The first wine festival I went to was the Clifton Wine Fest a few years ago… This festival is still one of my favorites to attend. The atmosphere in the town is perfect, the volunteers are friendly, the festival is not overcrowded with excessively long lines, and there are just the right amount of wineries present. The festival is filled with fun and informative tastings, great vendors, delicious food (this year, featuring a food truck from the new Italian place in Clifton: Trattoria Villagio), and good music. This year, there were model cars scattered to add to the visual conversation, and there were children’s activities to keep the kids entertained allowing for a more family-friendly atmosphere.
This year, I went with a small group to share in the tastings and conversations. Some of our group’s favorite wineries sampled included: Horton Vineyards, Fincastle Vineyard and Winery, Paradise Springs Winery, Rebec Vineyards, Arterra Wines, Annefield Vineyards and Mattaponi Winery. A long list, but less than half the wineries present!
To start with Horton Vineyards, we can never go wrong! This is by far the group’s favorite every time because there is a wine for all tastes. The Blackberry wine was the hit for most of us. The right balance of sweet and tart. One of my personal favorites is their Viognier… one of the best I have had from Virginia. The Viognier grape is the state grape of Virginia, so if you have not sampled a wine from this grape before, I recommend starting with Horton’s!
Following Horton Vineyards, we moved on to Fincastle Vineyard and Winery. This tasting was not just good, but educational as well. We learned more about the vineyards, its location, and received a handout with more information on the Tartaric Crystals (or the “wine diamonds”) that are visible in some of the wine bottles. The staff and volunteers here were friendly, and the educational take-away was an added plus (in addition to our bottle of the Hybrid Vigor we bought to take home).
On to Paradise Springs, this is a winery I will write about later since I am a wine club member and visit often with our dogs to picnic. I recommend their Norton wine and their Nana’s Rose. The rose is different from others you’ve probably tried… less sweet but refreshing. This tends to be the popular group selection every time I have visited. Many people I’ve met who aren’t rose fans like Nana’s Rose.
I forgot how much I liked Rebec Vineyards until I visited their booth at the festival and sampled their Autumn Glow. Don’t let the name fool you… this wine is great chilled in the summer (not just the fall)! (Although it does help pump me up for my favorite time of year just around the corner). I don’t usually like sweet wines, but this one does it right and adds the right amount of spice to accent. In addition to the tasting, we learned at this booth about their upcoming Wine and Garlic Festival in October at the vineyard… wine and garlic, two of my favorite things… can’t go wrong! Expect to see me there…
Arterra Wines was a wonderful surprise! This winery is still under construction and set to open in 2015. Clifton was their first “public” debut according to their Facebook, so I felt priveleged to have the opportunity to sample. They were only sampling three wines at the festival, but their wines had me sold. Their blueberry-apple wine melted in my mouth. It took everything I had not to walk away with a case of this unique and wonderfully complimentary combination! The winery also features the art from Hawkmoth Arts, and the artist was present at the festival and great to talk with. Creative and fun…I’m looking forward to seeing this winery around more and visiting their location once it is open.
I had to include Annefield Vineyards in my Clifton Wine Festival review because I was impressed by their handout on the vineyard itself. Short and simple, but included the history of Annefield, dating back to the American Revolution. It added a great historical read to the sampling of the wines! In addition, their 2012 White was light, tropical, and great summer pair.
Finally, Mattaponi Winery. I saved this winery for last because their Mamaponi’s Sangria became the hit of the festival for our group! The best sangria of the day… perfectly sweet, refreshing, and a great summer splash of a drink. They had a unique selling point on their sangria too… buy a mason jar filled with the sangria for $20, and get $15 refills not just for the remainder of the day, but for any wine festival if you bring the jar! It was a great deal for great sangria!
Overall, another wonderful Clifton Wine Festival. With 16 vineyards, tons of food, vendors, and music… Clifton is a beautiful town filled with history, and a unique wine festival that is set in a calm and relaxing atmosphere. I am already counting down to next year’s!