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Sunday, March 25, 2012

Wine Dogs Saddle Up at Desert Rose Ranch & Winery

Desert Rose Ranch and Winery
Hume, Virginia

Desert Rose Winery celebrates its first anniversary this weekend (March 31).  Shortly after it opened, Munchkin and Pomeroy moseyed out to the ranch and saddled up.  This is a unique property – reflecting the life and heritage (and humor) of its owners, Bob and Linda Claymier. 

Bob hails from high desert country in Oregon.  The horseshoe on the Desert Rose logo, the calfskin on the walls, saddles and hay even bales are a tribute to Bob's cowboy roots - many of the artifacts are old family heirlooms. 

The tasting bar reflects other aspects of Bob's life - his career with a federal agency that took the Claymiers all over the world.  At every stop, Bob and Linda collected currency, now serving as the counter Desert Rose's "million dollar bar" - one of the only places where Israel and Iraq sit peacefully side-by-side. 

In Greece, Bob and Linda met Louis Papadopoulos, who later emigrated to the United States and, showing just what a small world it is, today runs a neighboring Fauquier County winery - Mediterranean Cellars. Bob told the Wine Dogs that the wonderful thing about the wine industry in Virginia “it is such a collegial group - giving a “hats off to John [Delmare] and the entire group at Rappahannock" Cellars.  Before buying his own property, Bob used to come down and help Dirgham Salahi at Oasis.

Munchkin and Pomeroy are pleased to report that, as a ranch, Desert Rose is an animal property and pet friendly inside and out.  On the day of the Wine Dogs' visit, they were hosting a benefit for the Fauquier County SPCA.

In addition to four-legged friends looking for new homes, Munchkin and Pomeroy met Gigi.  The adventurous senior dachshund, owned by Bob's brother Ken, has hung up her tiny motorcycle hat and leather jacket and settled in comfortably to life as a winery dog.

The Wine Dogs also met daughter Kris and granddaughter Emily, who helps out at the family winery.  Kris recalls what it was like to grow up with a homewinemaker for a  father.  "Some of my earliest memories are smelling the yeast coming out of the basement as the wine was percolating.” adding that “Dad would make wine out of anything – even dandelions."

Today, Bob makes his wine out of grapes grown primarily on the property or under his supervision (although the Port-like Starboard is aged in whiskey).

Most of Desert Rose's wines are playfully named and labeled ("we take wine and wine-making very seriously, but not ourselves").  The five other current offerings include:
  • The Hitch Hollow Chardonnay is named for the local community dating back to the late 1800s
  • Ole Moo Moo - named for the ranch's celebrity cow and blizzard survivor.  Munchkin gave two paws up to the off-dry white made for Linda, who is not a fan of dry.  
  • Sparky (picture of the power line since part of land was claimed by Dominion  Power) is a Rose produced from bleed off from a blend of Cab Franc, Merlot, and Cab Sauv.
  • R.E.D. is named for Bob – Retired and Extremely Dangerous (check the label for more hints about that government agency).  The chambourcin is a little spicy with a very distinctive finish.
  • And a simply named Cabernet Franc, which Pomeroy's decided was the pick of the litter.
Desert Rose produced 1,000 cases its first year and is looking to expand slowly, but not too much.  "About 2,000, I get out of my concept of a boutique winery," Bob says. But then again, Bob describes the winery as "a hobby that got out of control."

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