Another action-packed day in Hometown LoCo yesterday! This time Andrew and I were joined by my aunt Jenny, cousin Jessica, longtime friend Matt, and of course Chris, who again generously offered his place as a meeting point. Our plans definitely had to include a stop to Corcoran’s new brewery, now in its second weekend! They are currently only open on Saturdays.
Corcoran Brewery14635 Corkys Farm Lane
Waterford, Virginia 20197
I’ll do my best here, since I’m not much of a beer drinker. I did take notes on everyone else’s impressions, though. The brewery is located in a barn just a stone’s throw from the winery. We got there at the 12pm opening, and they were already starting to draw quite the crowd. They are currently offering 6 brews.
The Wheatland American is an American Hefeweizen, pale colored and advertised as “light bodied.” Andrew tasted faint citrus, and a couple folks tasted banana! The P’Ville Pale Ale had a strong bitter flavor in the front and back, light tones of hop in the middle. The LoCo IPA (Indian Pale Ale) has a slightly sweet taste “on the middle of the tongue,” and Corky’s Irish Red proved to be the group’s favorite. This one is advertised as having “hints of roasted barley.”
Andrew happily gave me his Slainte Stout to drink, since these are my favorites and stouts are “too much” for him. Sounds odd since you just read that I’m not a beer enthusiast, but I do love a good stout. Even if it does take a whole night for me to drink just ONE. I looooved this....it has that dark roasted coffee/mocha taste that I can’t get enough of. But it wasn’t too heavy on the coffee, which I liked. Our very friendly pourer told us a previous British visitor said it was “halfway to a Guinness,” which we all considered to be quite the accolade!
Corcoran Brewing Company's founder Jim has been brewing his own beer for the past 10 years as a labor of love. He pulled the trigger and started the nanobrewery (completly new to our lexicon). There is a grass parking lot that is fenced in. Visitors' cars share the space with 17 varieties of hops which Jim will begin using in his brews.
They have a unique tasting room where you can see all the action. A tasting bar on one side, and then the brewery is on the other. A chain link fence seperating the two sides of the business allow visitors to see all the equipment used to make the beers they are drinking.
We had planned on visiting Loudoun Valley again, but decided against it. We went back to Corcoran’s winery instead, and it was just as busy as last weekend! Michelle (our flight director) deserves amazing praise for paying equal attention to all of us, stepping out from behind the bar several times to make sure everyone was covered. That’s true talent right there! I didn’t do another tasting, but the wines were thoroughly enjoyed by all who partook especially the newbies in the bunch. This time we bought some barbecue, with sauces made from some of Corcoran’s very own beers and wines! Jenny and Jess got the chicken, which they said was delicious with the sauces. Tip: Bring cash if you want some ‘cue, since this is a mom and pop operation.
While sitting by the pond, we were greeted by a friendly patron who wanted to take a pic of the lovely view, wanting to know if it was OK for us to be in it. Makes sense to have folks in it enjoying the fare, to capture the authenticity. She commented on my notebook and after some chatting, I found out that she is a fellow blogger as well! Elaine Jean writes for roamingtheplanet.com, a wonderful place to find out about some awesome day trips in the DC area. No day trip collection would be complete without a trip to Virginia’s wineries, so we’re glad she includes them in her awesome write-ups! She also told us about Virginia Vinespot, an associated site. (vinespot.blogspot.com) Dezel has been providing reviews, tips, and opinions on Virginia wine for quite some time now. I could probably spend all day on his site, and he’s definitely someone Andrew and I hope to chitchat with sometime. Or even enjoy a game of Scrabble with some delicious local wine! ;-)
Good beer, good wines, and new friends...sounds like a productive visit to me! Just like last time, it took some coaxing to get my comrades movin’ on.
