Aldie Harvest Food & Wine Festival

This weekend we took a break from painting and other household chores to check out Aldie Heritage Association’s Harvest Food and Wine Festival in downtown Aldie.  Now, “downtown” is used lightly because there isn’t even a traffic light in Aldie, but it is a very cute little town with old houses and stores, historic buildings, and place or two to grab a bite.  Never having attended the festival before, I had no idea what to expect.  

The weather was beautiful, a perfect autumn day around 70 degrees, which only added to the fun country feel of the event.  We arrived about an hour after everything began and followed the direction of the volunteers who parked us in a surprisingly crowded parking lot (which was totally a field of tall grass a few days earlier) for a small-town event.  We were handed a map and pamphlet about what to expect and where everything was located.  Quite a few vendors were set up under tents and we perused all kinds of crafts, quilts, boutique clothing, antiques, and refinished or re-purposed furniture.  

Next, we made our way next door to the Aldie Peddler, owned and operated by Aldie’s own Mayor Wally.  Some believe this is a self-appointed position, but after you meet him, you will realize that he simply loves to socialize and work a crowd.  Inside you can find hundreds of different wines from all over the world which Wally chooses himself.  If you see a blue tag on a wine, it means it’s one of Mayor Wally’s favorites.  You will find that he has a lot of favorites 😊 Additionally, there are a wide variety of locally sourced items such as jams and salsas, dog biscuits and cookies, peanuts, and other Virginian treats.  

The sign outside the Peddler may say antiques, but after speaking with Wally, he’ll inform you that he simply got tired of going to estate sales over the years and decided to focus on selling the sweet nectar of the grape to his local and devoted customer base.  The Peddler advertises 100 wines priced under $10, but we decided not to count or verify that statistic.  What’s really appealing is how intimate of a store the Peddler is…beyond the old/historic feeling of it.  Wally is often there himself pouring a tasting or having a distributor come by to assist.  I recall on a visit where Wally hadn’t decided what to pour that day and walked around and talked to us and picked what we were looking at…and that’s pretty special in the customer service department.  We got to taste a number of random bottles we hadn’t had before, all because he wanted us to enjoy and like what we bought.

It doesn’t end there with the Peddler.  If you had to guess what goes well with wine and snacks, what would you?  I know what you wouldn’t.  Polylumber Furniture.  Beautiful Adirondack-styled furniture of every color made of composite materials that withstand the test of time.  Although a little stressful on the wallet, the quality of these pieces and the longevity you get with them completely justify their price tag.

Oh…and one last thing about the Peddler…feel free to bring your dog in the shop with you as they are welcome each and every day.

As we made our way to the food and wine portion of the festival, we passed the Aldie Mill and caught part of the musket demonstrations given by a few gentlemen dressed in historical civil war uniforms.  Our dog Seamus was not too pleased with the successive rounds of loud gunfire so we quickly moved along the path, around an old building or two, to the entrance where the wine tasting was taking place.  There were three Virginia wineries available for tastings; Boxwood Winery, Otium Cellars, and 50 West Vineyard.  

Boxwood Winery

We found an open spot at the Boxwood table first where we met Dorothy Vaccaro, Boxwood’s Winery Manager.  She presented us with three wines to taste:

  • Trellis – A light-bodied red, reminiscent of a Right Bank Bordeaux dominated by the Merlot grape.  This is a softer, less tannic wine than the Cab Sav dominant (or Left Bank) Bordeaux blends.  It was neither too hot or too cold outside and this red matched the feel of the day and for me, it was a daytime red.
  • Topiary – A Cab Franc dominant wine and that is evident from the first sip.  The plum jumps right out followed by the earthiness one comes to expect from this grape.  The hints of smoke and velvety texture are well received at the finish.  To add to its complexity, Merlot and Petit Verdot jump into the mix adding additional subtleties.  One thing to note, this is a Wine Club or Tasting Room only wine, so that adds to the incentive of visiting their estate.
  • Boxwood Reserve – An interesting wine as the grapes themselves decide the proportion of their representation in this red.  Boxwood takes the best of the best from their Cab Sav, Cab Franc, Merlot, and Petit Verdot vines each year and makes this Bordeaux-Style red.  We found this wine to be medium-large bodied, a balanced representation of cassis and blackberry with some of the earthiness found in Virginia Cab Francs, finishing with hints of spice and smoke.

Dorothy informed us at the Winery, they also have a Rose that is down to its last handful of cases (and one some of our wine-friends rave about) and a Sauvignon Blanc, which premiered this year with their 2016 vintage.  We really enjoyed speaking with Dorothy and since she indicated to us that she’s a writer, we are hoping to get her on board for a guest article in the not so distant future.  Regardless, Kris and I are planning to sneak out to Boxwood soon and hopefully, we don’t miss a taste of the Rose’ before everyone else has drunk it up.

