I’m not in Saint-Julien this weekend, but Prince William County, Virginia. Nestled among the highways and strip malls is a manor house dating back to 1790 that now houses La Grange Winery. If you visit the website, seek out the story explaining why there are two fireplaces in what was the bedroom.
I came across an interesting sign in the front yard.
Virginia boasts over 140 wineries and La Grange is the closest to Washington, D.C.
Their line-up includes Chardonnay, Viognier, Rosé of Merlot, Cuvée Blanc (a proprietary blend of Riesling, Traminette and Vidal Blanc), Norton (more on this in a moment), Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Meritage (rhymes with heritage; a blend of Bordeaux varietals: Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot and Malbec), Cabernet Sauvignon, Tannat and a port-style wine dubbed “Snort” and made from Tannat, Touriga Nacional and Tinta Cão.
The only other wines I’ve had from Virginia have been from Kluge Estate. Overall, I was impressed with what La Grange is doing. I’ll touch on a few of my favorites. You’ll notice a variety of vineyards and regions listed because La Grange is not an estate winery, meaning they buy their grapes from throughout Virginia to make their wines.
2008 Viognier from Hollins Farm vineyard in Paris, VA. 13.5% alc and 6 months in Hungarian oak. Viognier is one of my favorite varietals. It hails from Condrieu in the Northern Rhône and when done well, has a distinctive, heady, perfumed aroma. The tells for me are apricots, peaches and honeysuckle. It’s also planted in Australia and South America. The majority of experimentation in North America has been in California, Canada and Virginia. In a blind tasting, I would have put this wine in the old world and at $21 per bottle, it’s a great value Viognier.
2007 Norton from Honah Lee vineyard in Orange, VA. 13.5% alc and a touch of American oak. The varietal takes its name from Dr. D. Norton of Richmond, VA, a pioneer grape-grower. Its origins are debated. Our pourer at the tasting room said it’s a hybrid originally from France; the Oxford Companion quotes Leon D. Adams as saying Norton is “the best of all native American red-wine grapes”. It seems to be from the species vitis aestivalis, though there are signs of vitis labrusca parentage. The wine was light and easy-drinking with red-fruits, currants and sweet spice. La Grange added 15% Cabernet Sauvignon to give the Norton a little more structure.
2007 Tannat from Honah Lee vineyard in Orange, VA. 13.5% alc with a combination of American and French oak. The vine’s origins are Basque and it is well-known in Uruguay and Madiran (south west France). Known for being intense and tannic, I was impressed by the approachable, but still concentrated style this wine exhibited. Black fruits led to a spicy finish.