By Trevor Baratko
The slightly hilly, preferably sunny country drive south on Route 15 past Oatlands is a welcome trek for this wanderer. It generally means two things: that I’m about to hang a right at Route 50 to kill an afternoon at The Local Taste, Greenhill Winery or Salamander Resort (there are plenty worse places to have a drink); or that, a few times a year, I’ll be looping the Gilbert’s Corner roundabout destined for Richmond, a city rapidly—perhaps too rapidly—gaining nationwide publicity on this “foodie” list or that “under-the-radar” map.
The recognition is well-deserved. From dive to diner, L’Opossum to Lemaire, the River City boasts some of the best eateries in the South. L’Opossum’s chef David Shannon entices with each bite, each piece of flair, while the team at Metzger Bar and Butchery ensures your untrained American palate will never again ask, “So what’s schnitzel?”
But solids aren’t what we’re here to talk about. It’s wine, rather, and Virginia wine at that. So let’s take a look at the best spots to sip the Commonwealth’s wine in the Commonwealth’s capital.
This one was easy. While The Roosevelt recently changed its list from being exclusively Virginia to merely a healthy nod to local juice, the elegant eatery is revered for its devotion to local wine. The Roosevelt’s list offers an array of both reds and whites, including selections from Lightwell Survey, Thibaut-Janisson, Barboursville, Linden, Early Mountain and RDV.
“Our mission was to remove the Virginia wine stigma,” Shane Conlan, The Roosevelt’s general manager, tells Middleburg Life. “We wanted to show people there are great Virginia wines. We think we’re in a great position to change people’s minds.”
Opened in 2011, The Roosevelt is housed in a turn-of-the-century home in the Church Hill neighborhood. The vibe is smart and sophisticated, the staff pleasing and proud, making The Roosevelt the top-recommended spot on this list.
My Virginia wine recommendation: Barboursville’s Vermentino
Maple And Pine At Quirk Hotel
Considering the fun, lively décor—and the same adjectives can be used for the bartenders, both downstairs and on the roof—the three-year-old Quirk Hotel didn’t have to offer some of Virginia’s finest wine to steal my heart…but it did anyway.
Sitting in the playful, pink-and-glass-clad lobby, diners at Quirk’s Maple and Pine can sip on labels from six different Virginia wineries: Early Mountain, Barboursville, Williamsburg Winery, Linden, Delaplane and LaCrosse.
“Part of it is we use local purveyors for our food, so it makes sense to do the same for our wine,” said Morgan Slade, Quirk’s beverage director. “Virginia isn’t really bound to any one thing; they like all kinds of things.”
With Quirk’s engulfing quirk, it’s hard to imagine a better environment to take in both local wine and a weekend in Richmond, though the next selection may beat me up for saying so.
My recommendation: Delaplane’s Left Bank Red
Lemaire At Jefferson Hotel
Lemaire, the fine-dining restaurant at the tony Jefferson Hotel, is another can’t-miss. Like the hotel, Lemaire is an immersive experience, an indulgence in one of the city’s best-known architectural gems.
Enhancing the indulgence is a winning representation of Virginia wines, as spelled out in sommelier Shawn O’Keefe’s mission statement: “To provide a world-class platform which allows for comparisons of old world and new world styles to monitor and match current changes and trends in both styles. In doing so, we construct a measure for which Virginia wines can be equated to.”
The Old Dominion holds its own quite well, thank you.
My recommendation: Michael Shaps Carter’s Mountain Vineyard Cabernet Franc
Chef Jason Alley’s local favorite Pasture, where Beth Dixon runs the show behind the bar, has long championed local wines.
“We always want to support local at Pasture,” Dixon says. “I have loved watching the Virginia wine business grow over the years and want to see that growth continue.”
A crisp, dry rosé offering notes of watermelon from southern Virginia’s Rosemont winery is the current favorite for Dixon. (‘Tis that season, after all.)
While most of the spots listed above lean toward upscale—not that that’s a problem—the slick, minimalist-styled Pasture provides those passing through a chance to drink Virginia wines in a cool, casual environment.
“Most people who are traveling want to try local, and Virginia wines have mostly lost their previous reputation of not being good or being overly sweet,” said Dixon.
My recommendation: Rosemont’s 2017 Rosé. ML
Trevor Baratko is the managing editor of the Loudoun Times-Mirror in Leesburg. His wine industry coverage earned first place in column writing from the Virginia Press Association in 2014. Contact him on Twitter at @TrevorBaratko.