July 28, 2008
Several months ago, Brian Roeder, the owner of Barrel Oak Winery, contacted me, and invited me to come visit his brand new winery in Virginia. After some back and forth, given that I am traveling for work a lot these days, we finally came up with a good weekend and Matt and I ventured forth to Virginia Wine Country.
Barrel Oak is one of the newest of Virginia's ever-growing winery population. About 3 and a half years ago, Brian and his wife decided to go ahead with purchasing land to start a vineyard, an idea they had been tossing around in a casual/semi-serious manner for a few years.
Right now, as you can imagine, Barrel Oak is in its infancy. They are currently producing wines with fruit sourced from various Virginia vineyards and they used the facilities of Pearmund and La Grange for their first vintage. They intend to have their first estate harvest in 2009 and will crush and make the wine at Barrel Oak this coming season. Brian's wife is the head winemaker, having trained at many VA vineyards, she is assisted by the former assistant winemaker from Pearmund. Brian designed Barrel Oak with the future in mind: they have the capacity to produce 10,000 cases within 10 years, with 9000 square feet of production space. They also intend to boast 3 full tasting bars on the premises.
We tasted through the current line up and reserve line up:
Bow Haus White 2007: $18. 70% Vidal Blanc, 30% Sauvignon Blanc, it recently won gold at the VA State fair. Citrus, grapefruit, touch of honey, light good texture, pineapple, great summer white. We bought 2.
2007 Seyval Blanc: $19. Includes 10% Sauvignon Blanc. Minerals, wet stone, lemon, grass, crisp, dry. We took home 2.
2007 Chardonnay: $24. Stainless steel fermented, no maloactic, aged in neutral French oahk. Oak, apple, spice, lemon, green apple, light in the mouth.
2007 Viognier: $20. Maloactic fermentation and oak aged. Honey, peach, pear, honey suckle, creamy, nice mouthfeel.
2005 Bowhaus Red: $18. 50% Cabernet Sauvignon, 27% Tourig, 11% Malbec, 6% Merlot, 6% Petite Verdot, some Norton in there too. Chocolate, earth, sweet, light, strawberries, berries. Would be good slightly chilled.
2005 Cabernet Sauvignon: $20. Very light in color, 12% Petite Verdot. Light, berries, strawberry, raspberry, nice finish.
2005 Merlot: $20. 100% Merlot. Earth, leather, berries, wood, oak, nice body, tannins, cherry, plums, very well done.
2005 Norton: $18. 10% Cabernet Franc. Perfumey, violets, fruity, grapey, berries.
2005 Tour Ga Franc: $26. 40% Cabernet Franc, 60% Touriga. $2 from each bottle are donated to Lance Armstong's Foundation. Spice, red fruit, herbs, pepper, red berries.
2006 Cabernet Franc: $26. 10% Chambourcin. Herbal, leather, tobacco, red fruit, very light, peppery finish.
2005 Petite Verdot: $26. 12% Merlot. Chocolate, plum, red fruit, very aromatic, nice fruit, good structure. One of my favorites of the day, we took home one bottle.
2006 Late Harvest Viognier: $25. Picked late October. Honey, citrus, spice, pineapple, sweet, thick.
2006 Chocolate Lab: $26. Muscadine, Merlot, Viognier. Cocoa nibs are added along with neutral grape spirits. Chocolate, slight berry, port-like.
Barrel Oak has a beautiful facility. Their porch looked so inviting, and had it been a little later in the day, we definitely would have parked ourselves out there with a glass of wine to enjoy the view (well, and also, if the sprinklers weren't on drenching the porch!). The tasting bar of Barrel Oak is huge, and that's just the first one! They also have a space in the loft for a 2nd bar, and space downstairs for a 3rd bar. Though I think we'll have to avoid the 2nd floor as Matt was a bit too tall.
Overall, I was very impressed with the quality of wine being produced by Barrel Oak. It honestly surprised me for such a young winery as I have certainly tasted many established VA wines that don't come anywhere close to the quality being produced here. I thought the reds were very well done, and would have taken home more if it weren't so hot here now that red wine doesn't really enter my mind. Also good to note, Barrel Oak is extremely dog friendly. You are more than welcome to bring your pooch with you to enjoy the day in VA Wine Country.
My one pet peeve, and I say this about all wineries: I hate tasting fees that aren't returned if you buy bottles. I realize that many folks say that people will buy the cheapest bottle to get the fee back, blah blah blah. I have no problem if you put a "Buy 3 bottles get your fee refunded, or buy $50 worth and get your fee refunded." And maybe I missed the sign or notation on the menu where it told you the cost, but I don't think so. I must admit, I was thus a bit surprised to find a tasting fee charge on my tab.
I will certainly return to Barrel Oak in the future to see how their wines develop as they move toward harvesting their own fruit.