When Jim and I were returning from our trip to Little Washington, VA, earlier this month, we stopped at our now-standby, Gray Ghost, to get a case of refill for our wine cabinet. But there was another vineyard we’d heard about at an event last year at Todd and Ellen Gray’s Equinox restaurant downtown, which featured the wine of several Virginia wineries. Jim had remembered that our favorite (and everyone’s—that table ran out long before anyone else’s) was a winery with someone’s initials, but we couldn’t remember the letters. Thanks to a Virginia wine guide we picked up at the White Moose Inn, Jim landed on it: RdV Vineyards in Delaplane.
We got there just before 5, but luckily, the gate was still open, so we drove up to the most impressive architecture I’ve ever seen at a winery (Jim and I spent part of our honeymoon in Sonoma and Napa, so we’ve seen a few of them…)
We came up the stone steps to this glorious interpretation of an old farmhouse, and our luck held, because the front door was still open. We stepped inside, where the lobby surrounds a central silo, where there’s NOTHING old fashioned or farm-y anywhere you look:
We could see the silhouette of a woman in a rear office, talking on the phone, so we waited in our place, admiring the surroundings and hoping we could sneak out with a quick purchase.
But then out came the lovely Caitlin Rice, RdV’s hospitality director. She told us when the regular tours took place, plus a little bit about the vineyard… but seeing as it was the end of the day, the three of us just got to talking, and well, she ended up showing us around.
She first led us out to the vineyards, which are planted on steep slopes along the property, and which transported me back to our honeymoon in California.
Caitlin kneeled down in front of some grapes, describing how they’re nurtured and harvested each year, and which vines are selected to produce for the following year. At this point, you could tell she wasn’t just being nice by describing all this to a couple of strangers who appeared on her doorstep—this was all her passion for viticulture spilling out in front of us.
Caitlin also told us about Rutger de Vink, the vineyard’s founder, who spent two years doing nothing but studying the soil on his newly purchased property before he planted the first grape in 2006. That allowed him to produce instantly cult-like wine, pretty much from the start.
The early recognition of RdV’s wines gained the attention of Eric Boissenot, a French viticulturist genius from Bordeaux who’s pretty much a rock star in the wine world. RdV is one of the only—if not THE only (take that, Cali)—U.S. vineyard he now consults for, formulating the red blends (no whites here) for each year’s introduction of Lost Mountain ($95) and Rendezvous ($75).
And while the grapes are obviously top-notch, Jim and I were blown away by the architecture. The firm that designed this modern farmhouse, which is centered with a light-filled silo, is DC’s Neumann Lewis Buchanan. Since 2012, they’ve received two top design awards from the American Institute of Architects, in addition to the 2013 Palladio Award, which awards outstanding achievement in traditional design.
After our vineyard walk, Caitlin gave us a quick tour of the winery and its underground caves. The stairway goes down through the aforementioned silo. If you look up on the way, here’s what you see:
Just outside a huge hall filled with steel vats where the winemaking takes place before it’s stored in casks, there are huge glass cylinders filled with samplings of rock that were taken from the property. The tiny roots of the grape vines grow down within its crevices.
And here is the gorgeous (and so clean!) vat room:
We walked through the curving tunnels of wine barrels, and out to the area where the current season’s wines are ready to go out—cages of them.
Finally, we passed by the tasting lab, complete with beakers and flasks and mathematical equations. They take their blending seriously here.
Finally, Caitlin gave us a tasting in that fantastic living room, along with a gorgeous cheese board with a baguette and slices of salami. We chatted while the sun set behind the mountains.
We’re RdV ambassadors now, of COURSE, since we walked away with a half-case of wine—three Lost Mountain and three Rendezvous. We also got a friends and family bottle, with the cutest label.
We had our first bottle—the Rendezvous—with grilled rack of lamb last weekend, and WOW. Not only is the blend of merlot, cabernet sauvignon, petit verdot and cabernet franc a magical pairing for that meal, but it packs a punch at just under 15 percent alcohol by volume. We were still delerious—in the best way possible!—the next morning.
The hard part? Making the next six bottles last until next year, when we will have saved up enough money to buy more.