It seems like forever since I last visited Virginia wine country, but I finally got to get back out there this past weekend. Yay! One winery I’ve been dying to visit for awhile is Barrel Oak. I’ve always been close by during other visits and have heard so many good things about them, but never got around to stop a spell.
As we pulled up the driveway, we could see crowds of people enjoying themselves under colorful umbrellas, spreading picnics out on the lawn, or lounging back on the stone patio. Even with the lovely landscaping of the winery, the Blue Ridge mountains dominated the show as they rose above the rolling hills of the piedmont.
The only downside of the visit was that the AC had broken. Oh my, it was hot in there! (Horrible flashbacks to the derecho storm that knocked my power out for two days!) To help keep visitors cool, the winery had opened up a space down below in the barrel room where it was much cooler, but a large group beat us to the punch by just a few short minutes. Did that stop me from enjoying a tasting though? Absolutely not! Onto the tasting notes we go.
BowHaus White – A blend of Vidal Blanc and Sauvignon Blanc, you’ll get creamy, though faint, oak notes on your tongue and an almost effervescent brightness. With 1.8% residual sugar, this white is one of those just sweet enough wines. The lovely, lemony citrus of the Sauv Blanc helps keep it from being too sweet.
Seyval Blanc – 100% estate grown grapes and aged in stainless steel, this wine is very crisp, clean, and light. Very delightful and refreshing on a very hot day…or when the tasting room AC is kaput!
Viognier Reserve – Aged in Hungarian and French oak, this Viognier has a toasty, vanilla nose and a soft finish. You’ll find notes of tropical fruits, like banana and passion fruit. Unlike most Virginia Viogniers, you won’t find the typical floral bouquet in Barrel Oak’s version of the state grape.
Rosé – Barrel Oak’s rose is a Bourdeaux style blush blended from Petit Verdot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, and Syrah. It has a sweet nose, like strawberry jam, but is surprisingly dry with lots of fresh berry flavors. Definitely a delicious treat for summer days.
BowHaus Red – You get to try this one chilled or room temperature, and you know how Emilie and I love reds you can have both ways! The BowHaus Red is Barrel Oaks top selling wine and is blended from Chambourcin, Merlot, Syrah, and Malbec. With 0.5% residual sugar, it’s got a hint of sweetness (think semi-dry) but not too much. At room temperature, the Malbec and Syrah grapes shine through with bright, red cherry and a hint of spice. Chilled, the fruit flavors blossom even more as the black cherry and blackberry characteristics of the Chambourcin and Merlot join the party.
Merlot – 100% merlot aged in American oak barrels, which I learned are charred on the inside, the nose of this wine is toasty and spicy. It has the typical black cherry found in merlots, but the American oak lends it an earthiness with notes of tobacco and even roasted coffee to compliment the dark fruits.
Peanut’s Petit Cuvee – With 3% residual sugar, this blend of Late Harvest Vidal Blanc, Vidal Blanc, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Norton is sweet, but not dessert wine sweet. It is full of strawberry flavors, some honey, and even feint grassiness. The red varietals in this wine hold up nicely against the sweeter character of the white varietals bringing a nice balance.
Cabernet Sauvignon – This one is my favorite! It has a delightful nose of currants and blackberries and a very smooth finish. On the palate, the fruits play brightly on the tongue and even a bit of caramely, coffeeness.
Norton – Virginia’s native grape! Blended with just a little bit of Cabernet Sauvignon, the nose is full of jammy sweetness, but don’t let that fool you. You’ll taste concentrated flavors of dried fruits, but also a clean, herbal freshness.
Chocolate Lab Dessert Wine – A port-style Chambourcin fortified with brandy and infused with cocoa nibs, which are added during the wine’s secondary fermentation. How neat is that? It’s also aged in Whiskey barrels from Catoctin Creek, which lend it a nice mellow toastiness. Yum, yum!