Faces + Places / Lifestyle

Grab Your Glass!

I have always had an ardent appreciation for wine. I grew up with my dad actively involved in wine sales and both of my parents appreciating and sharing wine culture while I lived in Europe as a child. But nothing would compare to the education I would receive while studying in Florence, Italy.

In Florence, I had the opportunity to study under Diletta Frescobaldi,  daughter to the Vice President of the Marchesi de Frescobaldi, one of the largest wine producers in Italy. I learned viticulture and examined the numerous regions that make up the diverse world of Italian wines. Tasting some of the best Italian wines in class only made the experience all the more intoxicating. I quickly found myself becoming not just a wine-enthusiast, but a downright snob – not in the sense that I critique wines and have obnoxious opinions, but I rather that I have an obsession with quality wine. I find, research, visit, taste, pair, drink, and repeat.

During one of my trips to the Harrisonburg Farmers Market,  I stopped at the vendor stall for Bluestone Vineyard. They must have known what I was coming for. I picked up a list of wines with tasting information, wine palettes, and awards. Another flyer advertised “Buy local, eat local, drink local,” and paired their 2010 Viognier to a well-composed peach, arugula and goat cheese salad — all ingredients I could purchase a few feet from me at other vendor stalls.  It was then that I decided I had to visit the vineyard.

“We take our wine making seriously, but not ourselves too much,” Lee Hartman admitted as we sat at a picnic table looking out at the cascading vines of Bluestone Vineyard.

Grapes on the vines at Bluestone Vineyard.
Photo by Kari Owens.

Lee Hartman, the son of Curt and Jackie Hartman is the winemaker at Bluestone Vineyard, began experimenting with viticulture with his father in 2008. After much research and, later, production,  the winery officially opened in 2010. After graduating from Eastern Mennonite University, Lee started as the vineyard manager and soon became the winemaker.

Located in Bridgewater off of Spring Creek Road, Bluestone Vineyard is surrounded by the Blue Ridge Mountains. Lee put it simply, “grapes don’t grow in ugly places.”

View of the Blue Ridge Mountains and the cascading vines at Bluestone Vineyard.
Photo by Kari Owens.

Entrance to the Bluestone Vineyard tasting room.
Photo by Kari Owens.

Bluestone does not fall short in beauty and their wines reap the benefits of their location.

Once the Hartmans realized that making wine could be more than just a hobby for them, they hired Virginia Tech to come and conduct a survey of the soil to evaluate whether their location was suitable for vine-growing. At the time they wouldn’t know just how lucky they had gotten.

The Hartmans began digging to plant vines, only to find large boulders of limestone hidden beneath the soil, and thus Bluestone Vineyard was named. In most agricultural situations, this would be a problem. For Bluestone Vineyard, it is an advantage. Having rocks within the soil adds depth and flavor to the grapes, which is then reflected in the wine after fermentation. The vines almost don’t seem to realize the limestone is there; if you were able to look two feet underground, you would probably see vines shooting through the rocks themselves.

“Putting this stick with roots in the ground, some dirt, water, and sunlight. What it creates just blew my mind,” Lee admitted.

This Saturday at the Rocktown Wine & Dine Festival, Bluestone Vineyard will be releasing their first Moscato. Bluestone Vineyard is looking forward to participating in the Rocktown Wine & Dine Festival and having the opportunity to have their wines showcased with various bottles from around the world.

“Best wines make themselves,” Lee said when he spoke of their pride and joy – the 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon. After winning the Governors Gold Cup 2012 and being picked to be a part of the Governors Case 2012, they are proud to be in such great company.

2010 Cabernet Sauvignon
Photo by Kari Owens.

2011 Estate Grown Sauvignon Blanc
Photo courtesy of Kari Owens.

One of their companions in the wine industry, Downtown Wine & Gourmet, is also a main sponsor of this weekend’s Rocktown Wine & Dine Festival.

An inside look at the shop. Photo courtesy of Downtown Wine & Gourmet.

Jay and Amanda Monger originally opened Downtown Wine & Gourmet in 2004 on Water Street. At that time, there wasn’t any fine wine or craft beer being sold in Harrisonburg. The Mongers have a love of fine wine and perceived a need for it within the Harrisonburg community. In 2006, they moved to their current location in the Marketplace building on Court Square. They currently have over 500 different wines and 300 different beers in stock.

Downtown Wine & Gourmet features free weekly wine tastings. Photo by Brandy Somers, courtesy of ilovemyburg.com.

A fun way to explore the vast selection of wines that Downtown Wine & Gourmet has to offer is through their Wine Club. Each month they select different regions to explore – next month focuses on Virginia wines, November will highlight German wines, and December will feature wines from Napa Valley. Participating in the Wine Club will get you two bottles a month, from selections that retail for $40 or more. You can also purchase more wine at a 10% discount or whole case for a 15% discount.

With wines from South Africa, France, New Zealand, Italy, Austria, Spain, Portugal, Germany, Virginia, and California, there are so many options to choose from. Fortunately if you’re feeling lost or simply want to try a new wine, you can go into Downtown Wine & Gourmet and have their helpful and expert staff guide you. There are also free wine tastings on Fridays from 5-7 pm, typically featuring two reds and two whites each week.

Seth Barch, the Manager of Downtown Wine & Gourmet, is one of the friendly faces and well-versed wine gurus that can help you make selections based on your wine preferences. “Growing up, my parents educated my palette, and I discovered craft beer in college along with home brewing. My love for cooking has also informed my passion for beverages,” Seth explained to me.

On Saturdays from 1-4 pm, Downtown Wine & Gourmet has free craft beer tastings of four different types of brews.

Downtown Wine & Gourmet are proud to be a sponsor of the upcoming Rocktown Wine & Dine Festival.The festival is unique in that every wine available for sampling is also available for preordering through Downtown Wine & Gourmet at discounted prices. Event attendees can note their favorite selections in the festival program and stop by the Downtown Wine & Gourmet festival table to complete their order before leaving the event.  All orders will be filled and ready for pick-up on Saturday, September 15 from Downtown Wine & Gourmet at 41 Court Square, Suite C, in the Marketplace building in downtown Harrisonburg.

A special discount offer for festival guests is also now available from the Rocktown Wine & Dine Festival and Downtown Wine & Gourmet: one case mix & match receives 10% off the regular bottle price; three cases mix & match receives 20% off the regular bottle price; and five cases mix & match receives 25% off the regular bottle price.

So come enjoy the Rocktown Wine & Dine Festival and be sure to say hello to Bluestone Vineyard and Downtown Wine & Gourmet. Taste some great wines, explore different regions you may not have thought of before, and while you’re at it, learn something new!

Kari Owens is the HDR Promotions Intern for Summer and Fall 2012. She is a senior Media Arts & Design major and Creative Writing minor at James Madison University.

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