are fun to drink on a summer afternoon. I also purchased their Burley Red, a full-bodied red made from Chambourcin grapes. These wines are very reasonably prices from $9-14 dollars per bottle.

En route to our next stop we discovered Halifax County is home to a small Amish community. Who would have thought it?? I must admit this took us by surprise, but not nearly as much as the Historic Noland Village. We had no idea what were viewing when we stumbled upon the restored village, but later discovered it was a re-creation of a small community in the mid-1800’s. Again, who knew? They hold a popular country fair day in the spring. Just around the bend from Noland Village, you’ll find our next stop, Hunting Creek Vineyards.

We traveled down a dirt road, and began wonder if we were going in the right direction. Then we spotted the vines and noticed a nice gentlemen working in the crops alongside several friendly dogs. Hunting Creek Vineyards is another small family owned operation. The tasting room is still a work in progress (see photo) decorated with great local artwork.
We tasted five wines: four red and one white. Again these wines are simple, but perhaps a bit more complex than Bright Meadows. Again, we had the opportunity to really chat with the owner and learn about their process. The owners are creative in all respects of their business. Notables include: Decadence, a mix of Petit Verdot, Viognier skins and 5% Viognier wine, also Repentance made from 80% Cabernet Fran and 20% Cranberry. I purchased their Viognier and Inguldence a blend of 75% Merlot and 25% Petit Verdot, at $15.00 per bottle.

At both wineries, our hosts had to do a quick check of their opened tasting bottles to make sure the wine hadn’t gone bad. You can imagine our concerns. Wineries with high visitor traffic, such as Barboursville, really never have that problem, but it turns out that doesn’t mean these smaller operations make bad wine. We had great discussions with the owners on how winemaking in Southside Virginia has great economic potential for the area. With the down trodden tobacco industry that once flourished in Halifax Co., I hope the wine making industry can recognize the great agricultural and agritourism potential of Southside Virginia. We ended our day in town at a great local restaurant, Molasses Grill. Since these wineries, along with their area counterparts are very small, call or e-mail ahead for appointments prior to your visit.