Kris and I set out last weekend to gather a few photos in preparation to launch the blog. Our plan was to visit a few wineries in Delaplane that we hadn’t visited, get some photos, and have some time to sit and relax so I could do some final edits and site configuration.
What is it they say about best-laid plans?
We started out at Delaplane Cellars, a winery we had heard good things about but hadn’t visited before. The tasting room from the outside reminded us of an old church and sits on a hill overlooking the vines. Upon entering we were impressed with the high ceilings, the natural light through the numerous windows, and the warm but simplistic feel of the space. Catching my attention were the paintings throughout the room.
We were cheerfully greeted by our pourer Eileen and took up a spot at the corner of the bar. I asked Eileen about the art and she pointed to her fellow pourer at the other end of the room and said that she was the artist. More on this later.
On the tasting menu, we had 3 whites and 4 reds, one red being a Rose’. We did get a couple extra tastes of two wines that were not on the tasting list. We started off with Sauvignon Blanc, then moved on to Viognier, and finally the dry Petit Manseng (PM). Kris is a junkie for Sauvignon Blanc and Viognier, so he was all smiles. To be honest, a lot of Sauvignon Blancs from Virginia grapes have disappointed us in the past. Not this time…it was refreshing and delicious. Kris’ favorite of the whites was the Viognier. He felt it was very true to the style and we could have bought a bottle of that and been happy with the visit. I preferred the PM. A lot of the Virginia PMs we have tried in the past come with 2, 3, or 4+% residual sugar. This was different, although there was a little residual sugar, it was crisp, dry, and delicious. Eileen poured us a different version of the PM that had 4% residual sugar (so much more like we are accustomed to) and it was good, but not what we prefer.
Next came the Rose’. At first glance, the color was eye-catching. Sunset-like. The nose was all strawberry and on the pallet, just the same with some additional hints of rhubarb. The Reds are highlighted by Delaplane’s Williams Gap and Left Bank. Both Bordeaux styles, but from grapes of different sources. I gravitated to the Left Bank myself as I tend to like Cab Savs and blends that are Cab Sav dominant. Kris went home with a bottle of Viognier… shocker.
Although we enjoyed every wine we tasted and will definitely make a return to Delaplane, what set the experience apart for us this time was meeting some new friends on the other side of the corner of the bar. After a short time chatting Kris learned that two of them were from Illinois and the other two are local, but originally from Illinois. Kris grew up in Illinois and is a die-hard Cubs fan, so after some back and forth on the subject, more discussions flourished – we really enjoyed the company of our new friends.
As we were nearing completion, our new friends suggested we join them at their next stop; Three Foxes Winery. They told us they knew the owners and we’d enjoy it. Coincidently, that was to be our next stop because this weekend they were doing their annual Lucy Stomp. More on this come. We settled our tab at Delaplane and I got to speak with Linda L. Anderson, the artist of all the beautiful paintings in the tasting room, more about her work. She gave me her business card and I definitely foresee a piece of hers hanging in our home in the near future!
So, before we get to Three Foxes, I need to discuss the overall experience of Delaplane. I truly loved it for what it was. Delicious wine and a relaxed and elegant atmosphere. Tables inside and on the patio for the beautiful fall Virgina days. Perfect for a simple stop or a bottle, but it’s not one of those wineries I see myself spending the day… unless it’s one of those days that I plan to sit, write, and not be bothered by others. The one thing I wish is that they allowed us to bring our four-legged friend, Seamus, on the patio, but it is not permitted.
Time for Three Fox Winery
We passed it on the way to Delaplane and now followed our new friends into the parking lot. It was already busy and parking was slim. There were a couple buses parked as well. Right away, we knew this was a different type of winery. Not in a bad way at all. The energy was the complete opposite. Three Foxes was filled with people, young and old. Some with kids, some with dogs, some with both. A live band played classic rock tunes while multiple people, some dressed like Lucille Ball, stomped with bare feet in barrels full of grapes, producing as much juice as possible (hence the name Lucy Stomp). What we didn’t realize was that people needed to sign up for the stomping competition well in advance as it’s quite popular with the visitors. Maybe next year!
