2016 was a big year for us: we got engaged, bought a house, our family grew (we are now proud parents to a flock of chickens and a cat named Simba who thinks he is one of the dogs). While time flew by as we focused on building our home, we still found time to explore our Commonwealth and enjoy Virginia wines.
I can’t imagine living in any other state but Virginia. We have it all – history, ocean, mountains, four seasons, great food, and a growing industry of Virginia wine, beer, cider and spirits. As the year draws to a close, I have been reflecting on some of my favorite Virginia activities and refreshments enjoyed in 2016. Here are a few of my favorite things from the year…
3 favorite Virginia wines tasted:
- New Kent Winery’s White Norton – this wine quickly became one of our favorites of 2016. I am a huge fan of Norton wines and love the rich earthiness they offer. This wine was different, in a great way. It offered a lighter, fruitier twist to the Norton grape with a hint of spice. The blush-like wine was unique, and we search ABC constantly for this one so we can stock up!
- Upper Shirley Vineyards’ Viognier – the first wine from Upper Shirley I tried paired with cheeses and other items from their menu, I fell in love. This is what a Virginia Viognier should taste like – crisp, medium-bodied, light sweetness, with a hint of honeysuckle and peach. A big plus – they specialize in growing this grape in their vineyard.
- Ingleside Vineyards’ Blue Crab Red – always my go-to to serve for a group (and my favorite to pour when volunteering at a festival) this wine is versatile and easy to drink. A hint of sweetness (2% residual sugar) and a fruity-berry bouquet carries this red blend. We love this one so much, we are planning to serve it at our wedding.
3 favorite Virginia wine tasting rooms:
- Saude Creek Vineyards (Lanexa) – pulling up to the winery, I mentioned in my post about our experience their tasting room felt like a hidden gem. The views are beautiful, and we were warmly welcomed as we entered the main room. They offered a variety of wines for many tastes, and they paired a couple of these wines with food, including Scottish pig and chocolate.
- Oak Crest Vineyard and Winery (King George) – the tasting room was welcoming and perfect for a winter’s day escape, surrounded by trees and vines. After being warmly greeted and sampling 11 wines for only $5, we found the best seat in front of the fire place. I enjoyed exploring the different items they had available in their gift shop surrounding the room, and made note on our next visit we must try the artisan cheeses.
- Upper Shirley Vineyards (Charles City) – their restaurant, spacious seating, countryside setting, and water view makes this winery a must-visit for the experience. The location is absolutely perfect, and I am already planning our next trip here for a bike ride followed by lunch and tasting.
Favorite Virginia Wine Literature:
- Wines, Vines, and Things by W. Scott Richards – this book offered a quick and easy read, perfect for the casual pick-up. Richards presented a variety of topics for the reader to enjoy, including excerpts on Virginia wine, the industry, and food pairings, as well as poetic and comical stories from an eagle flying and a 3-legged pig. This is a fun read to keep on your shelf or on the bedside table.
Favorite Virginia cider:
- Aragon 1904 from Blue Bee Cider – I loved how light, crisp, fruity and sweet this cider was. When I drink cider, I prefer a less dry, more “apple juice” style blend. I was attracted to this cider instantly!
Favorite Virginia beer:
- Montross Brewery’s Islander – this is an orange wit I quickly fell for at Montross Brewery. I was almost brought to tears when the keg tapped while we were there after my first try! It is my go-to because of its light, crisp and refreshing taste bringing me back to the Caribbean with each sip. (Now, I am going to cheat. My second favorite brew is their Ginger Ale – while not a beer, I find myself craving the sweet ginger taste from their 18th century recipe all the time)
Favorite Virginia gift:
- Virginia Wine Stopper – thank you to Michelle for this awesome gift, this Virginia wine stopper is the epitome of my love for Virginia wine. I display it proudly on my wine rack, with the cluster of grapes in the shape of our beautiful Commonwealth.
Favorite Virginia escape (outside of the wineries):
- Westmoreland State Park – since we are officially homeowners in the Northern Neck of Virginia, I have to say Westmoreland State Park is now one of my favorite places to go. There are miles of hiking trails, a beach where you can hunt for fossilized shark teeth or go for a nice swim (no waves with a taste of salt and minimal shark scare surrounded by cliffs and the occasional bald eagle citing = the perfect beach) Our dogs agree, this is one of their favorite places to visit. Fortunately for them, we have our Naturally Yours Passport for Virginia State Parks so we can visit all we want!
What were some of your favorites for 2016? Did you have a favorite trip or tasting experience? How about a wine festival you can’t wait to go back to?
2016 was a great year of trying new things for us. I already have a growing list of trips set for 2017 and can’t wait to discover other new experiences in Virginia.
Cheers, and happy new year!