RdV Vineyards – A Few Visits and Reviews

I originally wrote this article last year.  Shortly later, Kelly decided to open her own Career Coaching & Personal Branding business, and we had to put A Complex Crush on hold for a short time.  That said, it’s now time to start posting again.  I added some updated information at the bottom.

December 2017…

Little did we know that embedding ourselves more and more into the Virginia Wine community would trigger so many new and fun relationships.  This is the foundation for this week’s story about a recent adventure.

RdV Vineyards is one of those places that active wine enthusiasts know plenty about, but it’s not one that the casual consumers might recognize.  It sits just north of Interstate 66 in Delaplane, VA.  If you’ve read our blog before, you’d remember this city as there are a growing number of wineries surfacing in and around it.  What makes RdV a bit different than other wineries is that it doesn’t cater to the weekend masses.  It doesn’t have multiple bars set up with tasting tables.  You can’t bring your four-legged friend or your screaming two-legged child.  Quite frankly, you can’t drive there, walk in, and have a tasting without scheduling a reservation.  This might put off certain people, but after our visit, it was an experience I embraced and whole-heartedly recommend.
RdV Vineyards

A couple we’ve become good friends with through various wine-related events reached out to us and asked if we’d like to join them at RdV as they are members of their Ambassador Program (a.k.a. their wine club) and going to go there to pick up their yearly allotment of wine.  Because they are members, they made reservations, and we didn’t need to set up a tour/tasting.  We hopped in the car and drove to Delaplane.  Upon arriving, we viewed the rolling hills covered in vines and a beautiful, white, rustic, barn-like building welcoming us in.  Additionally, a silo prominently towers above just behind the main entrance, but on the interior, that silo plays a different role.  It’s the circular staircase that takes you from the main floor down into the cellar, library, and tank room.

As we entered the building, Connie Fowler, RdV’s Hospitality Director, instantly greeted us.  Of course, she knew our friends and welcomed them back and also extended a warm greeting to Kelly and I.  Our friends indicated they came by to pick up their wine, but also sit down and enjoy a glass or two.  She found another staff member to take care of us and had us seated at a nearby table.

The interior can be described as warm, inviting, and rustic, but open and bright with RdV_Vineyards_Silomodern touches.  The table we sat at had these low wooden seats, and to be 100% honest, I thought the chairs would be horribly uncomfortable, but it took less than a second in one to realize how wrong I was.  As much as I enjoyed the interior, the one thing I valued most was the lack of a massive crowd crammed around a tasting table.  Don’t get me wrong…there are plenty of times where I enjoy the energy and craziness of a busy winery, but there are many moments where I want to sit down with a nice glass, good friends, and converse in a comfortable and relaxing environment.

So…time to have a drink!  We ordered the vertical tasting off the menu with an accompanied charcuterie board.  A vertical tasting is one where you sample the same wine from different vintages.  In our case, we had 2012, 2013, and 2014 Rendezvous and right with it a glass of their 2014 Lost Mountain.  The Rendezvous is a Right-Bank Bordeaux-style red dominated by Merlot followed by Cab Sav, Cab Franc, and Petit Verdot.  The Lost Mountain is Left-Bank Bordeaux-style red nearly 3-quarters Cab Sav with some Cab Franc and Merlot to finish it off.  It was definitely interesting trying the three Rendezvous’ side by side.  I felt the 12, and the 13 resembled one another quite well with subtle fruit, rich tannins, hints of smoke, and some earthiness.  The 14 was more on its own and far more fruit forward on the nose and pallet.  It does have a bit more Petit Verdot than the previous vintages, and I’m sure that played into it.  All four of us at the table agreed that the 14 could use a little more time in the bottle even as delicious as it was.  The debate then turned into which Rendezvous each of us preferred.  I believe it was a split.  2 for 2012 and 2 for 2013.  Personally, I really enjoyed the 2013 and so did Kelly, but that’s not a surprise to as we have been a big fan of a number of the 2013 Virginia vintages from some of our other favorite wineries.  Although still subtle, I felt there was a little more earthiness to it, the tannins appropriate to the fruit, and the flavor lingered pleasantly on my tongue.   Those that preferred the 12 really enjoyed the softer tannins with the higher concentration of Merlot (57% vs 44%) that came with more of a dark fruit character.  In all reality, we were splitting hairs with these two as they are both fantastic wines.

So, what about the Lost Mountain?  This is RdV’s flagship wine and as mentioned, dominated by Cab Sav (72% for this vintage).  We weren’t able to compare it to other vintages, but we did enjoy this wine immensely.  Both Kelly and I tend to prefer the Left-Bank vs Right-Bank Bordeaux wines, and once again, this was the case.  Tobacco, vanilla, dark cherry, rich tannins…delicious.