The owner had a table reserved for all of us upon our arrival. A simple cast iron patio set with umbrellas. It was perfect. Rather than doing a complete tasting of their selection, we decided to join our new friends by buying a bottle. The first thing to note is that most bottle prices were $30 or less…a pleasantry not often experienced in Northern Virginia wineries. Our new friends chose a bottle of the Chardonnay and for us… Sangiovese! Kris picked that one out. Although it was a warm day (mid 80s), Kris felt a light red was warranted. Plus, it’s not common to see Sangiovese wine in Virginia…with Virginia grapes that is. The wine went down without a problem. Light bodied with flavors of plum and spice.
We sat for a couple hours mingling, sipping, snacking, etc. The energy of the whole place was a ton of fun. This is the perfect type of environment to bring your friends, kids, dogs, etc. and hang out for the day. As we sat, more and more people arrived… and more and more buses. There were bachelor parties, bachelorette parties, and just groups of people arriving in varying ways. We definitely were lucky to have a place to sit. Behind the tasting room are plenty more tables and there is also an outside tasting table/bar to taste and purchase. A very nice touch.
The time came where Kris and I needed to depart. We still had another stop on our list and we definitely weren’t anywhere close to doing some blog edits and writing. As we walked to the car, we were amazed at how many more cars, buses, limos, etc there were parked than when we got there. When we pulled in, we had the parking spot furthest away, but by the time we left, we were in prime territory.
Aspen Dale Winery….here we come.
It was only 10 minutes away or so. A couple turns here and there and Kris almost drove right by Aspen Dale as the GPS had us going another few hundred feet before the final turn. Nothing like hitting reverse in the middle of the road, but at least no cars were coming. As we pulled in, we definitely liked the charm of the place. It was old, but in a good way. Lots of foliage. Simple. We walked through the front door and right away you feel transitioned 150 years back. All the wood, the smell…it was great. We went straight to the tasting bar and met our pourer and immediately started. We had some white blends, a rose, a cider (had to pay an extra $1 for), and some reds. At the very end, we got to taste their sangria…which was delicious, but very sweet. What makes Aspen Dale a fun place to taste is that they have food pairings with each wine they pour. The Sage Derby cheese. The Pheasant Sausage. The Pheasant Sausage with Jalapenos and Jack. Those three stood out.
There are a lot of things to like about Aspen Dale, but I have to be honest about the things I didn’t. The pours were extremely tiny. I found it difficult to taste the wine, try the food pairing, and taste the wine again. I also felt rushed through the entire process. It could have simply been the day and their current level of business, but wine tasting to me is relaxing. It’s social. You get time to think about what you are experiencing. Additionally, when you are out tasting, the pourers often make you feel special and appreciated by saying that they’d like you to try something not on the tasting menu for free. Delaplane did that with two of their wines, one of which we bought. The extra $1 for a sip of cider didn’t sit well with us.
OK, but back to the things we liked. It was great being able to bring our dog Seamus inside with us. Dogs are totally welcome inside and out. Additionally, the rusticness of the interior is a nice change of pace from some of the new tasting rooms out there. There’s a steep spiral staircase that you need to watch out for if you’ve had a glass or two! Outside around back are a number of tables, chairs, and umbrellas to sit, relax, and enjoy the weather and snacks and just adjacent you’ll find some livestock that will walk right up to the fence to say hello to you and your kids. Like Three Foxes, this is a place you can easily spend the day relaxing if the weather is nice, but I’ll add we did find a guy passed out on a chair inside and upstairs who is probably spending the day there as well 🙂
Upon our departure, we picked up a couple bottles, the derby cheese, and the jalapeno jack pheasant sausage. The price point on the wine is a little steep and when compared to other wineries at the same $$, there are other bottles I’d rather purchase, but yet still, Aspen Dale is a unique and fun place to visit that I would not hesitate recommending.