Yes, welcome to paradise! This past weekend, a group of us decided to visit Paradise Springs Winery in Clifton, VA for a much needed get together as I had not seen most of them in months! We had a very lovely time and the weather was absolutely perfect at 80° and not a single rain cloud in the sky. Aaaah, paradise!
We arrived at just the perfect time! Halfway through our tasting I looked over my shoulder and noticed a significant crowd had grown behind us. It was like a wine festival crowd as groups waited for their turn at the tasting bar. How did Paradise Springs handle all these people before their new facility, which is quite large as you can see, opened just a little over a year ago? Prior to that, they had operated out of the small, historic log cabin in front of the new facility. Speaking of historic, how cool is it that the plot of land on which the winery and vineyard are located have been in the owner’s family since the early 1700s? Now that’s local!
Where was I? Oh yeah. The tasting room at Paradise Springs is absolutely beautiful. Dark, warm woods and black fixtures, and right there, behind crystal clear glass for all to see is the barrel room. What a lovely, artistic way to share this part of the process with their customers. Oh, and don’t forget tons and tons of seating to suit all tastes from the large, loungey leather ottomans and tall barstools inside, to the fireplace, bistro tables for two, and comfy patio furniture outside. Don’t worry, there is plenty of grassy areas and picnic tables surrounding the tasting room as well. Paradise has got you covered!
And now for the moment you all have been waiting for! It’s wine time!
2011 Chardonnay – What a delightful, Chardonnay! Despite ageing in toasted French oak barrels, I tasted very little oak. The nose and palate is full of bright, crisp granny smith apple tartness. You may also find a bit of fresh grassiness, and a faint hint of crème brûlée like toastiness. One of my favorites, I bought a bottle to share and one to bring home!
2011 Viognier – Virginia’s star varietal, you’ll notice stone fruits on the nose of this Viognier along with a zip of lemon and a tiny hint of floral notes. The flavor is tart and refreshing like apples and early peaches. It has a little bit of oak in the finish, but I believe even oak “haters” would enjoy this wine.
2011 Sommet Blanc – Blended from Vidal Blanc, Traminette, and Riesling, this wine is very much in the style of a Gewürztraminer. Lightly sweet with 1.5% residual sugars, this wine has a nice acidity from notes of apricots, pears, and apples which bring a nice balance to this wine, preventing it from teetering into sugary sweet territory. Though I didn’t notice it at the tasting bar, Steph bought a bottle for the table where I noticed an itty bit of spice on the back of my tongue.
2010 Petit Manseng – A varietal usually found in blends and not as the star of the show, this is only the second 100% Petit Manseng I have come across (the other being from Vint Hill’s first bottled vintage). As characteristic of this type of grape, the wine is off dry and fruit sweet (not sugar sweet). It smells like hard candies, and though we were told that some visitors taste cotton candy, I instead found tropical fruits like banana and sweeter citrus, like tangerines, dancing on my tongue. Stand by for the 2011 vintage, it recently won a silver medal at the San Francisco International Wine Competition, the largest international competition in the U.S.
2011 Nana’s Rosé – This is Paradise Spring’s owner’s favorite. It is even currently available in Magnum size (that’s a wine bottle that is equivalent to two regular 750 mL bottles), that is how popular it is. Unlike other rosés you may have tasted, Nana’s Rosé feels a lot like a white wine. It is bright and light with just enough earthiness to round it out.
2011 Cabernet Franc – Soon this wine will be made from Paradise Spring’s own vineyard, but for now the vines are still maturing. Very earthy with spice and smoke, this wine fills your mouth with a beautiful jamminess of dark fruits like black cherry and blackberries. A trace of minerality keeps the wine in line and just a little bit of vanilla smooths it out. This wine was hands down my favorite of the nine!
2010 Petit Verdot – You know I love my Petit Verdots! Paradise Springs takes this varietal in a different direction from what I am used to, though. Whereas the others I have tasted in the past were dark, intense, and silky, Paradise Springs tames this typically agressive varietal. You still get the characteristic dark fruits, spice, and dried fruits, but you will also find a very clean, floral or herbal sweetness. Although it surprised me, I found it an enjoyable, easy red.
2010 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignion – This is one of those wines where the smell and taste do not exactly match up. It is not a bad thing, just catches you by surprise. On the nose, I caught currants and a flinty minerality, but when I tasted it, my mouth was filled with raspberries and cherries. See, not bad, just a surprise! What I really liked about this Cab Sauv is that food is not required in order to enjoy it, like many often are with their bold tanins. You can sip this one all on its own…but of course chocolate is always a nice accompaniment.
2010 Meritage – America’s answer to French Bordeaux wines! This wine has all five of the “noble” grapes. It smells like jam, but do not be fooled. This is no sweet or light bodied red. It is full and complex with an astringency that will make it a wonderful wine to pair with intense, rich foods.
2011 Norton – First cultivated right here in Virginia, each winery typically has their version (sometimes two!) of this native grape. At Paradise Springs, the Norton has a slightly sweet nose that reminded me of Concord grape jelly. Never fear, this is not a sweet wine. The fruity sweetness of plums and blackberries are countered by a nice acidity that keeps the grapes natural sweetness from overpowering the wine.