I live right outside of DC, so many of Virginia’s wineries and vineyards are anywhere from a 1-2 hour drive away. This is both a pro and a con. It is a pro because it takes you out of the city and into a much more calming atmosphere. The con is that it is a bit of a drive. To some, 45 minutes to an hour drive is not much, but I am lucky to live five minutes down the road from where I work, so anything more than 20 minutes is a lot. However, as with most situations, there is one outlier. There is, in fact, one winery that produces great wine, has fun and lively atmosphere, and is within a half hour’s drive of the DC area: The Winery at Bull Run.
Dr. Grape Pairings and I went to The Winery at Bull Run on a whim a few weekends ago. We had to go to Tysons Mall to run a few errands. Both of us were feeling cooped up at our apartment and weren’t in the mood to go home just yet, so why not go to a winery that is close by? Located in Manassas, a stone’s throw away from the Bull Run Battlefield, the winery is located just a few minutes off of I-66.
The Winery at Bull Run is a popular place. No matter when you go, it will be crowded. However, don’t be discouraged by how many people there are! This isn’t a claustrophobic kind of crowded. I’ve always been able to find a space at the bar for a tasting or a table. When I am sitting with my friends and enjoying a glass of wine, I don’t feel as though I am sitting on the laps of the table next to us or screaming at my friends to talk to them. What it is, is a bunch of people enjoying the live music, bouncing their feet or heads to the beat. Bachelorette parties are everywhere. Families are enjoying a picnic lunch. Everyone is having a fabulous time!
We were able to find an open tasting area inside with Joanne. Joanne had not been at the winery long when we met, but she did her homework. She knew so much about the wines and the vineyard, and was able to answer any questions that I had about how the tasting or how the wines were made.
This was by no means our first trip to the winery. We go whenever we visit Manassas, which is usually once-twice-thrice a year. We usually forgo the tasting and just order a glass. Dr. Grape Pairings gets the Petit Manseng, while I get Lily’s Viognier. However, I hadn’t had a tasting in years. I was surprised how much the tasting menu had changed. There was no more Lily’s Viognier, which made me very sad, but also excited to try new wines!
Each wine tasting is $14, and you get to sample 8 wines. Today, they had 4 whites, 1 Rosé, and 3 reds. This $14 also includes the souvenir glass. Oyster crackers are also available to help cleanse your palate/snack on because you were still hungry after lunch (oops…). The wines that we tasted were:
- 2016 Pinot Gris: As a rather light bodied wine, this guy packed in some flavor. There was a lot of lemon, honeysuckle, and lilies, which reminded me of my favorite Lily’s Viognier, just lighter. A cobb salad would do well with this wine.
- 2016 Stainless Steel Chardonnay: This Chardonnay was so crisp that if it could be broken in half, it would snap cleanly. There so much wonderful lemon, pear, and hay. It had a medium body with no detectable oaky flavors. Non-Chardonnay people I think would enjoy this! I ended up enjoying a glass of it after the tasting.
- 2016 Petit Manseng: Ripe citrus, nutmeg, and a hint of vanilla can be tasted in this very bright, semi-sweet white wine. There is no residual sugar, the wine is just naturally a bit sweeter in taste. The bright acidity make the wine taste lighter and zestier. I would pair this with a spicy stir-fry or some enchiladas!
- 2016 Delaney: 50% Riesling, 25% Vidal, 15% Traminette, 5% Petit Manseng, 5% Viognier. This wine, with 1.1% Residual sugar, has a lovely minerality to back up a white flowers, peach, and clementine flavor. This wine was much deeper than the other whites, I believe due to the minerality in the finish. This would be an outstanding pairing with a lemon roasted chicken or salmon.
- 2016 Rosé: 100% Chambourcin. I love Chambourcin, so I was very excited to try this Rosé. It had oodles of strawberry and cranberry in the taste, with orange zest in the finish. The body was über light; so much so that I might not pair it with anything other than a pool or patio.
- 2015 Merlot: This Merlot would be fabulous chilled, making it an easy to drink summer red. There was a lot of clove, leather, and pepper on the nose, followed by a nice cherry vanilla taste. The tannins are well balanced, so you could enjoy it on its own. Chill it, and it would make a fabulous charcuterie board wine. Have it warm temperature, and it would go well with a cookout.
- 2014 Meritage: 40% Cab Sav, 30% Petit Verdot, 25% Merlot, 5% Cab Franc. Someone, make this wine into a candle, quick! Black Plum, cherries, and pine needles are everywhere on the nose, and smell so warm and remind me of the holidays. On the palate are some bitter dark fruits and firm tannins at the end. This wine has a bit more backbone to it, so it can pair with heavier meals. Beef Short Ribs or Balsamic marinated Portobello would be able to stand up to the wine’s structure.
- 2015 Norton: Oh, how I love Norton. Norton is a grape that is rare in the US, but found everywhere in Virginia. Virginia grows it well here. It is very earthy, with mixed berries, evergreen, leather, and cranberry. Fermented in American Oak, it has some vanilla and caramel flavors as well. It tasted like a berry tart, but was oh so dry.
After the tasting, Dr. Grape Pairings and I sat in the sun and people watched while listening to the live band. The Winery at Bull Run has a live band every weekend, as well as food trucks. They have a wonderful menu of meats, spreads, cheeses, dips, and breads. You can order a la carte, or as a picnic lunch. Other non-alcoholic beverages are available as well. Sadly, due to the crowds, no longer are pets, coolers, balloons, or other outside drinks allowed. The Winery at Bull Run is open Saturday-Wednesday from 11-7, Thursdays from 11-8, and Fridays from 11-10! It’s open late, so teachers like me can go after work and not feel like we have to rush our time. For more information, visiting the winery’s website, Facebook, or Twitter. Let me know when you go and I’ll join you!