Harrisonburg, we love you soooo much. You know this. But sometimes, Brandy and I need to break free from your limits and find a wide open space. A quieter place with a gentle breeze, a more expansive horizon, maybe some farm animals in the distance. A place of respite and anonymity. A place… where wine grows.
And so on a recent day that was stifling in more ways that just the weather, we hopped in the Brandy-mobile, rolled down the windows, cranked up the Wilco, and drove the whopping five minutes down the street (yes, it’s like five minutes away) to Bluestone Vineyard, our hair blowing wildly out the car windows. Well, her hair. My hair does not react to wind.
When we arrived and approached the bar to start the tasting, the charming bartender noticed Brandy’s camera, which induced an explanation from us, which then incited him to ask the winemaker Lee if he wouldn’t mind showing us around the place. So Lee rustled up his dog Lu and took us on a really cool, informative tour. This lucky guy spends his day with plants, barrels, tanks, and jam bands-via-earbuds.
First we saw the gazillion rows of grapes that lined the hillside. The slope of the hill helps to irrigate the grapes; not only does the water flow down the hill (duh) but the terrain makes the water flow slowly so the plants don’t get washed out or overwatered. Also, the hill protects the grapes from any extremes of weather, and the rocks our Valley is known for help nourish the soil. All the way to the left are the first rows of grapes that were planted in 2008/09 for a 2011ish yield. And of course there are several varieties of grape that result in the fifteen wines Bluestone offers.
Lee might be a wine lover and a dog lover, but he’s not a bird lover. Birds apparently love grapes, and they have a keen sense of when they’re ripe. Lee has to make sure each season he beats the birds to the vines. Because as they say, the early bird catches the grape. Lu helps chase away the offending avians, and they have a squawk box to scare them, too. Over the summer this crazy bird kept pooping all over the glass of my French door… I put a rubber snake out there, and the bird never came back. There’s a shortcut to excellence for ya.
Inside we got to see the multiple apparatus for processing grapes. The tanks and barrels and squishers (not a technical term) that do the work of a hundred men. There’s a machine for everything. That’s not to say humans don’t still need to oversee the process. While we were in there, for example, Lee’s assistant was topping off dozens of barrels of wine that had evaporated down too far. So many decisions and variable dictate what ultimately ends up in your glass: whether it’s made from white grapes or red, whether it’s aged in steel, or oak, or aged oak, for a couple months, for a couple years. Think of the care it takes to monitor a barrel of wine for two years. Lord, that’s patience. And commitment.
Now we were more than ready for that tasting. You can choose to taste all the whites OR all the reds for $6, or for $10, you can try them all! And that’s what we did. The whites they offer include a Sauvignon Blanc, Vidal Blanc, Viognier, Steel Chardonnay, oak-barrel Chardonnay, Traminette, Blue Ice (which is made from frozen Traminette grapes) and the Beau — a sweet golden wine named for the vineyard golden retriever.
The reds include a Rosé, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Quartz Hill Red (blends Cabernet Franc, Cab Sauvignon, and Chambourcin), Cadenza (described by our host as the “greatest hits album” of each year), and the best name ever, the Crooked and Weedy — a sweet red named for an old train. Tastings occur inside at the wine bar, but you can purchase a bottle and take time to enjoy the lovely views outside. Their 2014 Concert Series just wrapped up, but they’ve got several more events on the horizon. On October 4th, they’re having their Third Annual Harvest Dinner. You can attend a wine and cheese pairing on October 25/26, and dig through your dress up clothes for their Halloween Costume Party on October 31st.
Bluestone Vineyard is located at 4828 Spring Creek Road in Bridgewater We hope you’ll visit them soon! See you out and about!
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