After some winter hibernation, we finally ventured outside our domain and visited the latest, and closest, winery - Paradise Springs Winery. Located in historic Clifton, Virginia; this establishment is about 20 minutes, without traffic, from the Capital Beltway. Jane Kincheloe and her son Kirk Wiles have been planning its conception for the past 20 years and with the help of established wineries - crushed their first grapes (Sauvignon Blanc) in 2007. Fortunately, Winery at La Grange has additional capacity and will be used until their barn can be converted into a production facility. The barn has an interesting history. It was formerly located in the town of Fairfax, but in 1956, it "was taken apart, individually numbered, and reassembled piece by piece on the property". Not to be out done, the tasting room is located in a log cabin that was originally built between 1800 and 1825 and then renovated in 1955 by a protege of Frank Lloyd Wright. When you visit, spend a few minutes in the wine cellar - its re mindful of the European wine caves.
While planning their opening, Paradise Springs benefited from the camaraderie among Virginia winemakers. Its interesting to learn how other winemakers and growers continue to assist each other in the state. Sure there's competition, but simultaneously plenty of support. And Paradise Springs received plenty from the proprietors at Philip Carter Winery of Virginia, Pearmund Cellars, Winery at La Grange, and Corcoran Vineyards - among others.
However, there has been several setbacks along the way - and even more than the standard start-up issues. Their neighbors were not keen to a farm winery in the area and fought its establishment through the county government. Fortunately the County Supervisors were more sympathetic to their cause, as were the retail owners in downtown Clifton. Fortunately they did not have to experience the painful legal battles as Marterella Winery. Hopefully these troubles are behind them and their neighbors will warm to the idea of a tasting room nearby. I know I would.
For our visit today, Paradise Springs had a wide array of wines and styles waiting for us. We started with their Sauvignon Blanc which was a nice surprise. I've found that east coast versions have been extremely light and flavorless, but this was an exception. It was full of grapefruit flavor and had nice acidity - a good start to the tasting. Their Chardonnay is made in the sur lie style and aged nine months in French oak. The result is a another flavorful wine with a buttery finish. Paradise Springs couldn't be a Virginia winery without producing a Viognier and their version is okay; our apathy may result from the high standards that Virginia has established with this varietal. There is stiff competition for Viognier. Their most interesting wine is their "kitchen sink" Vidal Blanc - composed of 75% vidal and 10% Traminette, 7.5% Viognier, 5% Petit Manseng, and 2.5% Chardonnay. This is a fun wine - fuller than your average vidal with lots of balancing flavor. And even made with 1.1% r.s. - it felt like a dry wine.
Turning towards their reds, we started with their strawberry bomb, Nana's Rosé - a dry rosé blend made from equal parts Merlot and Tannat. I say strawberry bomb because this wine is all strawberry, from the nose to an unexpected explosion of berry flavor. I really liked it, however, I overheard another taster exclaim there was too much strawberry. That's why you need to taste and trust your own palate. Next was the 2007 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon, recently awarded a Silver medal in the state Governors Cup. This wine was aged 13 month and should age nicely with the string tannins. We have long dismissed Virginia made Cabernet Sauvignon - but times are a changing. With Keswick Vineyards version that was awarded the Governors Cup last year and others, including this version, its time to start taking Virginia produced cab more seriously. The other cab, Cabernet Franc, has no problems gaining credibility in the state and Paradise Springs produces is a nice medium bodied version. It has strong cherry flavors and a easy finish - making it drinkable now. The final wine was a 2008 Norton made from grapes sourced, not surprisingly, from the word's largest grower of Norton: Chrysalis Vineyards. The wine is aged six months in Hungarian Oak and they did a remarkable job removing the inherent acidity and grapey flavor that make poorly made Norton quite toxic. This is much better than many of the Norton's produced by established Virginia wineries and should even get better with another year or so to mellow in the bottle. Don't expect a 2009 Norton, because the grapes were damaged by uncooperative weather.
Despite problems with their neighbors, Paradise Springs is a welcome addition to the Virginia wine family. Its a nice attraction close to the Beltway so there's no need to journey too far out Route 66 for a quick indulgence. They can expect us to return quite often.