By Jason “Stub” Stubblefield
The end of summer brings hectic schedules and less time for leisure. Why not give yourself a break and plan a day trip to one of our many local wineries? The drive to and from is beautiful, the people making and pouring our local wines are dedicated and hospitable, and a little effort might lead to discovery of a new favorite wine or rediscovery of an old favorite spot. Here are some suggestions to help you discover the great wines in our own back yard.
White Rock Vineyard, Winery, and Brew Haus
2117 Bruno Dr. Goodview, VA
I was enthusiastically greeted by co-owner Michele Bublitz, who was finishing with a large tasting party in front of me. She invited me to look around before starting my tasting, which was easy given the vast glass-enclosed veranda overlooking the vineyard.
Tasting the wines was a pleasure, as Greg Bublitz joined to help explain the wines and his winemaking process. There are six wines on the tasting menu (two whites, a rosé, and four reds). My personal favorite was the Tangled Trio, a Bordeaux-style blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Cabernet Franc.
White Rock also features four varieties of Vino Slushies in bags. The slushies are a blend of White Rock wines and natural fruit juices and can be enjoyed chilled or frozen!
There are also small batches of Greg’s Blitz Creek Beer available at White Rock. While I found all five selections to be of amazing quality, the Belgian-style Double IPA at over 100 IBUs was balanced and delicious!
Ramulose Ridge Vineyards
3061 Hendricks Store Road | Moneta, Virginia
Ramulose Ridge Vineyards sits on a beautiful property in Bedford County near Smith Mountain Lake. Opened in 2013, Ramulose has quickly made a name for itself in the Virginia (and beyond) wine community.
During my visit, I tasted through the entire lineup of fourteen wines. The combination of white, red, dry and sweet wines available ensures there’s something for every palate at Ramulose Ridge.
The easy going feel, beautiful patio and on-site selection of cigars (complete with pairing suggestions) make Ramulose Ridge a must-stop destination during any wine touring in the area.
My personal favorite on the day I visited was the Cabernet Franc, but winemaker Sandi has a touch with single-varietal wines made from hybrid grapes that produces balance and drinkability that are often difficult for winemakers to achieve.
Chateau Morrisette Winery and Restaurant
291 Winery Road SW | Floyd, VA
This winery is for the dogs! Literally. The portrait of the original winery dog over the bar is only half the story. Chateau Morrisette is a beautiful location with a beautiful view.
The large tasting room and shop offers a great location for tasting through the substantial number of wines available. With so many wines, there’s bound to be something for every wine lover here.
The Vin Gris rosé blend (Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Petit Verdot, Chambourcin) is perfect for the waning summer heat, but the Merlot particularly captured my fancy. The Chateau Morrisette Restaurant serves a variety of dishes for lunch and dinner, as well as a Sunday brunch.
Villa Appalaccia Winery
752 Rock Castle Gorge Rd | Floyd, VA
Villa Appalaccia is the epitome of a small farm winery. And that’s perfect. I was able to taste through the selections offered with winemaker Susanne Becker during my visit and I was not disappointed.
Villa Applaccia produces Italian-style wines of character and balance designed to complement the food on your table. They are one of two wineries in Virginia making Aglianico, an Italian grape variety that produces wines of great structure while maintaining beautiful balance.
The open air covered patio provides a quaint spot with a great view to enjoy a glass or bottle with your tasting companion, or as I did, to make new friends.
AmRhein’s Wine Cellars
9243 Patterson Road | Bent Mountain, VA
A quaint tasting room attached to the winery welcomes visitors to AmRhein’s.
Tasting through the selections with the winemaker is always a treat, and that was my lot during my visit.
I was particularly enamored with AmRhein’s Chardonnay, which is more of a Burgundian style—lightly-oaked, slightly creamy, but crisp and refreshing.
AmRhein’s signature wine is the Petit Verdot—for which I have an affinity—but I found myself once again drawn to the Aglianico. Isn’t it great the the two Virginia wineries producing this lesser-known variety are in our area? The deep berry flavors, hint of tobacco
and smooth tannins make the Aglianico a must try or take home.
6500 Mt Chestnut Rd | Roanoke, VA
I’m not sure if you come for the view and stay for the wine or vice versa. Situated at 2,000 feet overlooking Roanoke, a visit to Valhalla is more than worth the effort.
The beautiful tasting room opens to a patio with expansive and wondrous views from the mountain top.
And the wines! The Rheingold Reserve Chardonnay is a great example of the variety made artfully in the Burgundian style—slightly creamy, plenty of fruit, and enough acid to hold it all together.
The Valkyrie Bordeaux-style red blends at Valhalla are amazing. I tasted the 2005, 2007 and non vintage Valkyrie blends; each more than held up to their name.
The friendly staff, amazing wines and beautiful vistas make Valhalla a place to go sooner than later.
Peaks of Otter Winery
2122 Sheep Creek Rd | Bedford, VA
A visit to the Peaks of Otter Winery makes for a wonderful afternoon outing. Twenty, yes, twenty wines were on the menu during my visit. Most, with the exception of two of these wines, are fruit wines made from fruits other than grapes. Peaks of Otter lives up to its “Fruit of the Farm Wines” mantra.
Made from a variety of fruits from apple to strawberry to blackberry, Peaks of Otter wines are on the sweeter, fruitier end of the spectrum, with the exception of their signature offering: Kiss The Devil, a wine made from over thirty varieties of peppers! It packs a punch of heat and flavor, but is probably better suited for using in recipes than for sipping on the patio.
A visit to Peaks of Otter can also include picking your own apples or peaches, wandering the grounds to visit the animals, or just relaxing under the shaded pavilion next to the Johnny Appleseed statue.