Virginia never ceases to amaze me with its rich history and climate potential for the winemaking business. Though it is the oldest wine-producing state in the country, Virginia is very new when it comes to mass-producing and marketing wines made in the area. Most of the vineyards that you will find in this state are fairly small, family-owned businesses, which, I believe, is a great thing. Perhaps the smallest winery I have been to during my exploration of the region is a tiny place called “Capitol Vineyards.”
Do not let this hidden treasure fool you into thinking that it is an abandoned building off of a partial dirt road somewhere in Delaplane, Virginia, because it is far from that. (And far from the closest Starbucks, which is all the way in Front Royal.) Capitol Vineyards is a charming little gem of a tasting room on a beautiful hillside, packed with lots of nuggets of history.
The winery, owned by Lauren and Matthew, was named so because both owners have spent much of their careers working on or around Capitol Hill. Despite keeping jobs in the Washington, DC area, they decided to move out to the beautiful countryside in Northern Virginia and opened Capitol Vineyards about three years ago. The vineyard started as a very small wine venture, producing about 300 cases a year, and has grown to about 700 cases this year. Though they get many of their grapes from land outside of Charlottesville, Lauren and Matthew continue to grow their own grapes as well on the five acres of land they currently farm on site.
Perhaps the most interesting part about this particular winery is that the tasting room is located in a very old structure that dates back to the mid-1800s. This building was the first African American post office built before the Civil War in a freed-slave part of Virginia. It was converted into a general store in the early 1900s and remained a store in that location until around 1950. The service bar inside, which is now used as the tasting bar, and the floor of the building are both original. Lauren and Matthew outfitted the small structure for electricity, but kept most of it in its original form. That means that the little building where you will sip your wine is over 150 years old!
Most of the wines that I tasted during my trip out to Capitol Vineyards are products of the 2011-growing season, which, I was told, was a mild year weather-wise. Therefore, the wines are much lighter than they may have been if the grapes were harvested during a different season. I did enjoy the 2010 “Reserve” Merlot the most, as it definitely had more weight to it than the others. I was happy to see a Traminette white wine on the list, which is a wine made from a hybrid-grape created exclusively for the East coast. You will not find this particular grape outside of places like Virginia and New York.
Something else that makes Capitol Vineyards very unique is the style of the wine labels. Sticking with the concept of their winery, Lauren and Matthew had their labels designed with caricatures of people who may “embody” the taste/style of the wine. For example, the 2011 Meritage label has a drawing of a grad student in front of the Capitol Building. It was explained to me that because a Meritage is a blend, and though mature, but perhaps not quite as refined, the grad student is seen in quite the same way. I think it is extremely clever how they come up with the “mascots” for each red and white.
What Capitol Vineyards may lack in size and quantity, it makes up for in history and quality. The wines, though on the lighter side this year, are perfect for a ladies day out, or your next Virginia wine tasting adventure.
Please visit www.capitolvineyards.com for more information.
Or you can email Capitol Vineyards at firstname.lastname@example.org.