Arterra Wines is indisputably one of Virginia’s hidden treasures. And it is hidden. Arterra (and the associated Hawkmoth Art Gallery) are tucked off a pair of beaten paths in Delaplane, Virginia–beaten enough that you may want to take your SUV. But even if you need to hike, the journey will be worth the destination. With some of the finest crafted and true-to-terroir wines in Virginia, Arterra demands not merely to be sought after, but to be found.
After twisting through lush forest and journeying over the undisturbed terrain of steep hills, you will find yourself at Arterra’s lodge-like tasting room and winery. You’ll park at the foot of the curved stairway that will lead you upward toward the delights that await inside.
At the crest of the hill sits the patio and entrance to the tasting room and art gallery. With plenty of space for setting up a picnic, everyone can carve out a little slice of privacy. Keep Arterra in mind when autumn is in full swing. Set within rolling hills of hardwood forest, the colors certainly will be something to behold.
Arterra Wines and Hawkmoth Arts combine the efforts of husband and wife team Jason Murray and Sandy Gray-Murray, handling the winemaking and art, respectively. The top floor of their facility is part tasting room and part art gallery, a rich, warm place that will command you getting a glass for the walkabout after you’ve completed your tasting.
Arterra’s tasting is $15 for six wines, and worth every penny. They also have a $10 tasting for your choice of four, but you would be shortchanging yourself in the bargain. If you’re new to Virginia wines or simply want to understand the terroir better, you may find no better winery in the region. Armed with a background in horticulture and well over a decade of Virginia winemaking, Jason Murray understands the varietals and the soil upon which his vines are planted.
One of my favorite things about traveling to these wineries and varied tastings: I invariably learn something new from each server. This occasion would prove no different. Kristy, our server, was chock-full of knowledge of Arterra’s wines and Jason’s approach to his craft. In particular, I learned he utilizes native yeast fermentation–that is, opting out of using commercial yeasts in favor of the natural yeasts that occur from leaving the grapes on the vine into late autumn. While creating a greater challenge to winemaking, it results in wines with distinction and clarity. He and his wife are both artists, you see.
In addition, Jason uses no fining agents, which can include egg whites, making Arterra Wines wholly vegan. Your plant-based-loving friends will give you a fist bump for bringing them here (and that’s before the tasting)!
In terms of the wines themselves, Jason takes a minimalist approach, utilizing older barrels so the tannins do not overpower the delicious fruit. Arterra currently produces 800 cases a year, with all wines produced right on premises. They grow Tannat, Petite Syrah, Chenin Blanc, and Roussanne on nine acres of the 75 acre plot in Delaplane, with the remaining varietals coming from Purcellville (where Jason retains full domain over the vines).
The tasting included the following:
Whites: 2015 Dry Riesling;
Red: 2014 Cabernet Franc, 2014 Malbec, 2013 Petit Verdot, 2014 Reserve (33% Cabernet Sauvignon, 23% Tannat, 23% Petit Verdot, 21% Cabernet Franc), Blueberry Apple Wine.
One of the most enjoyable Rieslings I’ve tasted, Arterra’s Dry Riesling offered distinctly floral and citrussy notes without a syrupy linger. Barreled in stainless steel, this wine had no residual sugar.
Of the reds, the Cabernet Franc was wonderfully refined, with medium tannins and a full cherry finish. The Petit Verdot also stood out, with easy tannins and lush blackberry and cherry on the palate. But what made all of these wines so notably enjoyable is they were clearly crafted to highlight their respective varietals. If you want to know the way a Virginia Cab Franc should taste, consider Arterra the place to get your education.
Kristy finished the tasting with the Blueberry Apple Wine, an ultra-refreshing treat whose composition yielded both the distinct apple and blueberry individually, with a crisp and clean finish. And with alcohol holding at 8%, you can go ahead and drink a little extra. Trust me, it goes down easy.
The proof in the pudding: We brought home a bottle each of the Dry Riesling and Petit Verdot.
After getting a glass of the Petit Verdot for walking the grounds, I spent some time enjoying Sandy’s art in the Hawkmoth Gallery (even her kiln is visible through a glassed-in area). She blends the natural elements of the vineyard (vines, leaves, even expired wine barrels) into her art which makes a lovely accompaniment to her husband’s fine wines. Take your time and explore the gallery!
Soon after, you need to head down to the bottom floor to check out the barrel room and production facility. It is always an inspiration to think about all of the greatness in those barrels! I could hang out here all day.
After visiting the barrel room, don’t forget to head up to the patio. It is easy to relax as you look out over the vines and forestry. A gorgeous setting and perfect spot for a little snack with that Malbec!
If you are working your way through the Fauquier Wine Trail, or just looking for one of the best boutique wineries in Northern Virginia, I recommend visiting Arterra (and Hawkmoth Gallery)! Approachable and pleasant, this winery delivers fine Virginia wines. And don’t forget to tip off your vegan friends! They’ll love you just a little bit more.
Arterra Wines, located at 1808 Leeds Manor Road, Delaplane, Virginia.
Want to tour another winery with me? Check out my full list of winery and vineyard visits!