Mr. Grape Pairings and I have an interesting relationship. We are like minded people, family oriented, and we are both supportive of one another. However, what makes us interesting, I think, are our hobbies, in that we don’t share any. He enjoys model ship building, I enjoy Netflix binging. He enjoys the sport of Cricket, I enjoy NFL Football (Go Pats!!!). He enjoys bread baking, I can’t bake to save my life. He ferments any food that can be fermented (i.e. leaving random vegetables to sit in vinegar and water, taking up counter space for weeks on end), while I like cooking and then cleaning it up after. You get the idea. However, like I said, we are very supportive of one another, and we often will enjoy each other’s hobbies together.
Mr. Grape Pairings’ current #1 hobby is birding. He loves going out to various locations and seeing what birds he can identify. He has become so good at it, that he can identify birds by their calls and flight patterns. He gets so excited when he sees a species for the first time, grinning from ear to ear and jumping up and down when he sees it! I love walking and exploring, so I will sometimes go with him. However, after 2-3 hours of walking a few steps, stopping, looking, standing, looking, walking a few steps, stopping, looking, standing, looking… it can get to be a bit boring/tiresome to say the least. So why do I do it? Three reasons; 1) I love the guy, 2) he has a cute smile when he sees birds, and 3) he is supportive of me and my #1 hobby, which is wine.
Many times, Mr. Grape Pairings and I share our two favorite hobbies together. We wake up early to go birding somewhere, and then go to a winery afterwards. This way, he gets to do what he loves, I get to do what I love, and we get to be together. One Sunday morning in March, we did just this. We first visited Lake Fairfax in Reston to go birding. It was a dreary day, without much sunlight, but Mr. Grape Pairings didn’t care. He was ready for seeing some birds! We walked around the campsites, some random paths near streams, around the lake, by the skating park, and around the waterpark. He saw 35 species of birds that day, including one “lifer” (lifer= a new species that he has never seen before). Quite a good day for birds! We ended up walking about 3 miles in total.
Afterwards, we drove further down Route 7 to The Barns at Hamilton Station. The Barns at Hamilton Station, or “the Barns”, just won boatloads of awards at the Virginia Governor’s Cup, so I was dying to try their wines to see what made them so award-winning. The drive was extremely easy. The Barns is right off of Route 7, so there aren’t those twisty, windy roads that you sometimes have to drive through to get to some vineyards. When arriving, I was surprised how small the entryway was. Many wineries have grand tasting rooms with a driveway that takes longer than the drive itself did. They are often intimidating to drive into. The Barnes was not. It was much more homey and welcoming. We parked, looked around, and saw a vineyard, house, and the adorable barn. The Barn was decorated in a renovated, rustic style. Wooden beams and support were decorated with white Christmas-like lights. Wooden tables, benches, and chairs were placed throughout the barn for indoor seating. A fireplace displayed their Governor’s Cup Award over the mantel. The tasting counter was decorated in similarly styled wood with display cases on the back wall.
We got there just before noon, and there were only a few people there, so we had no troubles finding room for a tasting.
We walked up to Andy, our pourer, who enjoyed hearing about Mr. Grape Pairings’ latest birding adventure throughout the tasting. When you go to the Barns, there are two possible tastings. You can have a regular tasting, which is $8 and consists of 8 wines, or you can have the extended tasting, which is $15 and samples 12 wines. Hello! Like that was a tough decision! Two extended tastings, please! Throughout the tasting, Mr. Grape Pairings and I noshed on the amazing crackers that they had on the side. These weren’t just any crackers. These were like fancy animal crackers, with a little bit of almond flavor. I would have bought a bag of them if they were selling them! The wines in the extended tasting were as follows:
- 2014 Chardonnay (Silver Medal): Very crisp, especially for a Chardonnay; probably due to spending time in both French Oak and stainless steel barrels. Lots of Granny Smith apple and some pear and apricot. It would go well with creamy based dishes.
- Bliss Blend (Bronze Medal): Chardonnay, Viognier, and Reisling. I got a lot of pear notes, along with honeysuckle and stone fruit. It was also crisp, like the Chardonnay. This would go well with a Ceviche, seafood salad, or lemon glazed chicken.
- 2015 Viognier (Silver Medal): So much peach and apricot! A bit of honeysuckle make the body a tad more full. Shellfish of any kind or grilled cheese would be wonderful!
- 2015 Bank Barn White Blend: Vidal Blanc, Traminette, Petit Menseng. Slightly sweet, but refreshingly so. Orange blossom and lychee give some more body. This reminded me of a Gewürztraminer. It would pair so well with spicy anything. Think spicy Thai or Indian.
- 2015 Bank Barn Red Blend: Cranberry, currant, and a hint of mint make this a light red blend that is full of flavor. A roasted poultry dish or Pasta Diavolo would go well with this blend.
- 2014 Cabernet Franc (Silver Medal): This baby won a silver medal at the Virginia Governor’s Cup this year, and it is easy to see why. Bright berries and leather create a surprisingly smooth body with light-medium tannins. Grilled pork tenderloin or balsamic portobello mushrooms would be icing on the pairing cake.
- 2013 Merlot (Silver Medal): Oak, cedar, cherry, and red currant. Such a lovely mix of fruit and oaky spice! Think pasta bolognese, barbecue, or smoked cheddar cheese. Yum!
- 2013 Malbec (Silver Medal): Is it just me, or is Malbec rare to find in Virginia? Regardless, I loved this wine. Floral violet, fruity blueberry, and vanilla oak bring so many different flavor profiles together. I ate it with leftover butternut squash sauced zoodles, fresh basil, and ground turkey.
- 2014 Petit Verdot (Bronze Medal): Heavier tannins make this gorgeously, full bodied wine a great pairing for heavier dishes or heavier foods. Think lamb or Beef Bourguignon. I got some dark berries and even a buttered toast flavor, which was uniquely delicious.
- 2013 Meritage (Bronze Medal): Petit Verdot, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec. This was another one of my favorites! Blackberry, French toast, and cinnamon, all in a glass, yet it was in no way sweet! In fact, there was quite a few tannins, making it a great pairing for Lamb and chutney or chicken parmesan. It would even go well with chocolate!
The Barns at Hamilton Station is definitely a winery that I would highly recommend. Not only are their wines lovely, but the ambience is what made the place unforgettable. It is calm and peaceful, and you don’t feel rushed. You can sit inside the rustic barn or out on the large porch on a nice day. Kids can play on the grounds out back. You can enjoy a picnic, or buy from their snacks, cheese, and charcuterie options. On weekends, bands and musicians come to play. They are near other wineries, so you can either make a day of it, or enjoy the afternoon on their property. The Barns is open Monday, Thursday, Saturday, and Sunday from 11-5:30, and 11-8 on Friday. For more information, see their website, Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram. As always, let me know if you go and what you think!