How do I begin this post? I mean, you read the title. Lots of expectations from lots of people on this one. So where to start…okay, how about this? Emilie and I absolutely love Chrysalis Vineyards. Yes, yes, we love lots of Virginia wineries, but there are two that I would call our “hang out” wineries. These two “hang-out” wineries are places we regularly visit with the intent to spend the whole day at rather than, let’s say a winery crawl or a wine bus tour. Chrysalis Vineyards is one of those two wineries.
I first came across Chrysalis in 2009 when Emilie and our friend Yusef introduced me to Virginia wine and the great Virginia weekend pastime of winery hopping. Every year Yusef throws a semi-annual cook-out at Chrysalis to herald in the key winery seasons: spring and fall. When I received my invitation, my first reaction was, “Virginia has wineries? How could I have not known this?” I mean, everyone at Total Wine greets me by name. Then, “Can I wear a sun-dress?” LOL! On the day of the party, though, driving down the one lane road along side a steep drop-off I didn’t want to roll my car down set me a little on edge. However, when the vineyards opened in front of me with all the tasting tents and the picnic blankets strewn on the grassy hills, I knew it was going to be an awesome day.
You all know from our reviews that Virginia has many, many delicious wines and fabulous wineries. So how did we make the difficult choice of actually labeling one a “favorte”? Well, the things that keep us coming back to spend the day at Chrysalis are also the things Emilie and I feel set it apart from the other wineries. For example, they can handle pretty large groups without requiring a reservation or ruining the experience of smaller parties (However, Chrysalis does recommend reservations for tasting groups of 10 or greater). They are able to do this, because they (currently) have several tasting tents set up. Tastings take place at certain times and when you pay for your tasting you are assigned a time and a tent. At Yusef’s Herald of Spring party, we paid for and attended tastings on our own (meaning smaller groups) in between mingling and eating and drinking wine. I’m pretty sure Emilie and I did three tastings that day…first to introduce me to all of the Chrysalis wines…second to remind me which ones I wanted to buy and take home…and third because the wine expert at our second tasting thought Emilie and I were an absolute trip and invited us to the next tasting on the house.
What’s next? Oh, how about the gas grills! You may have picked up on weekend picnics at wineries being a thing here in Virginia. Not hard to imagine as many wineries offer fabulous vistas for your picnic blanket. However, very few offer food. Maybe you’ll find a baguette or crackers and sometimes wedges of cheese and some sliced charcuterie. Even fewer actually have built in gas grills available to their guests and at no cost or reservation. In fact, I can’t recall any other winery that even has grills. (Maybe Casanel, but I’d have to check on that). I think you can imagine how many more new friends you might make with juicy burgers and plump hotdogs…or how many bottles of wine strangers will offer as a trade!
There is so much more, but the last I will mention is one near and dear to true die-hard Virginia wine fans. Chrysalis vineyards is a huge proponent of Norton grape wines; Norton being the only native American grape that can successfully create a single varietal wine with vitis vinifera like characteristics (Other American grapes, like the Muscadine, make very different style wines from those made with the European varietals and their hybrids). In my tasting notes below you’ll hear about several Norton and Norton blended wines Chrysalis produces. Also, the next time you are in D.C., be sure to check out the Virginia/Norton/Chrysalis shout out in the Food: Transforming the American Table exhibit at the Smithsonian National Museum of American History. (You know you want to see Julia Child’s kitchen anyway!)
Of course you can have all this stuff going for your winery, but the most important thing is your wine. Therefore, with out further adieu, may I present to you my tasting notes from my most recent visit to Chrysalis, which took place earlier this month during my “Herald of Virginia Wine Month” winery crawl.
2013 Albariño Verde – I was soooo super excited to see this wine on the tasting list! It’s one of my favorite whites. Until this year, the only other Virginia winery I had come across that had an albariño was Willowcroft (located in Leesburg), but at the time they didn’t have it available for tasting. Chrysalis did not disappoint with this Portuguese style verde. The wine’s zesty, lemony nose and crisp acidity will remind you of a Pinot Grigio.
2012 Barrel Reserve Chardonnay – Predominately Chardonnay with 5% albariño for aromatics (albariño can have stone fruit and floral aromas similar to Viognier), this wine is a good balance between oak and fruit, just like the winery’s tasting sheet claims. With a light, peachy nose, it has nice lemon flavors and a very light oakiness. If you are a white wine lover and the Albariño Verde was too zippy for you, the Chardonnay will probably be more your style. For an oaked white, I found it very enjoyable.
2012 Private Reserve White – Only available for sale to club members (Emilie used to be my “in”), the Private Reserve labels are small quantity, high quality blends. I’m not sure what grapes were used for this white blend, but from the peach and apple nose, I’d guess Viognier and/or Traminette made the cut. From the body, vanilla, and feint citrus I’d also take a guess at Chardonnay. Of course, Chrysalis is always experimenting with the different varietals and with over 20 types grown in the vineyards, i’m sure there are one or two other grapes playing in this wine.
