Monday, January 12, 2009

Culpeper Vineyards

For a romantic anniversary getaway, we headed to Culpeper on Saturday for an overnight stay at the Thyme Inn. We decided to take in two of the wineries closest to Culpeper. Our first stop was Old House Vineyards, just east of Culpeper. The winery is housed in what had been an abandoned 1800’s farmhouse before it was purchased and restored. The place is very charming, with a cozy tasting room, a parlor, and a dining room where they hold special events. January isn’t the best time to enjoy the scenery, but in the summer, the view of the mountains across the lush vineyards must be lovely. For $5 each, we were given a souvenir wineglass (all the wineries and festivals use pretty much the same shape and size glass, so I’ve accumulated a whole set of not-quite-matching souvenir glasses), and a taste of 9 different wines. We brought a bottle of their Vidal Blanc home with us.

Old House Vineyards:

The dining room for special events:

A narrow stairway, with a little vintner's philosophy (click to enlarge):

An oversized stone chess set in the front yard:

After the charm of Old House Vineyards, we were disappointed in our first visit to the Prince Michel Winery. This place is much more commercial, with a very large tasting room that had the vibe of an interstate travel center and gift shop, with enough wine paraphernalia to gag even the most avid wine lover. Not much charm there, but on the plus side, you can taste all of their many wines for free...enough to designate a driver (22 on our visit). Not all of the grapes are grown at Prince Michel. In fact, some are trucked in from California. I’ve since learned that you can call it a “Virginia wine” if at least 75% of the grapes were grown in Virginia. Here’s an article about it. After the tasting, we took a self-guided tour of the winery, although honestly, wine tours are all about the same. Here’s where we stem and crush the grapes, here’s where we ferment them in steel or oak, here’s where we bottle and label them. We didn’t buy any wine there...they had a crowd of people tasting and buying wines, plus you can find their wines all over the state. Not quite as satisfying as buying a bottle from the little guy.

Prince Michel Winery, right on Rt. 29 south of Culpeper:

The tasting room/gift shop:


Bryan said...

I believe Prince Michel changed hands several years ago, seems like their concentration/market changed. I have heard that they do contract grapes from several local farms.

Glad you found old house. They have some of our unique favorites. Od course their 'wicked' is a fun conversation starter. Definately worth the short drive out rt3.

If you want another good day trip, try Horton vineyards on rt 33. They still have that small guy feel. And this time of year look for sunday soup and wine events.

Merry N said...

Prince Michel must have closed their restaurant when they changed hands. It was supposed to be an incredible place, but I never got there before it closed.

I've been to Horton before, but it's been many years. I remember going to a chili and wine event...very casual, and a lot of fun. I'll have to check in on them again. Thanks!

Ray Petrie said...

Here on the Chesapeake Bay Wine Trail you'll find lots of little guys in the shadow of Fredericksburg. See you soon!