Tucked far behind a low-profile white rock wall in Bealeton, Virginia, Morais Vineyards and Winery appears to be another historic Virginia estate. In the blur of your peripheral vision as you speed up US 17, you might not give it a second glance. But what lies at the end of the windswept lane is certainly worth more than a glimpse.
As you wind up the 180-acre property, the grounds are manicured and evenly blended with vines and landscaping. Both grand and slightly whimsical, the property was developed with a dual purpose in mind: wines and weddings.
Only five years old, Morais has managed to capture the essence of history in designing classic-style facilities and pairing that with over 100 years of winemaking. Where Three Fox Vineyards demonstrates the Italian influence in their wines and Blue Valley incorporates Greek heritage in theirs, Morais has brought a century-long history in Portuguese winemaking to the Virginia terroir. And the combination is sensational.
A separate rotunda-style tasting facility exists in the foreground of the estate, as grand and welcoming as the mansion.
Inside, space is not an issue. One of the largest tasting rooms I have seen among Virginia wineries, it can easily serve 50+ people. Which is a good thing–while we visited, it nearly filled to capacity by the end of the tasting. Morais is currently open only Saturday and Sunday from noon to six, and arriving on the earlier side might make access to the bar easier, especially with a larger party. That said, despite the number of visitors, the tasting itself was never rushed and the servers were attentive in allowing guests to set a pace of their liking.
Demand is high for a reason. Morais offers one of the finest tastings I have experienced in Virginia. The tasting fee is $8.00, which includes 12 wines and a small complimentary charcuterie plate with cheese, meats, breads and chocolates to help highlight the respective characteristics of the wines. (Since I only consume a gluten-free and plant-based diet, I had to pass along the plate to others, but it was a nice offering). It’s an outstanding value, made even better by the quality of the wines.
The Morais family knows wine, having produced it for over a century in Portugal. Owner José Morais and winemaker Vitor Guimarãis bring that legacy to life in their Virginia winery, adroitly blending subtle Portuguese influence with the idiosyncracies and challenges of Virginia winemaking. Their choices range from Virginia staples like Cabernet Franc to Portuguese musts like Verdelho.
Included in the tasting (all non-vintage unless otherwise stated):
Whites: Battlefield (60% Vidal Blanc, 40% Alvarinho), Verdelho, Sauvignon Blanc;
Rosés: 2014 Cabernet Franc Rosé;
Reds: Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Select Red (50% Cabernet Franc, 50% Merlot), Touriga, Moscatel, Jeropiga (dessert wine made with 50% Cabernet Franc and 50% Merlot), Cherry Wine (100% morello cherries), MV Tawny (port style wine, 100% Touriga).
Ashton, our server, offered bundles of insights into how Morais carefully crafts their wines and the subtle differences that bring out the Portuguese characteristics. They even foot-stomp the Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Touriga grapes, which results in the seeds releasing less tannins.
With so many wines to choose from, it would be easy to highlight a half-dozen, but there were three that really stood out–and came home with us:
(1) The Merlot was a winner. Light, approachable, and wonderfully fruit-forward. One of the most enjoyable Merlots I have consumed.
(2) The Touriga. The national grape of Portugal provided unusual depth to this wine, with its violet color and easily identifiable notes of coffee and vanilla. Just a luscious, full-bodied treat.
(3) I loved the Cabernet Franc. I found it to be a bit lighter than most Cab Francs even while still being a tad spicy, and infused with less green pepper than expected.
It was not until reviewing my notes for this post that I realized the three wines I enjoyed the most were the foot-stomped varietals. I suppose those soft tannins are right up my alley.
Along with the gorgeous grounds and facilities, Morais takes special care in all of their presentations, from elaborate bottling to tasting features. The cherry wine, for example, was served in a consumable chocolate cup.
After the tasting, I grabbed a glass of the Touriga to enjoy while checking out the expansive tasting room, facilities and grounds. But before I left the main tasting area, I had to investigate their wall of awards. Having opened in 2011, Morais has quickly put themselves on the map.
Below the tasting room is the rotunda, an area used for special events and gatherings, equal to the size of the main tasting area, surrounded by stone and covered walks.
Heading over to the mansion, you can imagine this might be the dream location for any couple’s wedding. Is this Portugal? France? Italy? Nope, you’re still in Northern Virginia. But it will feel like Europe.
A short stroll brought me to the Merlot vines and I felt inspired to stay awhile. With plenty of space for breathing in that rural Fauquier County air, you’ll find tons of places to roam. Just don’t roam too far–you’ll probably want another glass soon enough.
Did I mention weddings? They even have their own on-site chapel and lakeside pergola!
Housed on the back of the property are white doves, peacocks, and a stable of horses. Why the horses? Well those horse-drawn carriages aren’t going to move themselves, are they!
Morais couples great wines with gorgeous spaces. Whether you are looking for a weekend getaway or planning a massive wedding, you need to visit. And for those of you who just can’t get out to Bealeton, they now have a tasting room open in Manassas. Come out to Virginia Wine Country!
Morais Vineyards and Winery, located at 11409 Marsh Road, Bealeton, Virginia.
Want to tour another winery with me? Check out my full list of winery and vineyard visits!