One gorgeous afternoon, we decided to explore the area. Both of us had previously visited the Capitol and its’ many monuments and museums. We wanted to do something different. My sister, Cindy, lived in Northern Virginia for many years and recommended touring the wine country. What a wonderful suggestion!
Since I didn’t know anything about Virginia wine, I looked up the Northern Virginia wine trail online. The wine country is located approximately one hour west of Washington, D.C. It was a spur of the moment day trip so I just selected a centrally located winery on the map, entered the address into the GPS, and took off. The drive was easy and pleasant. About halfway to our destination, we started to notice the scenery change from suburban sprawl to beautiful open farm land. We exited highway 66 and drove 3 miles along a narrow, winding road that was flanked with beautiful horse and cattle farms when we were told we reached our destination. There was not a winery in sight. Tom quickly looked up wineries on Yelp (yelp.com) and found a highly rated winery located less than a mile away. We decided to check it out.
RdV Vineyards is nestled on a sloping hillside in Delaplane, VA between an Angus cattle ranch and a farm owned by famed chef Jose Andres. The driveway to the elegantly modern, yet rustic farmhouse styled winery eluded to a unique experience. Overseeing the winery is the main attraction: the grapevines. The rows of vines climb endlessly up the steep hill behind the winery. Below, the gently rolling hills of the Virginia countryside were absolutely breathtaking. Knowing nothing about Virginia wines, we quickly discovered we arrived at a winery that is crafting what is arguably the best wine in the state.
Currently, RdV Vineyards is only open to tours and tastings by appointment. However, sometime within the next month, RdV is opening a tasting room to allow greater access of their wines to consumers. When Tom and I arrived, we did not know tours were by appointment only. Nevertheless, we were warmly greeted and accommodated with a spontaneous tour and tasting. Tom and I have toured many wineries and our experience at RdV Vineyards was by far the most interesting and informative either of us had encountered.
Caitlin Rice served as our host throughout our entire afternoon at the winery. Our experience commenced with a glass of champagne on the lawn outdoors. Caitlin, a recent transplant from California wine country, spoke with us about RdV Vineyards and how they have become a well-respected winery specializing in Bordeaux style wine (in Virginia)! The owner, Rutger de Vink, is a Marine vet (ooh-rah!) who also previously worked in the tech industry. After tiring of the daily work grind, Mr. de Vink decided to follow his passion and pursue a living in the wine industry. Rutger de Vink undertook a two year apprenticeship under Jim Law of Linden Vineyards in Linden, VA. During this time, Mr. de Vink learned about the winemaking process and what is necessary to produce exceptional wine. The land upon which Mr. de Vink selected for his winery was done after much research into proper conditions for grape growth. Grape vines, unlike other plants, need to be cultivated in poor soil conditions with very little water. The land upon which RdV vineyards is situated consists of a steep slope of granite bedrock. This harsh environment allows the vines to put most of its’ energy into the fruit rather than other superfluous components of the plant. Wine production is all about the grape and the vines are strategically situated on the hillside for optimum fruit quality and production.
The next part of our tour continued downstairs in the cave area of the winery. The first room we entered houses the stainless steel tanks which is the first step in the wine making process. Next, we entered a labyrinth hallway which contains beautiful rows of stacked barrels. The wine is aged two years in French oak barrels. Depending on the season and the varietal, the wine is placed in either new or second use barrels. Finally, the wine is aged one year in the bottle. The cave provides the perfect atmosphere for wine production. Consistent temperature and humidity that is optimal for wine aging. At the end of the cave portion of the tour is the “laboratory”. This is where the wine makers do their magic by experimenting with different proportions of the grapes to craft the Bordeaux style blends.
It can be difficult to imagine how the grapevines grow in the hard granite bedrock. The most spectacular display in the cave is a wall cut out from the cave’s interior showing the adjacent bedrock. In your mind’s eye, you can imagine the vines entrenching its’ roots deeper year after year into the tiny nooks and cracks.
The tour continued upstairs on the outdoor patio with a tasting of RdV’s two 2010 Bordeaux style blends. RdV 2010 Rendezvous consists of 44% Merlot, 24% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Petit Verdot, and 12% Cabernet Franc. RdV 2010 Lost Mountain is composed of 64% Cabernet Sauvignon and 36% Merlot. The wines were paired with a selection of two cheeses, salumi, and olives. Both wines were incredible. Tasting the wine, I immediately noticed a delightful earthiness which I prefer over the more fruit forward wines of California. There is a great complexity that developed with each sip. During our sampling, owner Rutger de Vink stopped by to talk with us. It is rare that an owner is at the vineyard, much less take time from their schedule to chat. After our tasting, Mr. de Vink arranged for us to tour the vineyard and talk with the vineyard’s manager, Gabriel Flores. During the day of our visit, Mr. Flores and his team were grafting vines from one of the 11 blocks. The winemakers decided to replace one of the Petit Verdot blocks with Cabernet Sauvignon. Mr. Flores showed us the grafting process and the pruning of the vines to ensure controlled growth for not only this year, but for future seasons as well.
Tom and I had an amazing day at RdV Vineyards in Delaplane, VA. Our experience proves that hidden gems are out there. The next time you are in Northern Virginia wine country and want an intimate and in depth tour and tasting of incredible Bordeaux style wine, RdV Vineyards is a MUST visit! It WILL be the highlight of your visit to Northern Virginia wineries.