Monday, July 20, 2009

West-Whitehill Winery

It is becoming common knowledge that some form of wine is produced in every state and within scenic West Virginia about 15 wineries call home. The eastern section of the state, the Potomac Highlands, contains the South Branch Valley which is a small micro climate. Called a Rain Shadow, the area receives little precipitation and low humidity because they are located on the leeward side of the Allegheny Front. (See picture below for more information.) For almost thirty years, West-Whitehill Winery has been cultivating French Hybrid grapes in the valley and selling the wines to a steadily growing domestic market.

Because of this domestic market, the wines are made on the sweeter side. The only completely dry offerings are a nice medium bodied Chambourcin aged in French oak and a Seyval Blanc. They also produce the West Virginia red which is basically the Chambourcin made off-dry. Our favorites were the two semi-dry wines, the Vidal Blanc and a second Seyval Blanc - both made with about 1.5% r.s. Both portray nice fruit characteristics, but we were won over by the acidic content. Both are refreshing wines.

The most interesting wine is their Aurora Blush. I wonder how many readers have even heard of this grape, or of the Chancellor that is added to enhance the color. Its actually a decent wine, not necessarily fitting into our tastes, but during a visit a couple entered the tasting room and purchased a case. That's how the winery stays in business. With assistance from the sweet wines. There's the Highland Mist, a blend of hybrid grapes and orange and lemon spices; the Mountain Spice, this time with cloves and cinnamon added to the juice; the Classic Currant and the Raspberry Royale. These last two are definitely worth tasting; for us - substitutes for dessert wines - for others - table wines. The Currant wine is made from California juice and white grapes. The flavor basically explodes off the tongue - how many currants are picked to make a bottle? The Raspberry Royale is a blend of the Aurore and red raspberries and the flavor also stays in the mouth from the initial taste to the tail.

West-Whitehill Winery is a small winery, making only about 2,000 cases a year. Their tasting room is only open during the weekend, so most of their wines are sold in retail outlets - particularly tourist shops. In Thomas, we noticed several customers carrying 3 bottle boxes purchased from the Riverfront Antiques & Thrift. Why not a bottle of wine as a souvenir or a gift.

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