This past Saturday Vine Spot saddled up and rode into the small and charming country town of Markham, Virginia, to pay a visit to one of Virginia’ s most recent additions to the Fauquier County wine trail. Chateau O’Brien at Northpoint Winery and Vineyard is quietly settled atop a hill of vine plantings and ideally located in the heart of the Blue Ridge, boasting picturesque and breathtaking views of the surrounding countryside.
Chateau O’Brien opened doors for tasting in November of 2006, celebrating the first commercial vintage of their exclusive estate bottled 2005 offerings. The tasting room is housed in a mid 1900’s renovated farm house that exudes old world charm combined with a fine integration of modern elegance and sophistication. From the rustic stone fronted exterior and entranceway, to the aged furnishings, and dribbling fountains, the ambience is suggestive of a rural French chateau or noble manor home, and offers a delightful atmosphere for enjoying fine wine and nibbles.
Howard O' Brien pouring the Chateau's finest
Chateau O’Brien at Northpoint Winery and Vineyard is owned and operated by the personable and cheerful Howard O’ Brien. Vineyard management and winemaking duties are assumed by Jason Murray, who previously served as Loudoun County’s extension agent for commercial horticulture. Upon entering, we toured the spacious tasting room, where there appeared to be 3 levels, and as many tasting bars, as well as an attractive indoor dining area filled with natural lighting, complimented by a stone-fronted fire place for the cooler months. After being warmly greeted by Howard, we were made our way to the tasting bar to sample some of Chateau O’ Brien's inaugural 2005 offerings.
Spacious Indoor Dining Area
The tasting fee is $3 per person, and a new glass is provided after each taste. Prior to our first pour, Howard offered a brief history of the Chateau and some of the winemaking techniques and practices utilized at Chateau O’ Brien. Following our chat with Howard, it was apparent his enthusiasm and appreciation for fine wine, and, more importantly, he’s equally as passionate about the land which bears the fruit. As Howard put it, “Great wine is made in the vineyard.”
Beautiful vineyard views
Moving onto our tasting, all from the 2005 vintage, Howard started us off with the Virginia Chardonnay. This Chardonnay is done in a smooth and elegant style, offering pleasant tree fruit flavors that are heightened by French oak barrel aging and ending in a nice toasted lingering finish. Aptly named, the next selection poured, Buddy’s Bistro Red, is named after the Chateau’s mascot, Buddy, a French bulldog, and is made from 100% estate grown Cabernet Franc. The Buddy’s Bistro Red exemplifies the easy-drinking fresh fruit reds from the historic Village of Chinon in the Loire Valley, and offers a distinct raspberry bouquet with spicy hints that follow through on the taste with desirable berry and red cherry flavors. The future estate wine, the Northpoint Red, is a nicely balanced blend of Tannat, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot. This is a smooth textured, fuller red, offering velvety tannins with succulent fruit flavors and complexity. The next wine poured, Tannat, is a grape grown predominately in southern France and is at the height of popularity in Uruguay. Tannat is known for its high tannin levels, hence the name, but Virginia examples tend to be pleasantly tamed and easy drinking. This wine is medium to slightly full in body, offering complex aromas and good fruit flavors with delectably smooth tannins sustained in a solid structure. The last wine poured, somewhat of a sweet ending, but more fruit than sweetness, is the Virginia Apple Wine, which is made from apples grown in Northpoint apple orchards. This "country wine", as I coin it, is served well-chilled and is crisp and refreshing and is well deserving of a picnic basket or other warm weather outdoor festive events.
Spacious outdoor deck with stunning views
Following our pleasant and informative tasting with Howard, we opted to sit out on the spacious deck and bask in the sun-filled splendor of the beautiful Blue Ridge countryside. For our wine selection we decided on the Virginia Chardonnay and ordered a cheese platter, which was dangerously delicious, consisting of a variety of fine cheese selections, oven roasted walnuts, and heavenly fresh baked baguettes. Yummy!
Delectable cheese platter and fresh baked baguettes!
While sitting out on the relaxing deck we joined in conversation with other Virginia wine enthusiast and enjoyed our wine, tasty nibbles and spectacular views, as well as the gorgeous weather. As with all good things, our day was coming to an end and it was time to say good-bye to what had been an overall picture perfect-day. We look forward to visiting this young winery that appears to be committed to hand-crafting a limited production of estate bottlings that best reflect the terrior of their vineyard in the near future.
Ahh...What wonderful views! See you on the wine trail friends ~
In closing, I highly recommend readers visit Chateau O’Brien at Northpoint Winery and Vineyard, and enjoy their picturesque views, knowledgeable and friendly staff, and fine wines. Also, be sure to bookmark their webpage and pay attention to their events calendar, as they hosts a number of fun-filled and elegant dinner events throughout the year. In addition, after enjoying a bottle of Chateau O' Brien wine you will want to save the cork. Why should I save the cork, you ask? The innovative Howard O’Brien has a fun cork collection program going called the “Cork Club,” where prizes are awarded based on the number of corks collected; prizes range from signature wine glasses to t-shirts and coffee mugs, and, for the true collector, a weeks stay at the owners Outer Banks beach house – so save those corks, friends, and enjoy your visit to the Chateau!
Be sure to let the kind folks at the winery know you read about them here on Dezel’s Virginia Vine Spot!
Happy Sipping Friends - Thanks for your support and kind emails !