If you’ve ever visited Fairfax County in Virginia, what might stick in your mind is the sprawling Tysons skyline or the unbearable traffic you suffered circumnavigating the west side of Washington. Starting right now what you should remember is this: Paradise Springs Winery. Fairfax County’s first (and as far as I can tell, only) winery. And while it’s the closest winery to the District, proximity should not be the reason you visit. Read on to find out why.
Paradise Springs Winery is located right outside the hamlet of Clifton. This cozy town resembles an eastern Long Island village, complete with picket fences and occasional residents getting through town via horseback. Lined with boutique shops and restaurant destinations like Trummers, the town is downright picturesque.
Nestled among forested homes on large lots, the winery and vineyard might be easily missed–which would be a terrible misfortune.
The winery is positioned on a 36 acre parcel that has passed through generations to owner Janet Kincheloe’s family from an original land grant by Lord Fairfax in 1716. On the property is a cabin dating back to the early 1800’s and a red barn that originally existed in the town of Clifton, later to be taken apart and reassembled on the grounds in the 1950’s. Visit on the weekends and you can upgrade your tasting to include a tour of the cabin and get a sense of their history. But there is so much to be appreciated about Paradise Springs and the wines they are producing, it could be suggested they are actually making history.
Beyond the entrance is a warmly lit tasting room, with a glass encased barrel room to the left and a stone and wood tasting bar to the right. You know immediately you’ll be staying for a while.
The tasting bar can accommodate up to two dozen people, with a special cordoned off section for folks simply picking up wine orders (other wineries, please take note). In addition to their wines, Paradise Springs offers food to accompany your wine selections. Not to mention they offer some really cool wine pairing events, like their Junk Food Pairing, where you get to taste their wines alongside Slim Jims, Milky Ways, and Doritos. (Of course, we here at Nutritionicity recommend a pairing of plant-based, gluten-free, and refined sugar-free treats. Ha!)
The $12 tasting included these ten wines:
Whites: 2014 Chardonnay, 2014 Petit Manseng, 2014 Sommet Blanc (blend of Traminette and Vidal Blanc), 2014 Viognier;
Rosés: 2015 Nana’s Rosé (60% Cabernet Franc, 40% Chambourcin);
Reds: 2014 Mélange (Bordeaux blend comprised of 50% Cabernet Sauvignon, 34% Merlot, 8% Cabernet Franc, 8% Petit Verdot), 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon, 2013 Meritage (Bordeaux blend comprised heavily of Cabernet Sauvignon, light Petit Verdot, Merlot, and Malbec), 2013 Norton, Swagger (non-vintage port-style).
Our wine educator, Edward, served up these delights with accurate details of each wine. I should note that Edward furnished, far and away, the largest pours of any tasting I’ve experienced–and that was before he found out I was a food and wine blogger. It bears mentioning because it greatly enhances the tasting experience when you can sufficiently cover your palate.
For any tasting I attend, I take oodles of notes on every aspect of the wines and details of the experiences, with asterisks next to wines of exceptional greatness. To date, I have never had so many starred wines–with four of the ten making the list. My husband and I were astounded with the craftsmanship of these wines. The distinction, balance, and notes were finely developed time and again.
That said, let me highlight the ones that were out of the park favorites:
The 2014 Sommet Blanc was a palate pleaser. Imagine a crisp(er) version of a Riesling, it offered up pineapple, pear, and lots of apricot with delightful balance and holding at 2% residual sugar. A perfect wine for a summer day, but equally at home on your Thanksgiving table.
The 2014 Mélange was like taking a journey. Starting off with smoke and cherry on the nose, it maintained a solid fruit-forward expression with cranberry and gentle oak on the palate. With light tannins and great balance, this wine will also make a great addition to your fall/winter lineup for shaking off the cold. Equally, the 2013 Meritage will satisfy even your pickiest wine companions. With up front raspberry and vanilla, this full-bodied wine lingers in all the right ways.
It’s likely you will want to grab a bottle post-tasting. To find a cozy spot, in addition to Paradise Spring’s large indoor space they have a rear patio with a fireplace that overlooks the forest and vines. (Note: Paradise Springs is family-friendly, but the patio is only available for those 21 years and older.)
During my visit, I had the pleasure of watching Paradise Springs bottling and boxing. Underneath the tasting room their production area hums, with over 12,000 cases of wine manufactured per year. In fact, demand for Paradise Springs’ product is so high–and with Virginia grapes becoming harder to acquire from competition–they have opened a winery in Santa Barbara, California. (They just released a Sauvignon Blanc and a Pinot Noir.) This makes them the first and only winery in the United States with a bi-coastal brand.
In an effort of efficiency, they employ a mobile bottling operation. A bottling truck arrives on site and handles the heavy lifting in terms of packaging. It was an amazing thing to watch; I had no idea this approach even existed.
I took my glass of Mélange and strolled the beautiful grounds. Of the 36 acres here, only one acre is dedicated to vines (100% Cabernet Franc). With the rest of the varietals being grown and purchased from outer vineyards (100% Virginian), you can do some real walking (and picnicking).
Highly recommended, Paradise Springs should be on your tour of northern Virginia wineries. Only 40 minutes from downtown Washington, it makes a perfect escape. But don’t go because of its location–go because the wines are expertly crafted.
Visit Paradise Springs Winery, located at 13219 Yates Ford Road, Clifton, Virginia.
Want to tour another winery with me? Check out my full list of winery and vineyard visits!