Crushed Cellars37938 Charles Town Pike
Purcellville, Virginia 20132
I had seen this place a few times on the way to other places. I suppose if Northern Virginia had a “wine highway,” Route 9 (Charles Town Pike) would be it. This has long been the way to the beautiful views and rich history of Harper’s Ferry, along with the boy-howdy raucousness found at Charles Town Races and Slots (in memoriam of the old commercial and song I so enjoyed, I refuse to call it by its given name...link here if you must know http://www.hollywoodcasinocharlestown.com/).
This place is new...Chris commented that he had seen it from the road while being built. The outside porch area faces a small pond and features adorable “director” chairs and tables made from old barrels. The tasting room/bar is small, but there is an upstairs area. Being so new, they were only featuring 3 wines, so the fee is a modest $3. That’s a bargain, considering that they were also being paired with three wonderful cheeses: the garlic colby paired with the 2009 Seyval Blanc, the pepper colby with the 2009 Vidal Blanc, and the smoked cheddar with the 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon. The cheese enhanced the flavor of the already-great wines quite considerably. The Cab is served slightly chilled and is a blend with Petit Verdot and Malbec. The Vidal went great with the pepper jelly/cracker combo that was served with it.
The real highlight of this place was Bob, the owner, who kindly agreed to have his pic taken with us, taken from the upstairs loft area. He brings a really laid-back vibe to the operation and is very well traveled. He picks up a lot of his wine know-how from frequent trips to New Zealand. He is very excited about his place (as are we)!, featuring a selection of locally made/grown organic treats, including some beef that we will be sure to pick up sometime. He even let us preview some Chardonnay...which was wonderfully balanced between the stainless steel/oak profiles. Everyone left with at least one little token, including the homemade pepper jelly and local cheese. We sat outside to enjoy the pond and a visit from the winery cat. Crushed is a most welcome new addition to the Route 9 corridor!
North Gate Vineyard16031 Hillsboro Road,
Purcellville, Virginia 20132
Just down the road is another fairly new addition, North Gate. The recently built tasting room is not only beautiful, but “green” too, with solar panels laid along the roof. It’s even more stunning on the inside, with an ample tasting bar and beautiful fireplace.
We were pleased to have our tasting with Vicki, one of the owners. Vicki and her husband are not new to winemaking. They have a science background, which shows in the balanced makeup of their wines. You can tell while tasting them that every sip is painstakingly though-out. Vicki actually helped Corcoran get set up years ago, and now we’re delighted that she’s making wines of her own.
The tasting menu features a crisp 2008 Chardonnay and amazingly floral Viognier, probably one of Virginia’s most popular grapes. The 2010 Rose smells and tastes of watermelon, but is by no means too sweet. The 2009 Cab Francs and Merlots were “jammy” and very drinkable. Vicki explained that a good Cab Franc shouldn’t be brownish in color...it isn’t meant to be overly heavy. I also appreciated that there were only veeeeery slight hints of pepper in her reds. Most Virginia Cab Francs bite you pretty hard with that flavor, so this was refreshing. This was the same with the 2009 Petit Verdot, the first one I’ve tasted with a floral nose to it. Delightful!
Most Virginia wineries like to inject some local flavor by featuring an apple wine, as the fruit grows in abundance out here. I haven’t met an apple wine I didn’t like, and Andrew and I currently have one aging ourselves. (Granny Smith FTW)!!! But seriously? Not one has compared to North Gate’s so far. I have no idea how they did it, but Vicki and Co. managed to create a slight cinnamon-y taste to the back end. This is autumn in a glass, people. I couldn’t leave without picking up a bottle.
We thoroughly enjoyed Vicki, who patiently answered our questions and talked with us at length about what’s hot in the winemaking world. She shared a wealth of knowledge on wine competitions around the world, including a “NextGen” contest targeted at “millenials,” born in the 80s and up. I think I may have found the link here: http://www.vwm-online.com/wine_competitions/nextgen/. Reason #1,001 I want to get my butt back to California!
Not available for tasting was a 2009 oaked Chardonnay, which Jenny picked up after kindly being offered a sample. It was just the right amount of the oaky, buttery, nutty taste I love while still being able to taste the actual grape. It’s also worth mentioning that there was only one bottle here over $20....that’s getting to be rare around here, especially for a newer place that is undoubtedly trying to cover startup costs.
