While I may be a Montanan these days (and very happy to be as it is purely God’s country), I am originally and will always be to some degree a Virginian. The land that was originally settled by European invaders and eventually became a very important state in the founding of the US is where I grew up. Born and raised in the humidity and lush forests, I will never get it out of my system totally. In fact, I never lived outside of Virginia until having completed all of my schooling, I made the leap west. So, with those deep roots, as I developed a love for wine I of course became curious about the burgeoning Virginia wine scene. I remember while in school there were several wineries in the western part of the state and I visited a few in my very early days as a wine lover. However, over the last decade or so the scene has really exploded. Of course, volume of production and new wineries doesn’t really mean there is anything of great interest being produced… and my prior forays into tasting in the Commonwealth have generally left me quite disappointed. The wines were mostly drinkable, but not much more. The occasional tasty Viognier and one or two solid red blends could be found if you were willing to look, but more often than not, insipid stuff that was at best uninteresting and at worst undrinkable. Suffice it to say that despite having a reasonably sized cellar, there were no bottles in it from my home state… until now!
On a recent visit back to the beautiful green lands of my youth I was introduced to a wine that made me do a double take. Served to me by my wine savvy aunt and uncle, this was by far the best Virginia wine I’d ever tasted. In fact, it wasn’t just great Virginia wine, it was great wine period. The wine in question? RdV Vineyards Rendezvous. I remember reading about RdV a few years ago and thinking I would like to taste there, however on that particular trip, it was a little too far out of the way to make it happen and subsequently life, work, kids, etc got in the way and it fell off my radar. Thankfully for me, my family members happened to taste there and given their well developed palates realized that this was a step above the typical juice being made in VA. They joined the club and happily for me, decided to pull out 2 bottles for my beautiful wife and I on our recent visit. I must say, the first smell of the 2014 Rendezvous immediately snapped me to attention. This was first quality stuff; a totally different wine than I’d ever been exposed to in Virginia. An extra level of complexity, refinement, depth, and yet still a beautiful weightless feel. It seemed like a blend of Spottswoode and Margaux, combining some of the the richness of new world fruit with the classic finesse and “power without weight” of the Bordeaux region. Yet, it was not really able to be put into a box; it was its own wine, expressing itself. I was captivated. I had always hoped to taste wine like this from my own state! Next up was a comparison with the 2016 Rendezvous. Now, for a bit more info, the wine is a blend of cabernet sauvignon, merlot, cabernet franc, and a bit of petit verdot. Classic Bordeaux varietals. Grown in granite soils on a hillside in northwestern Virginia, the vines have flourished and truly produced remarkable stuff. The 2016 was a bit more closed than the 2014 not showing the floral notes, tobacco, and complexity that the 2014 had, however I felt the 2016 actually had more potential. It was tight and unrevealing, but the hints of fruit, spice, and earth grudgingly revealed showed impressive potential. The palate was coiled and hesitant, but the depth and finish here are stellar and I think in 5-10 years this is going to be a stunner.
I am already in discussion and searching about how to add a significant bevy of the RdV wines to my cellar and hoping to get there for a visit on my next trip back home. I’m also hoping that the area developed by them will potentially allow some further quality driven teams to move into the area and produce world class wines. I look forward to serving some of these wines blind in a mix of high quality Bordeaux and Cali cabernets and shocking people when they realize its from Virginia! Just goes to show you, there are always new discoveries out there, so keep your mind and your palate open!
J. Newman, CSW