Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Little Cabin in the Woods. Serving Sweet Wines

Virginia's wine industry is still young and growing. It has not had much opportunity for family-owned wineries to pass from one generation to the next like in some more well-established wine-producing regions. I have heard some winery owners say that their children have an interest in the business. Others have told me that their son or daughter is going to college so that they may take over the winery one day. Yet with the reborn Virginia wine industry still in its first generation, there hasn’t been much of a chance for wineries to be bequeathed from parents to children.

Hidden Brook is not a generational winery, either, but it is pretty close. Owned by a husband and wife team, the couple bought land adjacent to the husband’s parents. The parents own Lost Creek Vineyards and the two properties are separated by rows of vines each uses to make their own wine. If nothing else, Hidden Brook’s story shows that Virginia winemaking is taking root and influencing others’ decision to have a go of making wine in the state. I like the story, and I was eager to visit the winery and try the wines.

Apparently I was the only one. When Caitlin and I visited Hidden Brook we were literally their only customers, which is too bad because the winery itself is a pleasant setting: a log cabin on a wooded lot with a big fireplace. Not a bad place to spend a winter afternoon. Since we were the only people there, we had the attention of one of the owners all to ourselves. She told us a little more about the brief history of the winery, and walked us through a tasting.

The wines all tended to be a bit sweet for my taste. The owner mentioned on several occasions that they make their wines in a sweeter style because that is what their customers want. I wasn’t entirely sure if she was being defensive or apologetic about Hidden Brook’s wines, but she seemed to be of the opinion that Hidden Brook’s wines were not living up to their potential, and I would have to agree. While it never makes sense to alienate your most loyal customers, it also doesn’t make sense to make wines in a style that you don’t personally like. What’s the point of putting that much time, effort, energy, money and toil into something that you will think is, at best, decent?

Still, of the wines that we tried, Hidden Brook’s Chambourcin was the standout. The Chambourcin had a lighter body than many I have tried, but it had a nice flavor profile that combined vanilla, tobacco and raspberries with spice, pine and cloves. The owner, by way of explanation, told us that it was a very young wine and could stand to be aged a bit longer. I could see how a few more years would allow the wine to grow and develop, and, as such, Caitlin and I walked away with a bottle. I am interested to revisit the wine in a couple of years and see if it actually has matured the way I think it will.

While not a great wine, Hidden Brook’s Chambourcin was the best of the ones that we tried. It was by far the least sweet and I can see some potential in it. With a great story, great setting and friendly owners, the only thing missing from Hidden Brook is better wines. And more customers.


  1. We were there earlier this year and they hadn't released the Chambourcin yet. Yes, they do tend to the sweeter side, but if you like those styles of wine the prices are very reasonable

  2. Very true! Their prices were reasonable and if you like a sweeter style wine, then this is your place. While they were on the sweeter side, they were well-made wines that had some body and complexity to them.