Oh…and how could I forget the charcuterie?  I honestly should have taken a picture of what was included on these boards because some of them were fantastic…and all were delicious.  I really enjoy the Duck Paté and the Wild Boar.  For the cheeses, I was the only one that didn’t put the aged Gouda on the top.  Although delicious, I prefer the softer cheeses…ones with a little stink to them…to Kelly’s dislike.  On top of the meats and cheeses, we had some freshly toasted bread (which everyone LOVED), crackers, and a fig jam.

So…with the tasting complete, it was time to get a bottle of something to share amongst the table.  We let our friends make the selection, and they went with the 2010 Rendezvous.  For me, this wine stole the show for the day, and I am not exaggerating when I say it was one of my favorite wines ever tasted in Virginia.  I went to RdV’s website to see how they described the 2010 season and this is what they write:

“Record temperatures in late March set the momentum for the hot and dry season that would follow. With the vines breaking bud in early April, the season began nearly three weeks ahead of average. Much to our pleasant surprise, these dry Mediterranean conditions continued all the way through harvest, which began in early September and was complete by mid-October. Small intense berries produced wines with tremendous concentration and power that will undoubtedly age gracefully for many years to come.”

The blend of grapes on this wine is Merlot 44%, Cab Sav 24%, Petit Verdot 20%, and Cab Franc 12%.  To be honest, I was quite surprised to see Petit Verdot this high as the typical Virginia fruit-forward and jamminess often associated with this grape didn’t present as much as the number may indicate.  It was a well-balanced, complex, and velvety wine that only brought me disappointment when there was none left to drink.

Following our sips and snacks, Connie came back around and took us for a quick tour.  The spiral staircase mentioned above took us downstairs where we saw the tank room, their library, and a display on the wall with core samples of the ground used to analyze the conditions of the vineyard.

RdV_Vineyards_Core_SampleWe walked through a set of doors into a long, chilly hallway filled with barrels on our left and right.  The further we walked, the deeper underground we went and ultimately, we reached a wall.  It wasn’t your ordinary wall, but rather the rock and ground that their vineyard grows upon.  Extremely interesting to look at and we were told that sometimes, depending on the weather, water trickles down and through the stone.

By the end of our tour, we were both highly impressed with the wine, facility, staff, and surroundings.  Kelly thought I was going to pull the trigger and join their Ambassador program, but I gave pause and would like to return again after the holidays.  A membership to RdV is quite simple as it just affords you with access.  Access to their facility, their wine, and their events.  The requirements as ambassadors are simple too.  6 bottles of Lost Mountain each year.  What might dissuade some people is the cost of their wine.  A bottle of Lost Mountain runs for $125.  Rendezvous a bit cheaper @ $75.  It’s the most expensive wine I am aware of in Virginia, but they do have a “Friends and Family” wine that is $38 and only available to ambassadors.  I wasn’t able to try it this visit and was told that it’s quite tasty and made from the grapes that didn’t make the cut for Rendezvous and Lost Mountain.  [UPDATE] Our friends gracious gave Kelly and I a bottle over Christmas (2017).  We didn’t wait to consume it, and for $38, it was a steal.  Terrific wine, well balanced.  Their “second-cut” wine surpasses a lot of other VA “first-cuts.”

Upon our departure, our friends picked up their 6 bottles of Lost Mountain, beautifully packed in a wood crate lined with some fabric.  These bottles are destined for their rack and probably won’t be touched for many years if I know one of their mindsets.  Connie bid her farewell, and out the door, we went.  Our next stop, The Ashby Inn.

The Ashby Inn is a hidden gem located in Paris, Virginia.  We were there for lunch, so it wasn’t a lengthy visit, but the locally sourced meats and produce didn’t disappoint.   Of the four of us, 3 ordered the burger.  One Rare, one Medium, and one Well.  I’m the one who ordered the rare, and it was cooked to perfection.  One of the best burgers that I’ve had in quite some time.  With our regular menu came an extensive wine offering, featuring many wines across Virginia and the world.  Wine Spectator has recognized The Ashby Inn each year since 2015 with the Best of Award of Excellence.  Wine Spectator further describes this distinction as the restaurant and their wine list displaying, “excellent breadth across multiple winegrowing regions and/or significant vertical depth of top producers, along with superior presentation. Typically offering 350 or more selections, these restaurants are destinations for serious wine lovers, showing a deep commitment to wine, both in the cellar and through their service team.”  Stuart Brennen is their Sommelier, and a great one at that, as every time we dine at the Ashby Inn, he always suggests great pairings…many we’ve never tried…and we’ve never been disappointed.  Along with the wine, he shares a great story or two that will educate even the most experienced wine connoisseur.

