Raise your ‘spirits’ with Shenandoah Valley libations

Reed Hellman

Pouring a flight of beer brewed in the Shenandoah Valley.

 

Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley well deserves its reputation as a stellar agricultural region. Although several notable cities and educational institutions add a cultural dimension, and industry followed the Interstate, the valley’s agronomy and husbandry still dominate large swaths of landscape. The recent rebirth of local wine, beer, and spiritmaking continues a pastoral valley tradition begun on the frontier farms of the earliest European settlers.

Pouring a flight of beer brewed in the Shenandoah Valley.
Pouring a flight of beer brewed in the Shenandoah Valley.

In the valley’s heart, Shenandoah and Rockingham counties have embraced the brewer’s, vintner’s, and distiller’s arts. During a close-to-home long weekend, a dedicated connoisseur can sample those skills at nearly a dozen wineries, five craft breweries, two cideries, and a small-batch bourbon blender, while enjoying locally produced food, locally created art, and classic mountain vistas.

“It’s a whole experience; each producer has a different focus,” said Vicki Ruckman, event coordinator for the “Taste of Shenandoah,” an annual farm-to-table event that pairs fresh local cuisine with locally produced libations.

“The Shenandoah Valley’s soil content is extremely good for growing grapes,” she continued.  “The elevation and slopes; the limestone soil, which drains water so well; and the low annual rain and snowfall totals … make the Shenandoah Valley such a good region. … The Alleghenies to the west break up many storms that don’t re-form until they get on the eastern side of the Blue Ridge.”

 

Wineries old and new

Shenandoah Winery, in Edinburg, is the oldest winery in the Shenandoah Valley and fourth-oldest in Virginia. It combines Old World techniques with modern technology to produce several varietals and blends. Wolf Gap Vineyard, also outside of Edinburg, specializes in full-bodied, Bordeaux-style reds and light, crisp white wines. Located on a 50-acre estate, guests can enjoy mountain views while sipping popular vintages from the tasting deck.

The Winery at Kindred Pointe is the first winery in the Shenandoah Valley to grow and produce malbec, a light and fruit-forward wine. On 58 acres near Mount Jackson, the winery also offers panoramic views, walking trails, a nearby wetland, and wildlife watching. Cedar Creek Winery, a boutique winery near Strasburg, focuses on cabernet franc and chardonnay, and offers a unique vertical tasting experience of different vintage years of their award winning wines.

Cave Ridge, a family-owned-and-operated vineyard and winery located in the foothills near Mount Jackson, uses a minimalist approach to produce wines that emphasize the fruit character of the grape. North Mountain Vineyard and Winery near Maurertown presents a unique array of elegant wines exclusive to the vineyard’s terroir. The charming European architecture of the winery building and expansive decks overlooking the vineyards invite guests to sip a glass of wine, enjoy a locally made snack, and enjoy the mountain views.

Muse Vineyard, on the banks of the Shenandoah River just outside of Woodstock, won the 2015 Virginia Governors Cup for its 2009 Clio, a red blend. Open only by appointment on weekends, Muse has also won awards at the Eastern Seaboard and Indy International Wine competitions.

“We are starting to get national and international attention,” said Ruckman. She also noted that the valley has developed a specialty for cabernet franc, chambourcin, and vigonier, the official Virginia white wine grape. “Also, our red, Bordeaux-style blends,” she added.

 

Other libations, too

For beer drinkers, Shenandoah County is home to the Woodstock Brewhouse, a craft brewery and tasting room located in a restored former denim plant in Woodstock. Swover Creek Farms, near Edinburg, grows hops and features a small farm brewery specializing in small-batch, craft, berry-infused beers.

The Woodstock Brewhouse has its craft brewery and tasting room in a repurposed denim plant.
The Woodstock Brewhouse has its craft brewery and tasting room in a repurposed denim plant.

New to the region, Filibuster Bourbon, in Maurertown, uses a “dual cask” process and French oak barrels to blend “… a whisky so good, you won’t stop talking about it!”

Harrisonburg and Rockingham County also offer a range of regionally produced libations.  Bluestone Vineyard, in Bridgewater, is one of the valley’s newest wineries. Housed in a state-of-the-art building designed to process 5,000 cases of wine each year, Bluestone is named for the Valley’s limestone that helps produce such distinctive wines.

CrossKeys Vineyards, in Mount Crawford, showcases classic varietal and hybrid wines including chardonnay, vidal blanc, chambourcin,
petit verdot, and more. CrossKeys currently grows 10 varietals of grapes used to produce 11 different wines.

A trio of craft breweries adds to Harrisonburg’s roster. Brothers Craft Brewing, located inside a renovated Coca-Cola bottling plant, runs a sophisticated operation that produces a rotating line-up of quality brews. Using the support of the local community, Brothers frequently hosts beer tastings, live music, and food trucks.

Pale Fire Brewing Company, Harrisonburg’s newest brewery, is on track to brew some 3,000 barrels each year of up to 10 different flavors.

The newly opened brew pub, in the re-purposed Ice House, features patio seating and local produce on the menu.

Three Notch’d Brewing Company, originally from Charlottesville, opened its second location in Harrisonburg to test its brews in a different community. This “nano brewery” tries new recipes and releases a new beer every Friday.

Calling itself “The Shenandoah Valley’s original hard cidery,” Old Hill Cider in Timberville is a recent addition to Showalter’s Orchard, a regional favorite for 40 years. Old Hill uses heirloom cider-specific apple varieties to make its five artisan hard ciders.

 

For More Information:

Harrisonburg Tourism: visitharrisonburgva.com

Shenandoah Co. Tourism: visitshenandoah.org

Shenandoah Valley Wine Trail: shenandoahvalleywinetrail.com

 

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