For me, there’s nothing better than family and I’m lucky to be so close to mine. This past weekend my brother came to visit for the first time since I moved to Virginia. He loves to explore as much as I do and for sure I was planning to introduce him to VA wine country. After a fun Saturday morning of ski movies, we headed out. I planned to take him to Chateau O’Brien, a favorite, but also wanted to try something that was new to us both. Many recommended Aspen Dale Winery and when I saw how close it was to Chateau O’Brien I decided it was time to visit.
Aspen Dale is a cute, 200-year-old barn tucked into the mountains that surround it. The views were beautiful and we were blessed to still have the pretty fall colors. We were greeted entering the tasting room and upon confirming we wanted to do a tasting directed to the end of the bar where a group was finishing up. I loved the friendliness and organization. The tasting room was very pretty and comfortable with plenty of indoor seating. My brother was impressed and excited to see how his first tasting at a VA winery would go. He’d only been to wineries in Long Island before this trip.
The tasting was $7 for five wines and we could keep our glass. We were also presented with a small plate of cheeses and meats to pair with the wines. This is the first winery I’ve been too in Virginia to do this and I was thrilled about it. We started with the 08 Mary-Madeleine’s Rose, a blend of Vidal Blanc and Cabernet Sauvignon. It’s 2 percent residual sugar and was paired with the cheddar cheese. On the nose I got strawberry but was pleasantly surprised to find this wasn’t as sweet as I expected. More medium body, this was fruit forward but well-balanced and made me want to be at the beach. The cheddar was delightful, balancing well with the sweetness and an awesome introduction to the wines. Sarah’s Chapeau was the second wine, a blend of Vidal Blanc and Sauvignon Blanc with 2.5 percent residual sugar. This wine was paired with the Brie cheese. The nose was floral with honey. On the palate, this was light, crisp with lots of melon. The cheese brought out more of the fruit and balanced out well with the sweetness. I loved the pairing. We moved onto the Hildersham Sauvignon Blanc and this was paired with a white chocolate chip and sage derby cheese. This was a crisp white with a flinty taste that was clean and refreshing. When paired with the white chocolate chip, I found a delicious surprise in my mouth. Next, I tried it with the sage derby cheese and yum, this was amazing with the wine. I got so many ideas for food pairings. My brother loved this wine and he like me, is a red wine drinker. In his words:
“I don’t know why I have a glass of white but I love this. It’s my kind of wine.”
The last two wines were the reds and I was impressed at this point to see our glasses rinsed with the wine we were about to taste each time. We were poured the Parris Country Blend 08 Merlot. Primarily Merlot, a little Cabernet Franc is blended and we paired this with pheasant sausage. On the nose I got pepper with a little dark fruit. On the palate, I got bacon, pepper and blackberry. This had great complexity to it but the finish was smooth and it was delightful with the sausage. The last wine was the Rockawalkin’ Cabernet Sauvignon blended with some Petit Verdot and Malbec. This wine was my favorite overall. I loved the structure, dark fruit, complexity and smooth finish. This was paired with goat cheese and dark chocolate meant to be eaten together. I was a good sport and tried a little piece of the pair but it confirmed how much I really don’t like chocolate. It was awesome with the goat cheese solo. My brother loved it so if you’re a chocolate fan, you want to try this pairing.
Live music was playing and to finish the day I had a glass of the Cabernet while my brother had the Sauvignon Blanc. We sat outside to enjoy the views and warm fall day. The music was playing through speakers and it was a delightful afternoon filled with great conversations. I can’t think of a better way to introduce my brother to a VA winery. We had so much fun and for sure I’ll be going back. If you haven’t made it here yet, I recommend visiting. Not only are the wines wonderful but it’s also close to Chateau O’Brien, Linden, Fox Meadows, Philip Carter and Hume.