On this specific visit, we were in a Virginia-wine kind of mood and ordered a bottle of Glen Manor Vineyard’s 2013 Hodder Hill.  This is a red blend dominated by Cab Sav, but it was a bit lower in tannin and more fruit forward than anything we drank earlier in the day.  Don’t get me wrong, it’s a terrific wine, and we enjoyed with our friends alongside a great meal.  A different friend of ours that works at one of our go-to wineries actually recommended that we go out to Glen Manor sometime and try some of their wines…especially their Sauvignon Blanc.  He told me that it was one of his favorites that he’s had in Virginia, and his opinion is one that I always enjoy, so I definitely look forward to my first visit there. [NOTE: We have since visited Glen Manor… stay tuned for an article on that experience]

[UPDATE #1] We returned to RdV in late winter of 2018 with some other friends who had never been there prior.  We took the official tour that lasts an hour, and it was extremely informative.  We followed with a vertical tasting, and a single tasting of the 2013 Lost Mountain complemented by a charcuterie board very similar to the one tasted at our previous visit.  I didn’t even mention the Ambassador program, but Kelly looked at me and said, “go for it,” know just what I was thinking.  With that, I talked to Connie, and she let me try the 2014 Lost Mountain to see which I preferred for our 6-bottle purchase to initiate our membership.  On a side note, I’m pleased we did join that day because a month later, they closed membership as they reached capacity.  We ended up taking 2 bottles of the 2013 and 4 of 2014.  Both delicious.  2014 was definitely a bigger wine, more fruit forward, and higher in tannin, but 2013 showed its additional aging with a complex, but delicate palate.  We look forward to opening these wines in a few years.

[UPDATE #2] August 12, 2018 – Kelly and I signed up for the Rendezvous Vertical tasting that RdV hosted.  When I say vertical… I really mean it.  It was every vintage of Rendezvous side by size.  2008 through 2015.  One by one we went through the wines.  Between Rutger (the owner), Jarad (estate director), and Josh (their winemaker), stories of each vintage were told to include the challenges, successes, decisions, etc.  Each had their favorites for different reasons.  I was pleased to taste the 2010 Rendezvous once again, and it was still one of my favorite VA wines.  Jarad mentioned that this was one of the bigger and bolder Rendezvous vintages and people who like California wines would be drawn to it.  Guilty as charged!  Kelly’s favorite was 2013.  That doesn’t surprise me at all.  Many 2013’s are more about the non-fruit flavors.  Tobacco, Leather, etc.  We also both enjoyed 2011 as that was 2nd on both of our lists.  At the end of the day, we left with a bottle of 2010, 2011, and 2013 and they currently reside in our wine cellar.

[UPDATE #3] September 15, 2018 – Kelly and I took my father and mother to RdV for their first time.  My father can be a bit of a wine snob, but the experience he had was similar to the first experience Kelly, and I had almost a year earlier.  When we asked him about his overall impression, he said that he felt RdV was the most complex VA wine he’s had and at the top of the list.

[UPDATE #4] RdV Prices & Membership – Many of us were not happy this fall when we learned that RdV had upped their price on the Lost Mountain to $150/bottle.  We learned of this when they sent out a notice about our yearly allotment of the 2015 vintage.  If I’m 100% honest, Kelly was quite upset to the point that she suggested we not renew our membership.  We both agreed that a $5 rise in price could be stomached, but $25 was crazy.  Our good friends were quite upset as well.  They have been members for a few years and have seen the prices go up and up, but I think 2018 may have been pushing it.  From what we learned, RdV had a lot of members reject their allotment and cancel their membership.  As a result, RdV emailed people on their email list stating, “We are pleased to offer our valued mailing list access to the current allocation of 2015 Lost Mountain, our signature blend.”  To me, this translates to RdV got a bit greedy in their pricing, lost a lot of customers, and are trying to sell that wine to others.  Listen…I absolutely love RdV wine, and the 2015 vintage is fantastic.  Both James Suckling and Wine Advocate scored it a 94.  So…we kept our membership and forked over $900 for 6 bottles, but they really need to be careful because the PR-hit they took this year is one they can’t sustain.  I know some people who are now put off by them.  It reminds me about something I’ve read in many leadership books.  Short-Term gains should not come at the expense of Long-Term success.