Road Trip Worthy: Virginia's Grace Estate

When you write about wine, it seems every vacation ends up being working vacation. But, it's not so bad when the work means I can share wine with friends. Last weekend, my friend Teresa and I hopped in the Prius and drove down to Virginia to visit our wonderful friend Missy. We spent one day at the LOCKN' Festival and another traveling the rolling hills outside of Charlottesville winery and cidery hopping.

Missy lives in the heart of the Monticello AVA, along the eastern slopes of the Blue Ridge Mountains. The countryside is beautiful, and it's almost impossible to close your eyes and throw a stone and not hit a winery, brewery, distillery or cidery. The region is lousy with them, but fortunately, the craft beverages they make are not at all lousy.

Missy made sure our last stop of the day was at one of her favorite wineries, Grace Estate in Crozet. I was pleased to discover the winery grows tanned - a grape I love that's not grown much on the East Coast - and uses it in both a single varietal wine and a blend. After sampling Grace's red flight, we took a bottle of the 2016 Estate Le Gras Baril, a blend of 60% Merlot, 23% Petit Verdot, and 17% Tannat to the patio.

We paired the wine with smoked gouda, cured meat, and good crusty bread as we listened to live music and watched the sky turn shades of gold and orange over the vines in the distance. The wine had red fruit and savory notes of sage and pepper on the nose. On the palate, it was juicy with cherry and a bit of smoke. Nicely balanced, the subtle tannins worked well the cheese.

On this Wine Wednesday, I'm sorry I didn't bring a bottle back to New Jersey with me, but I wanted to share this lovely wine I drank last weekend, in an idyllic setting, with close friends with you anyway.

Have to mention: Earlier in the day, we visited Albermarle CiderWorks, a cidery that makes a variety of ciders from both heirloom and recent varieties of apples, and they do it well. After a tasting of their premium ciders, I chose a glass of 1817, a dry blend of Hewes Crab, Harrison, and Winesap. The Hewes Crab has a juicy sweetness so it gives the dry cider a fruity, sweet note to it. Albermarle chose the blend from a book written in 1817 that said they were the best varieties for cider.

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