Otium Cellars

Next was Otium where Mary was our pourer.  What a delightful woman and fun to talk to!  Otium is a very interesting winery because they grow a very unique list of grapes, not typical of those found in Virginia.  I’m talking blaufränkish, dornfelder, and grauburgunder as just a few examples.  Yah…try saying all of those three times fast!  To add, they surprised me by serving a Malbec.  When Kris saw it on the tasting menu, he definitely raised an eyebrow and asked right away whether the grapes were importedor estate-grown.  To his surprise, Mary informed us that they were in fact estate grown grapes.  More on this later.  The order of our tasting went like this:

  • Grüner Veltliner – This was a new one for us as neither of us has tried the style of wine.  It wasn’t overly complex.  A light, crisp, acidic, and refreshing white.  Almost like a toned-down Sauvignon Blanc, but slightly sweeter with hints of honey.  A subtleness of lime and florals present throughout the taste.  This is definitely one of those “dangerous” wines because it goes down so easy…it could get you in trouble!
  • Pinot Gris – Mary informed us that their Pinot Gris really isn’t a Pinot Gris, but really a wine utilizing the grauburgunder grape.  It appears many refer to the grauburgunder as the German Pinot Gris, but it was nothing like the ones we have come to know.  This is a sweet wine with 1.5% residual sugar with flavors of pear and spice.
  • Blaufränkish – This was a medium-bodied red and having visited Austria in the past, I was already a fan of the style.  Rich in tannin, high in spice.  Reminiscent of a Pinot Noir if I am to draw a comparison.  This wine does not disappoint and is very true to the style I learned to love in my travels.
  • Malbec – I watched Kris try this before I did because I wanted to see how he reacted.  He’s a fan of Malbec wines and can often be quite critical of one he doesn’t like.  There’s a reason why we don’t see this grown in Virginia often…it’s a pain to grow and grow well.  Kris touched upon it in his Nothing Boring ’bout Bordeaux article as Malbec is one of the 5 Bordeaux Grapes.  OK…long story short, Kris loved it and flat out said he was surprised.  Otium imported the vines from Argentina for their vineyard, but every grape is estate grown and they seem to be growing quite well.  We’re talking about blackberry, black cherry, cocoa, leather, tobacco, and that earthiness many of us love.  Big bodied and velvety.  Kris bought a bottle and applauded their efforts.

We really enjoyed our time with Otium and it just so happens that their tasting room is just up the road from our good friends, so the next time we’re out in Purcellville, we’ll be dropping by to look around and taste some more.

50 West Vineyard

Our final tasting stop was 50 West where we met the owner Diane Canney.  With her husband Mike, they also own Sunset Hills Vineyard.  We talked about their wineries and how the two are growing and making different wines and how they are not simply rebottling wine with different labels for the two locations.  Each winery, although sharing the same winemaker, is doing different things with their grapes.  The wines we tried on this day included:

  • Chardonnay – Kris and I are not typically Chardonnay fans…well, correct that, we are not fans of the buttery, oaky ones that seem to be coming out in droves.  Another quick plug for Kris’ Wine-Ucation page, check out his recent article on Malolactic Fermentation, which is the reason for the buttery and creamy mouthfeel.  Anyway, this wine was delicious.  Apple, Floral, and light sweetness.  We truly enjoyed it.
  • Rose’ – 50 West uses Sangiovese in their Rose’.  Cool right?  This grape is known to be a tough one to grow in Virginia and in their Rose’ it shines.  Crisp and refreshing as a Rose’ should be, prominent with strawberry, but also hints of the Sangiovese grape like that of blueberry and rhubarb.
  • Chambourcin – We had the pleasure of tasting this wine recently on a quick stop to 50 West a few weeks back and it was interesting to taste it again from a different perspective.  When we first tried it, we didn’t remember it being too sweet, but on this visit, the sweetness did present itself but don’t get me wrong, it is not overpowering.  Another thing we liked about this wine was the cherry and plum flavors balanced by an appropriate amount of spice and smoke.  When we visited 50 West, we bought a bottle of this wine to see how it would do with a little time on the shelf and we definitely look forward to opening it at a later date to see how the flavors have come together.

Diane talked to us about participating in a future blending event where each participant gets to create their own blend to match their like or interests.  Sounds like a blast!  We definitely hope to make a visit and partake.  The 50 West tasting room sits up on a hill, just off Route 50 West (go figure!) with a beautiful view and separate cottage for their club members.  We also happened to come across their Rose’ at our local Wine Styles in South Riding, VA.  So great to see local shops carry local wine!

The remainder of the day, we wandered.  Looked at some antiques, checked out a food truck or two, said hello to many other dogs, and struck up conversations with other people out and about enjoying their day.  We may have even stopped for a face painting…a topic we conclude with this sentence and shall never speak of again.  As you can see, all of our experiences on this day were terrific and the setting of Old Town Aldie just added to the fun and feeling.  The three wineries representing are all easily accessible and on our list of places to go to or revisit, so watch for future articles about those adventures and the experience we had at each.  

It’s worth noting…if you are in the area of 50 West or Sunset Hills, stop in for a glass of Rose’ this October, as all proceeds from those sales go to support Breast Cancer Research…what better excuse do you need to stop and have a glass of wine!

One last note…I expected we might be at the festival for an hour or so, but we ended up being there for several with all there was to see, sip, eat, listen to, and do.  It was a great way to enjoy an autumn day and taking part in the fun feel of the community.  It is safe to say we will be adding this to our annual fall events list of must dos!