on May 12, 2008
While Virginia isn’t well known for its wines, it is the number five state in the US for wine production, behind California, New York, Oregon and Washington. During colonial times, it was the law that all Virginian land owners were to commit a minimum of ten acres to the production of grapes for the purpose of building a local supply of grapes for wine production. Unfortunately, wine production did not really take, as farmers found another crop to be more productive: tobacco.Williamsburg Winery is the largest of some 70 wineries throughout the state. From their humble beginnings back in 1985, they have become one of the better known producers of wines utilizing both local and imported grapes for their vast selection of varietals and reserve wines produced there.When you arrive you will enter their wine shop, where visitors may purchase single bottles or cases of their favorites. It is in the wine shop that you purchase the tour tickets. Tours, including the wine sampling, are $8.00 per person. Look in the local tourist magazine for a 25% off coupon. In addition to the tour, you will be treated to a sampling of seven of their wines in a nice wine glass that is yours to keep.Your tour will begin with a brief video telling the history of wine making in Virginia and at Williamsburg Winery in particular. From there, a guide will take you on your walking tour through the wine cellar and a small portion of their production area. It was interesting to learn that some of their wines are not fermented in the 60 gallon oak barrels imported from France, but instead in large stainless “aging vats”. Their wine maker checks the aging process on a regular basis to assure that all is going well in the barrels.After the tour, guests are invited up to the tasting room bar where a selection of wines is provided to give a nice representation of the Williamsburg Winery. The day of our tour, they were featuring (in this order): a dry Riesling, James River White, Vintage Reserve Chardonnay, Susan Constant Red, Barrel Aged Claret, Hening’s Statute Cabernet Sauvignon; and Vin Licoreux de Framboise Raspberry Dessert Wine.With crackers and Gouda cheese to clear your pallet, it was easy to distinguish the variety of flavors and quality of the wines offered. I found the Barrel Aged Claret to be a bit too strong and robust for my liking but all of the others were very good. In fact, the Raspberry Dessert Wine, at 14% alcohol tasted more like juice suitable for a child’s sippy cup.When we completed our tasting, we then returned to the wine shop to make our “take home” purchase. They also offer a nice discount if you purchase in quantity. A six bottle purchase received a 5% discount, a case (12 bottles) 10% and four cases 20%. While we do enjoy wine, it would have been difficult to justify purchasing 48 bottles but we did pick up 18 bottles of a variety of types for ourselves and as gifts for a couple of friends. The retail prices on the Williamsburg Winery selections are very reasonable. Their reserve selections were $28.00 to $32.00, while varietals were $10.50 to $16.00 (premium varietals). Your typical “table” wines (blends) were $7.50 to $9.00. The three dessert wines they offer were $18.00. With our discount, we were able to get out of their for just under $200.If you want to make a day of your visit to Williamsburg Winery, they also have the Gabriel Archer Tavern that serves lunch throughout the afternoon. They also have wine dinner events on Thursdays that include a light two course dinner and wine tasting for approximately $30 per person. More information can be found on this and other special events on their web site: www.williamsburgwinery.com .Basic tours with wine tasting are available from 10:00am until 5:00pm, seven days a week. Their special reserve tour is $30 per person and by appointment only. Guests choosing this tour option will receive a more behind the scenes tour including a walking tour of the vineyards. All wines sampled on the reserve tour are from the reserve wine selections.
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