Twinkling filament lights hang on strands spanning the high-lofted ceiling, filling the arches and other last spaces not awash with sunlight from the glass wall of windows framing the sweeping vista of blue sky meeting grey mountain as if it were a painting hung to brighten the hall where we are sipping our wine. A din of revelry echoes through the bright and modern space, heralding what we suspect are at least three separate weddings-to-be, whose parties have come to celebrate today.
We visited Blue Valley Vineyard and Winery in the most beautiful and productive heart of Virginia's wine country in early March, though have waited to share with you until summer was in full swing because we think it excels as a winery fit for a celebration, a day drinking wine in the countryside with a group of friends or family. The celebratory space and vibe is something that a number of wineries attempt, while the Zissios family seems to have really gotten it right. Blue Valley, like Stone Tower Winery forty-five minutes to the north in Leesburg, represents a needed compliment to smaller wineries that either don't have the capacity or the inclination (or both) to be a destination for events and revelers. If you're planning a summertime excursion from Washington, DC with a larger group (six to eight people, or more) of friends and family, Blue Valley should be on your list. It's undeniably fun.
Of course, after taking it all in we meandered into a small room off to the side where we drank the bottle that winemaker Stergio Zissios had recommended, swirled it around, and jotted some notes. We admit that our tasting notes are shorter than our typical style, but we felt a need to not be in the way of the many guests at the tasting bar, so moved a bit more quickly through these than we normally would.
2013 Pinot Gris
Though we were surprised to see a white wine from 2013 poured in early 2017, the first in our lineup proved to be one of our favorite whites. It threw a nose of juicy pear and honey that preceded a slightly sweeter palate characterized by a bit of apple, slate, and kiwi.
2016 Estate Viognier
It should never surprise you to pick out a Virginia-grown Viognier as one of your favorites in a lineup, for the state does these so well. Blue Valley's estate (estate means that the wine was grown and produced there at the winery, rather than sourced from other vineyards' grapes). This edition is filled with notes of strawberry, peach, and banana, punctuated by qualities reminiscent of fresh fruit and vanilla ice cream.
2014 Memories White Blend
The sweetest on our list, we recommend Memories to new wine drinkers that are just beginning to explore what's out there. The first sniff in the glass is of honey suckle and orange blossom that goes down easily with notes of green grass and a sweet cream finish.
2014 Virginia Rosé
Indulge us in our unabashed advocacy for rosé, particularly now that it's late June... lovely berries exhibit their own quality in this particular bottle, while the specific notes of a strawberry cream lifesaver offer a flourish on the stock "strawberries and cream" that typically jump from most glasses of rosé. This wine is highly drinkable, this was our favorite rosé in the Blue Valley lineup.
2014 Traditional Red Blend
This blend of Merlot, Cabernet Franc (another grape that performs well in Virginia), and Syrah (somewhat unusual in Virginia) is like Christmas in a bottle. The nose of evergreen, clove, mulling spice medley, and red apple (this thing would be great as a candle, actually) gives way to black cherry and cranberry on the palate before a satisfying ending.
2014 Petit Verdot
When Petit Verdot is added to the same blend as Blue Valley's Traditional red, it produces their Celebration red that introduces elements of smoldering fire in the nose, and juicier red cherry on the palate. This bottle, though, is the mono-varietal Petit Verdot (i.e. made only from a single grape). It's far softer than other Petit Verdot we have had, and then what we'd have imagined after drinking the Celebration blend. Almond in the nose leads to simple chocolate and cranberry on the palate. It's drinkable on its own without food, not a universal quality of this varietal.