Sunday, August 29, 2010

Quick Day Trip to Afton, Virginia.

Views from Afton Mountain Vineyard's Patio
So I wasn't planning on the trip down to see my sister becoming an overnight.  But, that's what it became.  The drive down to just east of Charlottesville, Virginia was...while not fast necessarily, smooth with no issues.  The route my GPS unit took me was straight down US-29, to I-64 and then off at 250.  While I knew she was near some vineyards, I previously had thought of Loudoun County (where I live) and not Nelson County as Virginia Wine Country.

I started noticing a few issues with the car.  First, this is my first big trip in the Volvo since June.  Why?  Mainly because the air conditioning wasn't working properly.  So, I found out I can charge it myself, and with the help of my friend Sohrab, I charged it.  So, now I have AC, while it doesn't get the car frigid, it does do a good job at making the car bearable to drive, where before, anything over an hour in the vehicle was downright abusive.  One thing I noticed is how much power is lost every single time the AC compressor kicks in.  It's a noticeable drop in power, that the first time it happened only 10 minutes from my house caused me to almost re-consider going on the trip at all.

Second, I noticed a horrible vibration when I was driving over rumble strips that continued after I had passed the strips, which makes me think either a shock absorber or a spring might be broken in the car.  Both of those make sense.  Third, I noticed I've had a very substantial drop in power in any performance, which makes me think the compression is off somehow in the engine.  Not only, but during the 250 mile trip it burned almost a half quart of oil..

While these items were annoying (and at a couple points a bit troubling) they didn't stop me from taking the trip.

The Volvo on my Sister's driveway.
Originally I was going to drive down to Afton, have a glass of wine, maybe a snack, play Settlers of Catan with my sister and her husband, and then drive back to Northern Virginia.   After a few hours (and drinks) I realized there was no way I could even potentially consider driving back home, if I wanted to make it alive.  I was falling asleep at the table on the back porch.  So, since they're newlyweds, and do not have a guest room, I curled up on the sofa, and woke up at about 8 this morning.

Since it was 8 in the morning, and they weren't up yet, I went to sit on the back porch.  After my sister got moving, she offered to take me to one of her favorite spots, a winery just a about a mile from her house called Afton Mountain Vineyards.

Since I'm a wine snob (there, I said it,  I'm incredibly picky, a vintners nightmare, and while I'm no expert  about wines, I do know more than the average schmo sitting down to try a glass, and I tend to show it.), I agreed to go and promptly dropped my expectations.  It is, after all in Virginia, and Wine Spectator did say that the only Virginia wine worth anything is at Linden in Linden, Virginia (and by the way, Linden is downright spectacular if you're ever on the I-66 corridor).  Since I have had nightmarish experiences sampling certain Virginia vineyards (which will remain unnamed since one of the producers at one of the said horrid vineyards has a rather litigious history), I wasn't expecting too terribly much.

Afton Mountain Vineyard's Tasting Room
We drove down the long twisty driveway to the tasting room, which is a gorgeous Mediterranean style home set to a backdrop of a beautiful lake, and the blue ridge mountains.  It is one of the most beautiful settings I've ever come across.  I still wasn't expecting much.  I didn't know what my sister knows about wines, and while the wine at her wedding from another nearby (Nelson County) producer Veritas (which I haven't yet been to) was okay, it wasn't anything to write home about, but I wouldn't (and didn't) turn down free bottles if they were offered to me (unlike the litigious producer mentioned earlier).  Free bottles of left over wine is, by the way, one of the great perks of volunteering at your sister's wedding.

Once inside, you feel as if you are stepping into someone's living room.  You make a quick left into the tasting room where you have two choices of what menu to try.  My sister and I took their House tasting (she's tried them all, she goes to the vineyard frequent enough they know her on a first name basis).  The first wine on the list was the 2008 Steel Chardonnay.  It was a very good Chardonnay, and I'm not a white wine drinker, so I don't really have much to compare it to, however, once we got past the Steel Chardonnay, every other wine on the list that we tried was downright amazing.  It was all so good that I must say Wine Spectator got it wrong in saying Linden is the only producer in Virginia worth trying.  Actually, I'll even go as far as saying that Afton Mountain is BETTER than Linden.  Not by miles, mind you, (it's very hard to be miles ahead of Linden, and from what I understand most of the producers in Virginia would definitely agree with me on that) but I strongly prefer the 2008 Reisling and the 2008 Cabernet Franc to anything Linden produces.

Unfortunately for you, I had a whole list of adjectives to describe what I was experiencing but I forgot to write them down.  So, all I can say from here is, if you're traveling through the Charlottesville area, make sure you stop there.

We ended up getting a brief sneak peak about whats upcoming at the Vineyard for the 2009 vintage.  I must say, I will be saving for my next trip down.  Just the small sample I got has me chomping at the bit for what is to come.

134,000 miles in Warrenton, VA
In the end I bought three bottles, a t-shirt, and a souvenir tasting glass.  The Gewurztraminer (2008), the Cabernet Franc (2008) And the Reisling spoke strongly enough to me that they're the bottles I decided to bring home.  I am definitely looking forward to a return trip, and hopefully next time bringing home cases.

The trip home was uneventful with the exception of rolling over to 134,000 miles.  The most exciting part of the trip, however, was definitely realizing that I came across a spectacular wine producer before Wine Spectator.  It's not every day you beat the "experts" to the punch!
8/29/10-  This post has been modified from its original text to correct a few grammar mistakes.

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