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Sunday, November 22, 2009

Over Hill and on to Aspen Dale with the Wine Dogs

Aspen Dale Winery at the Barn
Delaplane, VA

Coming off the mountain, Munchkin gave a bark of delight as she spied a new winery off John Marshall Highway (Rt. 55).

Upon entering Aspen Dale, the Wine Dogs were transported back to Revolutionary War days. Guard-dog Roy kept a watchful eye on the door, expecting to see General Washington wandering into the charming barn-turned-tasting room for a drink at any moment.

Claud and Shay McNeal Poulen bought the 50-acre property “for the history” 12 years ago. Aspendale is one of the oldest farms in Virginia, with the earliest part of the house and barns dating back to the 1780s.

The wine-loving couple also began making wine for their own consumption. Soon, an idea took root. “It was her birthday,” Claud recalls. “We were at our favorite restaurant and I asked for a bottle of their best Carmenère from Chile.” The bottle that came out boasted an Aspen Dale label.

So amateur winemaker Shay (who is also a published author) turned professional, following in the footsteps of her ancestor who styled himself in his 1728 will – Thomas Parris, Vintner.

A once drafty barn has been transformed into a warm and inviting refuge.

Pomeroy is particularly fond of relaxing by the fireplace, as is his Dad, especially on chilly afternoons.

Munchkin fell in love with the décor –a blend of colonial Virginia and country French (Claud is French Canadian) – declaring it the perfect place to bring her Mom’s college pal, whose daughter is studying in France.

Vines were planted three years ago, dotting the picturesque landscape where Cromwell, a 7-month-old Great Dane, roams among the horses. The vines will “hang five,” spending two more years in the ground before grapes are harvested for wine.

In the meantime, Shay is producing award-winning wines using fruit from Breaux. Even before the doors opened in May, every Aspen Dale wine had medaled at the Mid Atlantic competition, including a gold for the Rockawalkin Cabernet Sauvignon, which Shay describes as “my personal baby; the one I made for myself.”

CabSauv also happens to be the name of what is perhaps Virginia’s first winery bird, who welcomed the Wine Dogs to Aspen Dale while Assistant Winemaker Daisy introduced them to Aspen Dale’s five wines.

Food hound that she is, Munchkin was wild about the unique pairings, which included pheasant and bison. Pomeroy gave a “hats off” to Sarah’s Chapeau, a Vidal/Sauvignon Blanc blend named for Shay’s great grandmother, Sarah Parris, who loved hats. Sweeter palates will also appreciate the Rose and the crisp and refreshing Sanscerre-style Sauvignon Blanc.

The Wine Dogs settled on the Parris County Blend, named for the ancestral plantation four miles away. This wonderful melding of Melot with a peppering of Cabernet Franc reflects the melding of wine and history throughout Aspen Dale.

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A Wine Dog shout out to furry fan Maxwell Keddie, a golden retriever they met at Aspen Dale. Max's Dad told Munchkin and Pomeroy: "I read the blog – that’s how we figure out which winery to visit."

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