*Reader, be prepared for a long post. This is not meant to quickly read during your lunch break. Get a glass of wine, change into your sweatpants, sit on the couch with your feet on the coffee table, and relax!*
Boy, what a day! Mr. Grape Pairings and I just spent a wonderful morning and afternoon birding, visiting Harpers Ferry, and tasting wines at Breaux Vineyards. Mr. Grape Pairings wanted to go to the Harpers Ferry area because his birding friends mentioned that it was a fantastic area to find a wealth of species. Breaux Vineyards, located in Loudoun County, is only about a 15-20 minute drive from Harpers Ferry, and I would highly suggest visiting the both of these places for a great day trip away from the city!
It takes a little over an hour to get to the birding site that Mr. Grape Pairings picked from Falls Church, VA. Specifically, we went to the Blue Ridge Center for Environmental Stewardship. While a long drive, it is one of scenic, rolling hillsides. I sometimes forget how beautiful Virginia is outside of the immediate metro area. Spring flowers are in bloom, everything is green, and the sky is blue with perfectly fluffy white clouds. And then we got out of the car…
It was 90 degrees last weekend, but not so this weekend. It must have been no warmer than 50 degrees, if that. It was grey, damp, wet, and the air was crisp. Even with gloves and a scarf, my light fleece jacket was not going to keep me warm. It was freezing! Mr. Grape Pairings was having the time of his life, not caring about the cold. “Oh! Look! Indigo Bunting! Over there! Field Sparrows!” I, on the other hand, was not having the time of my life. I couldn’t wait until we got back into the car. Eventually, an hour and a half or so later, Mr. Grape Pairings decided that I was subjected to enough torture, and we headed our way to Harpers Ferry for some exploring and lunch.
Harpers Ferry is a historic town where Virginia, West Virginia, and Maryland all come together. The Shenandoah River and Potomac River separate them, and it is a great stop along the Appalachian trail. It’s history dates back to the Civil War, and several of the buildings are set up to look like it did back in the 1850s. They are all walk-in museums now, but it is interesting to see how it looked back then. Harpers Ferry is most famous for John Brown’s raid on the Armory during the Civil War along with the town’s role in the Civil War.
Beyond it’s history, Harpers Ferry is an adorable little town with some restaurants, cafes, and shops. Mr. Grape Pairings and I walked up and down the main street, drank coffee by the train tracks where the rivers come together, and walked along the river to do some more bird watching. It has gotten to the point where he doesn’t go anywhere without his binoculars and turns every experience into a birding experience!
We ended up eating lunch at the Potomac Grille. It has a gorgeous view of the river, and had it been a warmer day, we would have loved to sit on the porch to enjoy the view. However, we were perfectly happy in the warmth of the inside. I ordered the Greek Salad with Chicken, which was fresh, plentiful, and exactly what I wanted. After our bellies were full and Mr. Grape Pairings was tired of birding for the day, we headed on over the Breaux Vineyards for my favorite part of the day, wine tasting.
Breaux is, without a doubt, in my top three wineries that I have visited in Virginia. The grounds, the customer service, and most importantly, the wines, are spectacular. Starting with the entrance as you drive in, vines upon vines of future wines engulf you as you drive up. There are 404 acres that belong to Breaux, 105 of which are vineyards. At the end of the driveway is a grand tasting house, perfect for events, tours, and tastings. The style and decor of Breaux is Cajun themed. From the New Orleans styled arches to the Crawfish on the wine bottle labels, there is attention to detail around every corner.
The attention to detail does not end with the decor. Their wines are freakin’ good. That’s right…freakin’ good. One of those freakin’ good wines that make you wonder if you should buy a bottle of everything because you live so far away and want to savor the wine again…that kind of freakin’ good. On top of that, their staff is personable and knowledgable and taught me so much not only about their vineyards, but about Virginia wines in general.
For $10, the wine tasting at Breaux consists of six wines plus a “Ligniappe”, which means “a small gift given to a customer from a merchant” in Creole. Ken, our taster of the day, greeted us with such a welcoming smile. He spoke to us with such expression and detail that we could tell he was passionate about the wines he was pouring. The wines that he poured for us were:
- Vidal Blanc: Ken started us off with the Ligniappe, which was a taste of their Vidal Blanc. This was like a dry Reisling, with oodles of white blossoms, green apple, and peach. This wine has a slight bit of residual sugar, which make it an excellent food pairing. The flavor is powerful enough to taste with curries or poultry, but soft enough to not overpower lighter salads or shellfish.
