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Sunday, February 28, 2010

Oh, Shenandoah.. the Wine Dogs Love You

Shenadoah Vineyards

Edinburg, Virginia

A highlight of the Wine Dogs' fall visit to the Yellow Barn for the Shenandoah Uncorked festival was meeting the charming Emma Randel, one of the Grande Dames of Virginia wine.

Emma graciously invited Munchkin and Pomeroy to her (Red) barn, home to Shenandoah Vineyards, and Munchkin and Pomeroy jumped at the opportunity to lap up a bit of Virginia wine industry history.

Shenandoah began 34 years ago, when Emma and her husband left New Jersey for Virginia's Shenandoah Valley "for health reasons" (Jim had a heart attack). Once they got to Woodstock and tasted "the local swill," Emma decided she could do better.

The Randels studied, and in April 1976 planted their first vines. The whole Randel pack got involved -- a nephew did the plowing; the children spent their Spring Break planting, with Emma dancing on each plot to make sure the vines were tucked in securely. Emma looks back fondly at those years. "The grapes were young and immature, and so were we."

Today, Shenandoah is a mature winery, boasting a wide variety of award-winning wines, produced primarily from grapes grown on the estate and entirely from grapes grown in the Valley. The water from the local well also took a bronze medal in recent competition.

Along the way, Emma has picked up a few strays. Winery Dog Rusty is a 3-1/2 year old Jack Russell Terrier who thinks he's a cat. Rusty lazed away the afternoon curled up in a box under the counter.

Then there's TC (aka "Sugah"), an LA transplant who found the warm atmosphere at the winery a cure for her homesickness as she was making her transition to Shenandoah Valley Girl.

TC and Emma led the Wine Dogs through a tasting of 14 wines plus water (hint: don't try to follow the numbers on the tasting sheet).

Among the five whites, Munchkin was particularly fond of the '07 Sauvignon Blanc, with its hints of butterscotch. The '07 Johannisberg Riesling was refreshingly dry, with a surprising hint of tangerine.

Pomeroy was impressed with the Pinot Noir, one of the few produced in Virginia. Wine Dog advice: this may be the last vintage, so fetch a bottle soon.

Both Wine Dogs gave an enthusiastic Two Paws Up to the '07 Founder's Reserve Chambourcin. Chambourcin is Shenandoah's signature wine (with good reason). Emma was among the first to champion the varietal, whose popularity is now spreading across Virginia wine country.

For those with a sweeter palate, Shenandoah produces the medium-dry Rebel Red ("for white wine drinkers who don't drink red wine") as well as the Sweet Serenade (imagine over pears and ice cream), Fiesta ("adult grape juice"), and Raspberry Serenade (a perfect compliment to chocolate).

Relaxing music and views of snow-covered mountains rising against an azure blue sky completed the atmosphere at the Red Barn. The Wine Dogs thoroughly enjoyed their afternoon at Shenandoah Vineyards, and especially their quality time with its feisty founder.

1 comment:

  1. We used to stop at Shenandoah every time we went down 11 for 25 years--wonderful vineyard--long before all the little upstarts started up. Glad to see you've discovered the standards.

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