Thursday, December 17, 2020

Hiking with #theCompassCBF: Keys Gap and Loudoun County Wine Country

For those who are interested in a moderate hike in Loudoun County's wine country, then take Route 9 - Charles Town Pike to the West Virginia border and hike the Keys Gap section of the Appalachian Trail. You won't find spectacular views but be comforted that afterward there will be a tasty beer, wine, or cider within arm's reach. 

We started our post-hike tour heading west into Charles Town, WV where Abolitionist Ale Works awaited. The brewery has fared well enough during the outbreak to produce a lineup of 20+ interesting beers - with many brewed for the Christmas season.  These include the  Keg Nog (Bourbon Barrel Aged) Imperial Cream AleWild Wit Christmas American Wild AleLiquid Bread Pudding American Wild AleDirty Santa Beard (Cognac Barrel Aged) Stout - Imperial / Double, and the Abo Xmas Brandy Barrel-Aged Strong Ale. We brought one of each of these home as well as the Dirty Sidecar (Cognac Barrel Aged) Stout - Imperial / Double, the Apple Brandy Barrel West by Quad, the Blackberry Sage Gin Barrel Aged American Wild Ale, and the Abolitionist Ale (1 Year Barrel-Aged) Farmhouse Ale. I opened this farmhouse ale last night and the Brett provides delicious funkiness mixed with tart sour cherries and a little red wine. Expect plenty of updates on social media as we drink through these beers.

Traveling back into the Virginia, Notaviva Craft Fermentations and Bozzo Family Vineyards are the two closest east of the border. Over the years Notaviva Vineyards has expanded beyond wine -- adding beer and cider to their portfolio. I had targeted Notaviva for their "Vierzig" Blaufrankisch ($21) an estate-grown blend of 75% Blaufrankisch and 25% Cabernet Franc. This has been a winning blend in the Finger Lakes and should hold true in Virginia. I also felt I needed a lighter and more traditional craft beer after the Abolitionist visit and chose a 4-pack of their "Fröehlich" Kölsch. I opened a can on my return home and it's very well made with a slightly bready character and enough hops to liven the finish. 

Bozzo Family opened just two years ago and produces all its wines from estate fruit sans their two Petit Manseng where the grapes are sourced from a neighboring vineyard.   I left with a bottle of their Alma ($25), a wine named after their mother, and which is a dry 2018 Viognier.  I also chose one of their dueling Petit Mansengs, a rising commodity in the Virginia wine industry, and in particular the dry style. That was the Lisa & Thad SO ($25 and named after their daughter and son-in-law) and a dry 2017 Petit Manseng which was aged in steel and French oak for 18 months - the ("SO"). The other Petit Manseng is the 2018 Patricia which was fermented and aged entirely in stainless steel for about 5 months. 

Truthfully, I hadn't planned on visiting Walsh Family Wine although Nate Walsh is a prominent winemaker and provided an entertaining and educational tasting series while at Sunset Hills Vineyard. However, in a divine fashion, the Route 9 detour around Hillsboro led me straight to the winery.  Nate interacts with a wide range of grape varieties in there were Petit Manseng, Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, and a collection of red Bordeaux styled wines.  I chose a bottle of their 2018 Walsh Family Wine Viognier ($30) because -- it's a Virginia Viognier. 

While heading to Keys Gap and before Hillsboro I had noticed a new brewery which turned out to be the 3-month-old Harvest Gap Brewery.  There were dozens and dozens of thirsty patrons huddled in small groups throughout the spacious grounds sipping and eating from the inhouse kitchen. For my first real drink of the day, I selected a sampler and found a quiet outdoor table nearer the road.  I went with the Mad Black Cow, Nitro Milk Stout, Heavy "D" Sour AleHappy Pils Pilsner, and the recommended 52 Dakota West Coast DIPA. That was a very drinkable double IPA, with the mango and vanilla providing a bit of a milkshake feel without the lactose. The other three were also solid beers - ready to make Harvest Gap a destination in itself.

The final, and previously planned stop, was to Corcoran Wine & Cider where Lori Corcoran had signaled new ciders were on the horizon.  Over a bottle of a recently bottled PoPo Peach, we discussed family, cider, Loudoun wine as Blu met new friends.  Lori also let me taste the now bottled and released Corcoran Hard Cider, a fresh, tart, and effervescent cider where the apple flavors are prominent. The PoPo is easy drinking with the stone fruit providing a little depth.  With a handful of ciders, I also came took home a bottle of her 2012 Waterford ($40) - a white port-styled wine made from 100% Viognier and aged seven years in whiskey barrels. How unique. 

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