Thursday, January 6, 2011

Vineyard Hopping- Paradise Springs Winery-Clifton, Virginia, USA


While in the states for Christmas, the idea came to me to visit a Virginia vineyard. One that would give me an idea about the different wines available in the state. A small winery with a big spirit.  I found one, about 25 minutes from DC. In Fairfax county. A winery that would introduce me to Virginia wines. So, on New Year’s Eve, I headed to Clifton, Virginia to meet a winery… with a dream.

A dream that Jane Kincheloe shared with her aunt more than 20 years ago. A desire to turn some of their property, located in the heart of Clifton, into a winery. Land that had been passed down through generations since the 1700s. A piece of their family’s heritage. A piece of land that houses a simple log cabin, dating back to the early 1800s. A piece of history surrounded by giant black walnut trees. Northern Virginian history. It was there that I met Kirk Wiles, Jane’s son. Kirk, 28 years old, is a business graduate from the University of Miami. A winery owner who was more than happy to share with me the stories that make up his family’s winery.

Kirk realized that being new to the wine business, they would have to team up with one of the best. And in 2007, along with Virginia winegrower and winemaker Chris Pearmund, Paradise Springs Winery was born. It would be the first winery in Fairfax County, the closest to Washington DC. But it wasn’t easy. Walking through the property, Kirk shared that a year after planting their first vineyard on the property, Cabernet Franc, county officials gave the family some news that they didn’t expect. News that would kill Jane’s dream…According to the county, a winery wasn’t considered an agricultural use, but an industrial/manufacturing industry. And according to the zoning laws, they would have to move. Crazy, but true. The family was not ready to give up on their dream, not ready to let it die. After a year and a half in the courts, their battle was won.

Paradise Springs, a young winery, has a spirit I have seen before in so many of my Campania winery visits. This spirit shined through Kirk as he took me to a construction site that will be their new wine production facility. They were unable to construct any type of facility for wine making until they won their court battle, so in the meantime, they have been producing wines at three other wineries.

Kirk pointed out their vineyard and showed me where they plan to plant others. The winery leases and manages vineyards throughout Virginia. That way they can choose the best locations to grow the grapes that make up their 9 wines.

We walked over to a red barn that dates back to 1956. A barn that was in downtown Fairfax, but had been taken apart, numbered and rebuilt on the property. A barn that held an antique wine press. One of the places where the winery can hold its various wine tasting events on a hot summer day. I could picture the various events Kirk talked about. Wine tastings on the lawn, concerts under the stars. Sitting on a blanket with a picnic lunch, a bottle of wine, and friends relaxing and enjoying the atmosphere.

I was curious about the log cabin, so in we went. First stop, a dimly lit , yet inviting cellar. This cellar was part of the original log cabin. Stone walls held shelves that held their wines. Kirk placed them on the counter for me to see . I looked over each bottle and was curious how each wine would be in a glass. I wouldn’t have long to wait. It was time to go upstairs…upstairs for our wine tasting.

A wine tasting at Paradise Springs is an opportunity to try 8 of their 9 productions (their sparkling voignier is not available for tasting). An opportunity to bring my nose to the glass and enjoy a wide range of aromas that these Virginia wines could share…

Kirk poured their 2008 Sauvignon Blanc-crisp acidic with a noticeable grapefruit aroma. Next, their pride and joy. 2009 Chardonnay, aged in French Oak. Their chardonnay that shared fruity aromas such as pears and green apples, a full bodied white, a white that  won the 2010 Governor’s Cup proclaiming it the best in white wine in Virginia. The first for any winery of their young age. In fact, as I tasted, I could see their award winning trophy cup on the counter as well as other awards that they have won. Their 2009 Viognier, for example. This lightly sweet wine with an apricot and honeysuckle aroma won the Silver Medal-2010 Governor’s Cup. Then, there was there 2009 Sommet Blanc…a blend of Vidal Blanc, Traminette, Viognier, Chardonnay, and Riesling. Nose to the glass-melon, pineapple. Crisp, clean…Best of Category-Atlantic Seaboard Competition.

It was time for the reds…almost. Paradise Springs has a rosé-Nana’s Rosé named after Kirk’s grandmother, produced with Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, and Tannat. Strawberry fields forever when I placed my nose to the glass…fragole.

Next, a Gold Medal award winner in the Atlantic Seaboard Competion-their 2008 Cabernet Franc . Rich ruby red color, aromas of plum. 2009 Merlot…100% merlot with its dark fruit wafting from the glass as I twirled it. 2009 Meritage-a blend of Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon Petit Verdot, and Malbec…all combined to make a full bodied, tannic wine. Here I could smell cherry and a light touch of licorice as I performed the olfactory exam.

I took this last glass of wine and walked around a bit. Looked over at their antique living room dating back to the 1800s…all original furnishings. Walked outside where cast iron tables and chairs hosted visitors. I watched the other wine tasters, adventurers like me, who came out to Paradise Springs that day…Some first time visitors, others had been there many times before.

We all, however, had one thing in common. The desire to see Jane and Kirk’s dream. A dream that began many years ago.

A dream in the making.
On their little piece of paradise…
Paradise Springs.

Paradise Springs Winery
13219 Yates Ford Road
Clifton, Virginia (USA)
20124
001 703 830 9463





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