Owner(s): John and Marialisa Delmare
Winemaker: Theo Smith
Open to Public
Daily 12 to 6
14437 Hume Road, Huntly, Virginia 22640
Rappahannock Cellars Profile
Written by Brian—Jul 18, 2016
The Delmare family moved from the Santa Cruz Mountains, where they were making wine from old-growth vines at Savannah Channel Vineyards 30 miles north of San Francisco. They still own the California Vineyard, but they made the move to Virginia in an effort to find a more wholesome and family-friendly environment. John and Marialisa Delmare subsequently raised 12 children on their 85-acre farm in Rappahannock County. It is a family operation in the truest sense. All of the children, in turn, have had a hand in working the vineyards and assisting with other aspects of winery operations.
Over the past 16 years, the Delmare family has transformed their winery into one of the most respected and well-known winemaking operations in the Commonwealth. Planting began at Rappahannock Cellars in 2000. Today there are 30 acres under vine and another 22 leased acres at Indian Springs in the Shenandoah Valley. They also import fruit from their Californian vineyards and have other small holdings in Virginia. All told, they are producing between 12,000 and 13,000 cases annually from this fruit.
It had been at least three years since my last visit, so my site was long overdue for an updated profile of Rappahannock. Prior to my tasting, I spent some time wandering around reacquainting myself with the grounds and tasting room complex. The property is hugged by a series of rolling hills that give way to the nearby Blue Ridge Mountains. A food truck was parked near the barn, where they were selling their wares. Ample outside seating can be found in the yard or on the deck and porch areas. Inside there is a tasting space with three bars and off of that room there are large areas reserved for the wine club. A couple of staff members seem to be dedicated exclusively to the club rooms.
I finally made my way to one of the tasting bars and found seven wines on the menu. There are separate lists for the public and club spaces. There are no “inferior” wines at Rappahannock, but club members do taste reserve and “black label” wines that are aged longer in oak. Jenna was my wine steward and she let me taste from both menus, so I could gage the difference. She has been with the winery for six years and was able to speak with great confidence about each of the offerings. Her knowledge of the wines and winery contributed to a very nice dialogue throughout the tasting. It really was a first-rate tasting experience. I think Jenna created an excellent customer experience and represented the industry well, creating conditions that will inspire a return visit.
All told, I probably tasted a dozen wines, which is far too many to talk about at length. We started with a white blend and a Chardonnay. Both were excellent wines, but I thought the Cab Franc and Merlot Rosé was a particular standout with its watermelon notes and tart raspberry finish. Among the reds, I tasted both the regular and black label Meritage. The extra six months in oak make a marked difference in the black label example. The black label was characterized by more complexity and supple tannins that will ensure more years in the cellar. The final wine of the tasting was the Solara, which I think is one of the most unique wines in Virginia. This wine is produced from Vidal Blanc that is left to age on the roof in large glass jars. Each year part of the wine is siphoned off and more Vidal is added. This is an Oloroso Sherry style wine that is characterized with a pecan nuttiness that takes on a strong pecan taste profile that can taste almost like pecan pie. I think this wine is all the justification you need to visit.
Rappahannock Cellars is certainly one of the state’s premier wineries and produces wine of the highest caliber. If, inexplicably, you have never visited, you should make plans to stop in. If you have been there before, it is probably time to return. Rappahannock is a Virginia institution that inspires our support. After you drop by the tasting room, I hope you will let me know what you think. I will be waiting to hear from you.