I’m really feeling this place! I can’t wait to come back when the weather gets cooler to enjoy the fireplace. Who says wine tasting is a warm-weather-only activity?
Casanel Vineyards17956 Canby Rd
Leesburg VA 20175
You couldn’t imagine my happiness when we called this place at 4:30pm to ask what time they closed...and they answered “6!” Most wineries in the area close at 5pm, so I was pretty stoked to get a shot at one more to close out the day.
Casanel is one of the places I had always meant to visit, but never did for some reason or another. After coming here, I kicked myself pretty hard for never getting around to it! It’s just a stone’s throw from downtown Leesburg, but the Civil-War era stone house and surrounding forest take you worlds (and years) away! They even have paintings of the soldiers from both sides of the Mason-Dixon line. Loudoun County makes no bones about its heritage, and rightfully so!
I’m so bummed that we never got our pourer’s name, because you can’t find a guy more knowledgable about these wines (besides the owners, of course)! While not all of the grapes are currently grown at Casanel, they are all from Loudoun. They feature a 2008 Chardonnay, 2008 Viognier, 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon, 2007 Merlot, and my personal favorite...the Don Lorenzo White! It’s a blend of Pinot Gris and Chardonnay, pretty high on the alcohol makeup at 14%. You get a touch of sweetness right down the middle of the taste, but it doesn’t linger. The wine is affectionately named for a former staff (perhaps family?) member. It is clear that Casanel likes to pay tribute to the folks that make them who they are.
“Who they are” starts with the owners, Casey and Nelson DeSouza, whom we had the pleasure of meeting, along with their lovely daughter, Katie. (“Casanel” is a combination of Casey and Nelson...get it?? Could’ve fooled me for a classy European surname on its own)! They named their 2007 vintages “chegada,” a Portugese word roughly translating to “arrival.” Makes sense, as Nelson is originally from Brazil. The 2008s are “batucada,” another way of saying “woo hoo, party time!” I only know Spanish, I’m doing my best here, people!
Our pourer commented that you have to feature at least one dessert wine ‘round these parts, since “Virginians love their sweet wines.” We grudgingly agreed with that sentiment, but were pleased to find out that this doesn’t mean the wines need be alcoholic Mountain Dew. The 2009 Dulce smells of brown sugar and tastes of creme brulee. But at 6% residual sugar, it isn’t nearly as sweet as your typical dessert wine. I could imagine actually consuming a full glass of it in one sitting, while I can only manage a few sips of others.
We also got a bonus here...the 2008 Norton. As explained by our pourer, only Norton and Concord grapes are native to the U.S. Therefore, Virginians take pride in their local grape. I will have to publish a separate article on Norton and its legendary status. Their 2008 is served slightly chilled and is simply delightful.
We were pleased to end our day sitting in their basement area, filled with more Civil War portraits. Andrew and I were excited to get a chance to chat with Nelson, who thanked us for dropping by and is just an all-around great guy. We’re so lucky to have folks like him and Casey right here in our backyard sharing their passion with us! (Also at a reasonable price....there were more than a few bottles available under $20).
Thankfully, we managed to get back to Leesburg for dinner at the Döner Bistro (where else?) before it started pouring too hard. Most of their seating is outside, but they do a pretty good job covering things up with umbrellas.
We still have yet to get to every Loudoun County winery. With 28 of them, most of them are within an hour’s drive of the nation’s capital, earning the nickname of DC’s wine country. Read more about it here: http://www.visitloudoun.org/Experience-Loudoun/Wine-Country Not only that, but there are plenty of farms, food, inns, and beautiful historic towns in which to experience everything! Loudoun has always been big on agriculture, and wine is quickly becoming a favorite product! While we have many more regions to experience here, we’re fortunate to have Loudoun as our next-door neighbor. Stay tuned for more awesome finds around the Old Dominion!