Sassafras Shade Vineyard Profile
Written by Brian—Jul 6, 2015
Another of the newly opened wineries that I have been scrambling to visit is Sassafras Shade Vineyard, which has the distinction of becoming the only (as of this writing) winery in Caroline County Virginia. It is easily accessible from Route 1 or Interstate 95, so it is positioned to attract visitors. Nevertheless, its nearest wine-producing neighbors are more than thirty minutes away.
Sassafras Shade is a distinctly family owned winery. This is not a winery born from a lot of Northern Virginia money. Gary Dudley got interested in wine as a hobby winemaker, but since childhood he dreamed of becoming a farmer. He has raised a variety of animals and planted more than grapes on his property near Ruther Glen. Growing vines is simply an extension of his farming interest. In the end, after all, viticulture is another agricultural pursuit.
The tasting room has a rustic, cabin look to it. The outside is nearly complete, but there are ongoing improvements taking place inside. Gary is doing much of the work along with his family and they are making investments as they are able able. In the mean time, Gary is making and pouring wine made from vinifera, hybrids and Granny Smith apples. His enthusiasm for business of wine is obvious and he is anxious to talk about it with visitors who express an interest.
There are five acres under vine at Sassafras Shade. Roughly 1000 cases of wine are produced annually using exclusively estate fruit. Gary is making a total of nine wines and I noted that a blackberry wine will be added to the lineup in 2015. I will also point out that all the wines I tasted were very well made.
The six white offerings included the Granny Smith apple wine. There were a couple surprises in that mix, which included an excellent stainless steel Chardonnay and very nice Cayuga that was full of lovely peach notes. Among the reds there was an interesting, unoaked Cabernet Franc, a Chambourcin and a blend of both varietals. I will say that my hands-down favorite was the dry-style Vidal Blanc, which incidentally took Bronze at the Finger Lakes. It was a nice lineup that will definitely inspire repeat visits.
I had a great visit. I found Gary and his staff to be engaging and customer oriented. All of he visitors appeared to be completely entertained and relaxed. There was no rushing through the tasting and all of the wine stewards seemed well versed in all aspects of the wine and winery. So I walked away a huge fan and I encourage you to give this new winery your full support. Stop in and see what they are all about. After you do, let me know what you think.