We starting our summer travels by traveling down the Shenandoah Valley in order to visit a winery that has been in our radar for quite some time: Barren Ridge Vineyards. We were most familiar with the winery, not because of their wines, but because they offer live music the third Friday of every month and tonight Jimmy O was scheduled. That led to a visit.
Barren Ridge Vineyards is the result of John and Shelby Higgs salvaging the Higgs family apple orchard. While living in Switzerland, Mr. Higgs experienced the European wine tradition firsthand and wanted to translate that culture to Augusta County. In 2007 friends and family planted vinifera vines and local contractors restored the decaying apple barn into a modern winery and tasting facility. Currently their wines are being made from grapes grown in neighboring vineyards until the estate vines mature. But they provide quite a selection.
We started out with a dry Vidal which was quite frankly - a nice change from the usual semi-dry to sweet Vidal. It had a nice citrus flavor and decent acidity - this is probably a popular option. But what I liked best about their other single varietal wines is that they were exactly what you would expect from that grape variety. The Chardonnay, Traminette Viognier, Cabernet Franc were what one would expect from a Virginia version of these varietals. Really liked the cab franc. Same with their full bodied Petit Verdot - this is a big wine - maybe even bigger than their Meritage; but right on. Evidently the grapes benefited from a late frost and then an unusually dry, hot summer - resulting in lower yields and concentrated flavors. This is a nice wine. It was also a nice surprise that they craft a single varietal Touriga - we are always looking for something different - and if we weren't going to be in a car for a long period - this wine would have come along. Instead we choose the Traminette for our semi-dry loving relatives.
Besides these single varieties, the winery produces rather unique blends - actually one of each - a red, white and rosé. The Meritage is their most accomplished having received a Gold medal at the 2009 Virginia State Fair. It is a blend of the three traditional Bordeaux grapes and priced at $25 - a decent value. Another good value at $15 is the white Tinkling Spring, a blend of four grapes. It is made off-dry - but with plenty of acidity to offset that character. Finally we have to applaud their Dry Rosé - not only for the results, but for the effort involved in crafting this wine. Juice from 5 grapes (Touriga, Merlot, Petit Verdot, Cabernet Franc, Chambourcin) are bled from the skins - then fermented. The result is a strawberry flavored dry wine - perfect for summer nights listening to music on their patio. Well done. We will most definitely return to listen to good music and good wine.