Taking advantage of the beautiful weather this past weekend, we ventured out to one of our favorite Northern Virginia wineries, Greenhill Winery and Vineyards. On our way to Greenhill we decided to take a short detour, literally a left turn, to stop by a relatively new tasting room, Chrysalis Vineyards at The Ag District. Although Chrysalis is not a new winery by any means, they recently opened their brand new and much larger tasting room and production facility. The Ag District has long been a dream for owner Jenni McCloud. McCloud envisioned a more sustainable agricultural operation— sourcing their own fruit from the vineyard, serving cheeses from an on-site creamery (not yet open), and being able to answer that burning question of “where does this come from?” We admire her mission and passion and she is well on the way to achieving her dream.
The Winery. Chrysalis Vineyards at The Ag District is located on Route 50 just past the town of Aldie, a convenient location as it’s surrounded by several other wineries in the heart of the Middleburg AVA. As we approached the facility (after a somewhat confusing moment in which we needed to drive over a moving stream of water), we were immediately impressed by the size of the tasting room, the expansive and well-manicured grounds with a plethora of outdoor seating and the wonderful view of the Bull Run Mountains. After a little exploring we made our way into the tasting room.
The Tasting Room. The tasting room, which is self-described as “modern rustic” by owner McCloud, features a beautiful focal point consisting of green glass wine bottles. It’s quite striking as the natural light hits the bottles in the perfect spot, providing a unique artistic effect. The main level of the tasting room features a tasting bar, a separate bar for purchasing bottles and glasses and some seating areas. Downstairs consists of the production facility and barrel room/cellar. We’ve also learned that the 2nd level will eventually become what’s referred to as “Wine Island”, a self-operating tasting room where people will be able to purchase wine from automated machines. We have to say that we’ve personally never been a fan of these types of wine bars, however, there is certainly a market that may appreciate this.
After peeking around we discovered that the majority of their wine tastings were taking place outside on the grounds (YES!). We approached a tasting room associate to “sign-up” for the next tasting, which typically run in 15-20 minute intervals.
The Wine Tasting. The current tasting consists of 3 whites, 2 chilled reds, and 5 reds. Their menu features some classic Virginia varietals, but also a few unique wines that you don’t see too often, including the 2014 Albariño (wonderful stone fruit qualities and tartness) and the 2011 Tannat (well-aged, spicy, black fruit with strong tannins and coffee notes). McCloud is also incredibly invested in the Norton grape, a native Virginia grape that grows well and tastes even better. The tasting menu features a few varieties of Norton, including the chilled 2014 Sarah’s Patio Red, the Reserve Norton and our favorite, the 2014 Norton Schitz & Giggles. Each was different, yet had the ever present dark fruit and jammy qualities found in the grape. We appreciated the quality and craft behind the wines at the Ag District.
One thing to note- our tasting group was quite large (about 15 people crammed in at the bar), which was surprising considering the tasting next to us only had about 6 people. We’ve certainly been at tasting bars with large crowds and enjoyed it all the same, but it was clear that the wine educator struggled a bit with a group that large– explaining the wines, pouring the wines, answering questions– it’s not an easy job. If we return, we’d hope to try the same great wines but perhaps in a smaller setting to get the full experience.
All in all, Chrysalis Vineyards at The Ag District makes for a great destination to spend an afternoon. Bring a picnic, bring the dog, bring the kids and enjoy the views and the wine!