Touring Tuesdays

From our travels this summer, I have quite a few Virginia wineries to review for you, so I will be starting a weekly series for the next 6 or 7 weeks to tell you about the vineyards we visited in Loudon County.

We spent our anniversary visiting the Northern VA vineyards. Our first stop of the day was to Hillsborough Vineyards. We tasted through the menu of 3 whites, 2 reds and one dessert wine. Hillsborough has a non-refundable $5 per person tasting fee, so as usual I will gripe about that.

The winery has a lovely patio where you could easily spend the day overlooking the vineyards, sipping a bottle of wine, and munching on one of the selections of cheese and crackers available inside the tasting room. I really enjoyed the koi pond on the edge of the patio. The tasting room is long and narrow, and was quite crowded when we arrived around noon. A second room where you could sit inside on a not so nice day had plenty of tables and looked cozy.

All of Hillsborough’s wines are blends and named after various gemstones:

2005 Carnelian: $18, a blend of Chardonnay and Roussanne. Slightly butttery with some oak. Light, dry and floral.

2005 Opal: $18, a blend of Viognier and Chardonnay. Peach, apple, light and silky. Another dry wine.

2006 Serefina: $18, Rose, blend of Viognier and Tannat. Very fruity on the nose, crisp, not sweet, dry. Very refreshing, strawberry, watermelon. Our favorite of the day, we took home two bottles.

2005 Garnet: $20, blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, and Petit Verdot. Strawberry, light mouthfeel, but a spicy wine.

2004 Ruby: $22, blend of Tannat, Touriga Nacional, and Petit Verdot. Chocolate, leather, cherry. A very strong and powerful wine.

2005 Moonstone: $18, a blend of late harvest Viognier and Chardonnay. 6% residual sugar. Apricots, honey, sweet, but not overly so. Very well balanced. Matt really liked this one, we took home a bottle.

All in all, an excellent first stop, though again, I am never happy when tasting fees are not refunded.

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3 Responses

  1. Ya know, I used to gripe about non-refundable tasting fees too – until I started working in a tasting room. I guess you “only” tasted 6 wines at Hillsborough, so the following overly-analytical rant might not have the same effect (at Three Fox, we usually pour around 10 – a little ridiculous, I know).

    But doing the math on even on 6 tastings, consider: each pour ends up being a little over 1 oz (if they’re not using a measured pourer, which most tasting rooms don’t – festivals are another matter). It’s actually kind of hard to pour a consistently “small” (i.e., 1 oz) taste all day – it takes more concentration to pour small, so you usually end up edging up to the 1-1.5 oz range as the day wears on (a good argument for visiting tasting rooms late in the day I guess!).

    Anyway, let’s say it’s 1.25 oz, and you tasted 6 wines: 1.25 x 6 = 7.5 oz. One 750mL bottle of wine has about 25 ounces in it (or five 5oz glasses). That means you just “tasted” the equivalent of one and a half glasses of wine – 30% of a bottle. If you assume a bottle costs $20, 30% of $20 is $6. So you see, your tasting fee didn’t actually cover the cost of the wine you consumed/spit/dumped.

    I agree that there should be some cost of doing business on the wineries side – they keep track of the number of bottles used in the tasting room, and get to write them off in some way that assists them somewhat financially. But you want that fee in there to keep people from coming in, tasting everything, usually asking to re-taste a couple more, then buying the cheapest one on the list to get their tasting fee waived.

    I think as Virginia starts getting a higher percentage of visitors truly interested in tasting the wine (as opposed to showing up just for the novelty of getting drunk in the VA countryside), this will become less of an issue. But for now, a policy of waiving the tasting fee for a half-case purchase or more seems pretty fair to me, especially since many Virginia wineries are so small and don’t have a lot of financial wiggle room.

    Wow – sorry for that lengthy post! I won’t be offended if you delete it so as not to scare people away :-)

  2. Nice pics, Sonadora! ‘Look forward to more winery reviews (with pics).

  3. Hey Nate- Not scary, but a long rant. I guess we’ll have to agree to disagree on this one. We always buy at least two bottles at places that return the tasting fee! Maybe a 2 bottle purchase per fee or something, but it just irks me when I buy a case a wine and they still want that $3!

    Thank Shantanu, there’ll be more!

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