Labor Day weekend was anything but — the weekend rains prevented us from applying a fungicide spray in the vineyards, so we headed north early on Monday with plans to make a stop at Barboursville Vineyards to pick up a couple of bottles of their 2011 Vermentino. Readers of this space know that we planted the variety in 2011, hoping to be the first in Virginia to feature it, but Barboursville beat us to market. Probably a good thing, since they will get Virginians accustomed to it. We were anxious to try it, and we were not disappointed.
Barboursville is not the first winery on the East coast to grow it. Raffaldini Vineyards in the Yadkin Valley of North Carolina has been growing it successfully since 2003. Their winemaker, B. Kiley Evans, kindly sent us samples of their 2011 vintage, which they made two ways. Kiley explained that the “normale” is produced every year that is made with fruit from their younger vines which is fermented and aged for about a month in stainless steel, and their Riserva, made from grapes harvested from their oldest block, picked at lower sugar and higher acid, with partial barrel fermentation and subsequent aging for about four months in neutral oak. Most examples we’ve tried did not go near oak, which certainly added another dimension to the wine, making it more brooding and mysterious. We certainly enjoyed both. The Italian producers we’ve encountered make the wine exclusively in stainless steel to preserve the subtle floral elements in the wine. Barboursville takes this approach, too, with great success. We’re leaning toward stainless.
Our original plan was to simply run into Barboursville and buy the Vermentino, but we opted for a tasting (something we rarely do these days), but we had forgotten their less than intimate approach, where one moves down a series of stations to sample. With so many wines on offer it makes sense in the name of crowd control, but it is memorable only for being an unpleasant exposure to an otherwise fantastically managed and promoted brand. Perhaps that’s the price of popularity; other wineries with numerous visitors have similar systems that leave one with an unpleasant memory. Coincidentally, our friends at Swirl, Sip, Snark posted this week about a visit to Barboursville (“Inaccurate Closed-Captioning Creates Stir By Mentioning VA’s Octomom Wine“). We originally thought of stopping to visit Early Mountain Vineyards afterwards, but Barboursville wore us out.
What about lunch? Palladio at Barboursville is fabulous, but if you aren’t in the mood for fancy, we recommend a lunch stop in the town of Gordonsville, which is a couple of miles east of Barboursville (you’ll pass Horton Vineyards and might be tempted to stop). There you will find the Barbeque Exchange, one of the best barbeque places we’ve come across in Virginia. It’s at once folksy and sophisticated, and utterly delicious. The pulled pork is divine.
Barbeque Exchange, 102 Martinsburg Avenue, Gordonsville, VA 22942 (540) 832 0227