Virginia Wine Tasting: Sunset Hills Vineyard

Posted by | Posted in Grape Adventures, Wine Reviews | Posted on 12-02-2010

This past weekend I had the opportunity to visit Sunset Hills Vineyard, one of my favorite wineries in Loudoun County, Virginia’s fast-developing wine country. (In the interest of full disclosure, I will say that I know the owners and many of the employees at Sunset Hills.) As a fan of the Virginia wine country from my time living in nearby Washington, DC, I was excited to see the guys over at Virginia Wine Times write up the same tasting lineup I had the opportunity to try. Paul over at VWT must have a similar palate as I found the majority of his notes spot on. Anyway, on to my impressions…

Much to my delight, the tasting lineup this past weekend was different than when I last visited in September. Although I was disappointed that Sunset’s always-solid Viognier was not on the current tasting lineup, I was delighted to have the opportunity to taste their 2008 Cab Francs, both the entry-level and reserve offerings. My notes:

2009 Chardonnay – Also referred to as Sunset’s unoaked Chardonnay, it’s tough to identify this as a Chard from the almost-sweet nose. This wine brings tart apple up front, followed by semi-sweet fruits preceeding a crisp, refreshing finish. I call this their summer Chardonnay.

2009 Reserve Chardonnay – Unlike it’s unoaked brother, this offering quickly gives away its varietal when you take in its aromas of rich buttered popcorn. The taste is consistent with the rich Chadonnays common in California, offering up buttered popcorn and roasted nuts that integrate well the fruits that are evident in the unoaked chardonnay. Long, fairly complex finish.

2008 Cabernet Franc – Awesome nose of strawberries, raspberries, and white pepper. The mouthfeel was heavier than expected, with blackberry, and chocolate notes prevelant. Healthy tannins lead me to believe this will age gracefully for several years.

2008 Reserve Cabernet Franc – My notes on this wine are consistent with the regular bottling, with a touch more complexity and longer finish. Sunset Hills’s 2007 Reserve CF bottling set the bar high for this wine. For the money, I would stick with the regular bottling of the 2008. If you can find any 2007 reserve bottlings floating around, back up the truck!

2008 Cabernet Sauvignon – Strong nose of cinnamon, baking cloves, and wood chips. I was surprised and how light and delicate this wine was. Raspberries, cherries, and subtle oak flavors were fighting through the intrusive tannins. I suspect this will be very enjoyable in 2-3 years.

2008 Petit Verdot – Whoa, Nelly! The nose of dark, stewed fruits is consistent with the almost-black juice in the glass. This is a heavy hitter. Blackberries, boysenberries, plenty of toasty oak and tannins that’ll allow this to age for 10+ years. I wouldn’t open one of these for several years.

All these wines were tasted inside the Amish-restored 130 year-old barn that serves as Sunset Hills’ tasting room. While the weather was too cold to enjoy one of the outside decks overlooking the Blueridge and Short Hill mountains, we had a nice time enjoying the live music and visiting with friends. While Sunset Hills and many Virginia wineries don’t ship outside the state of Virginia, but do yourself a favor and make the time to check out Virginia’s wine country should you find yourself in the Washington, DC area!

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