2012 Viognier – For non-club members like me, the Viognier is similar to the Private Reserve White, but with more peach. Chrysalis chose to focus on the fruit than floral nature of this varietal. Though you’ll get a little bit of pretty fruit blossoms, the Viognier has crisp acidity balanced out by a light oak. Think candied lemon rind and vanilla.
2012 Mariposa – This dry rosé style wine is a blend of four varietals, including the Norton which lends its deep fruity character to give this wine a little bit o’ something that typical rosés lack. You’ll still get the strawberry flavors, but with deeper body and a bit of tart cherry.
2013 Sarah’s Patio White – This semi-sweet white blend is made from Vidal Blanc and Traminette grapes. You’ll smell the fruit blossoms from the Traminette and taste the juicy tropical fruits from the Vidal Blanc. I was excited to actually taste the pineapple ( I LOVE PINEAPPLE!!!), as wines like this are more likely to lean towards the less acidic tones bananas and mangoes.
2013 Sarah’s Patio Red – Emilie and I always have this wine on hand in our wine racks. We also always buy a bottle to enjoy on the grounds at the “Herald of Spring” and Herald of Fall” picnics our friend Yusef hosts. This wine is 100% Norton, a grape native to North America. Unlike other American grapes, such as muscadine, niagra, and concord, Norton grapes can produce a dry, red wine similar to vitis vinifera grapes. This Norton, however, is a semi-sweet wine, and so the winemakers pulled out the jammy, fruitiness of the Norton. It has a bold grapiness with dried cherry and raisin. Though sweet, it is not cloyingly sweet. Served chilled, this is a summer crowd pleaser for both red and white wine drinkers.
2011 Estate Bottled Norton – Now here is what sets a Norton apart from wines made from other American grapes. If you have ever tasted a muscadine wine when visiting the South, for example, you’ll notice that they are typically sweet, but more distinctly that the wine has this musky characteristic. The term commonly used is “foxy”. Some Nortons do maintain this “foxiness”, but Chrysalis is one of the Virginia wineries taking the lead on musk free Norton wines. Don’t believe me? Visit the Smithsonian U.S. History Museum where Chrysalis and their work with the Norton is featured in the Food: Transforming the American Table exhibit. (Horton Vineyards makes a very good Norton, too). The 2011 Estate Bottled Norton has a complex nose of dried fruit, but tobacco and spice. It is a medium bodied wine with bright cherry, pepper, and tobacco. I thought it had a nice, clean earthy nuance in the finish. Of course I brought this one home with me.
2011 Rubiana – A beautiful garnet color, this wine is made from Tinta Cão, varietal from Portugal. Though still a medium bodied wine like the Norton, the Rubiana moves more to spice than fruit. This is a nice, smokey spicy wine with bright red cherry. On the nose you’ll even smell chocolate! Though we did not do any food pairings, I have a feeling that a piece of dark chocolate will show you a whole new side of mellower, smooooooth Rubiana.
2010 Tannat – 80% Tannat, this wine also has a little bit of Nebbiolo, Petit Verdot, and even a surprise: 4% Viognier. We getting a bit bolder as we move along. That spice and smoke we got in the Rubiana now takes center stage. You’ll get vanilla, spice, oak, and a little bit of coffee in this wine, which ends in an earthy finish. This wine will definitely pair well with meals, especially roasted meats and vegetables.
2012 Papillon – Mostly a blend of Bordeaux grapes, the Papillon also has a little bit of Norton to lend some of its potent fruitiness and structure. Though the nose is deep with dark fruit, underneath is another bold, spicy red wine with hints of roasted coffee and pencil shavings (i.e. oak and minerals for those that think pencil shavings sound weird lol).
2012 Locksley Reserve Norton – Chrysalis’ flagship Norton is another dry style, “fox-free” wine. Mostly Norton, this reserve is blended with Tannat, Petit Verdot, and Nebbiolo which creates quite a complex wine that packs a bold punch that reminds me of some California reds. Firm tannins give this a clean, earthy taste that ends in a smooth caramelized vanilla finish. If left to age, I think this wine will take on more spice and vanilla. This will likely be your red wine lover’s favorite!
Chrysalis is opening a new and modernized tasting room in the Dec/Jan time frame. The current tasting room I described in my post will likely only be available either by reservation or only for VIPs such as wine club members. I am not sure what the owners plan to do. However, the tasting room manager shared pictures of the new facility and it is gorgeous! It has an awesome view of the mountains and lots of outdoor decks, patios, tables, and grass to enjoy the view from. The creamery that I heard about in 2009 is finally going to open, and will be located in the basement. Also, the new facility has BATHROOMS. Yes, this is very important. Most wineries do not have bathrooms and, just as Chrysalis currently does, must set up porta potties. Bathrooms are a major plus in this girl’s book!