Thursday, February 10, 2011

Take a Walk on the Ingleside

When a story begins with the clichéd opening: “it was a dark and stormy night,” you know that something unsavory is going to happen. Almost as clichéd is that opening’s bastard son: “it was a cold and rainy day.” Luckily, when Caitlin and I visited Ingleside Vineyards recently on a cold and rainy day, there was nothing unsavory about it. In fact, just the opposite was true. We had a great time tasting and touring one of Northern Virginia’s oldest and most well-established wineries.

Ingleside has been producing wine since 1980, and that history and experience is evident in all aspects of the winery’s operations. The smooth functioning of the tasting room, the large gift shop selling any number of Virginia and wine-centric tchotchkes, the impressive calendar of events and, of course, the wine itself all serve as a testament to the value of experience. I was pleasantly surprised by some of their wines and downright impressed with a few of them – particularly the Petit Verdot - which we couldn’t help but buy a bottle of.

One of the things that really impressed about Ingleside is that it both produces an impressive array of wines and also grows an impressive array of their own grapes. Included in the grapes that they grow are Sangiovese, Charbono and Syrah - varietals that aren’t normally associated with Virginia wine. Many wineries grow the grapes that go into their wines, yet I don't know of another winery in the state that is growing such a wide variety of grapes and producing such a wide range of drinkable wines.

If you visit the winery I would recommend taking the tour. It is short and informative and you get to visit their barrel room, which is available to rent for private parties. It is an impressive, yet intimate room – though I thought only college dorm rooms decorated with year-round Christmas lights.

As for the wines themselves, they offer several different tastings: Chesapeake, Premium and Inclusive. We chose the Premium tasting that included their Chardonnay, Pinot Grigio, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Sangiovese, Petit Verdot and a dessert wine. I really liked both the Chardonnay and the Cabernet Franc. The Cabernet Sauvignon just couldn’t compete with its Napa Valley relatives in my opinion.

And then there was the Petit Verdot. With a deep, dark, purple color and smelling of licorice, coffee, chocolate and a hint of fresh tar – trust me on this one - you know almost immediately that this wine is going to kick you in the teeth when you drink it. And it does, but in a good way. The wine is very full-bodied with a nice dry but not overly dry finish.

What you smell is what you get. Chocolate, licorice, coffee, and yes, a bit of fresh tar, make this big, well-structured and balanced wine one that lingers long after you have taken a sip.

On a related note, the Virginia Wine Showcase is being held this weekend. Ingleside will be one of the 40 or so wineries that will be there. The Virginia Wine Showcase is one of the best opportunities to try myriad different wines from around the state in one location.

I hope to see you there. And to try the Ingleside Petit Verdot again.

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