- 2015 Jolie Blond: Made of 100% Seyval Blanc, a grape that was new to me, this straw yellow white reminded me of a meadow. There was a lot of honeysuckle and gardenia aromas, with citrus and green apple on the palate and a light, creamy body. With such a strong aroma and creamy body, this is still a light wine, so food pairing can be tricky. Quinoa salad with dried cranberries and walnuts would be a nice pairing to compliment the garden smell of the wine.
- 2015 Madeleine’s Chardonnay: Named after one of the Breaux’s daughters, Madeleine’s Chardonnay is a chardonnay for those people who don’t like chardonnay. The grapes spend 90% of its fermenting time in a steel barrel and 10% in oak. This gives it more of a crisp body, rather than a buttery one. Asian pear, lemongrass, and pineapple made this quite a unique wine that made me think of pairing it with Asian Stir-fry.
- 2016 Rosé: Using a blend of Merlot, Cab Franc, and Malbec, this was a much spicier and earthier Rosé that I was expecting, but in such a good way. The color was that of a transparent neon salmon. Does that even make sense? On the nose, I smelled mandarin and pineapple. On the palate, these flavors came out along with some pepper, which surprised me. Being a girl who loves me a strong glass of red wine, I rather enjoyed these strong red wine qualities in a Rosé. Because of that pepper, this rosé would pair with heavier meals along with lighter ones. I’ll bet it would go well with a juicy burger or pulled pork!
- 2015 Marquis De Lafayette: Made from 100% Cab Franc, this wine was another reason why Virginia Cab Franc is slowly becoming my favorite grape. I love how major blue and blackberry notes ooze out of the smell, but cocoa, tobacco, and leather hit you on the palate. With such strong flavors, you’d think it would be a tannic, dry wine, and while there are tannins and it is dry, the finish is actually quite smooth and silky. With a body slightly more full than Pinot Noir, Cab Franc is a food pairing dream. Ken recommended it with tomato sauce, like pizza and lasagna. Yum!
- Ken noticed that there was some of their Virginia Governor’s Cup Gold Winning 2012 Meritage open, and being the kind guy that he is, gave us some to taste, even though it wasn’t on the tasting menu. Thank you, Ken! No wonder this wine won Gold! This Meritage (pronounced like “heritage”), is a blend of 40% Merlot, 40% Malbec, 10% Petit Verdot, 9% Cab Franc, and 1% Cab Sav. There was a gorgeous Amber tint to the blend, making the color along quite remarkable. Black currant, wet bark, and oaky spice created a rather tannic yet smooth wine. The body was heavier than the Marquis de Lafayette, so this needs a heavier food to pair with it. To me, this wine reminds me of what you would drink on the first cold night of fall, when you put on the flannel sheets and a crockpot chili is stewing on the counter.
- 2012 Nebbiolo: 100% Nebbiolo This is the grape that is used to make fancy-pants Barolos and Barbarescos. Nebbiolo can only grow at altitudes 800 feet or above sea level. Breaux has a vineyard at the top of a hill that is 1,200 feet above sea level, giving it the perfect conditions to make this hard-to-find-in-the-USA grape. This wine was out of this world. I’m not kidding…Out. Of. This. World. This is a wine that I will specifically remember for years to come. I would drive the hour plus drive just for a glass of this stuff. Plum, leather, baking spice, red cherries, violets, chocolate…it’s got everything! It’s that big, bold, red that I love. It’s smooth, yet somewhat bitter in a good way. It’s color is that of a dark plum with beautiful caramel rim. I ended up getting a glass of it after the tasting.
- 2015 Jennifer’s Jambalaya: Named after another daughter of the owner, tiny is a white blend of Vidal blanc, Seyval Blanc, Viognier, and Chardonnay. It was a sweeter white wine, one meant for Jambalayas and spicy Thai dishes, but had a long and dry finish.
The long drive from the metro area is worth it. Breaux Vineyards is exceptional. Had we had nicer weather, we would have loved to stay longer and sit in their courtyard overlooking their flower bushes, or on the front lawn, overlooking the vineyards and mountains. Picnics are allowed in picnic designated areas, but they also have a menu that includes truffles, ready made sandwiches, Paninis, cheese plates, and more Children are also welcome, and with a huge amount of land, would be a wonderful place to run around and play catch or frisbee (Come to think of it, isn’t frisbee just another form of catch?). Dogs are also welcomed on the grounds as well, and again, would probably love to run around. Do yourself a favor…visit Breaux Vineyards! If you do, let me know and I’ll join you 🙂 For more information, go to Breaux’s website, Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter.