Over the summer, a local Augusta County vineyard, Ox-Eye, opened their tasting room in the Wharf Area of Downtown Staunton. Besides being a great location, the building itself is great rejuvenation of a old space, taking a carriage house and making it into a pleasant, open tasting room with outside seating area.
Although Ox-Eye has been settled in Staunton for months, I finally got around to checking it out myself when a friend decided to celebrate his birthday there. Since it was my first time, I decided to give the tasting a go before I settled on a glass to toast my friend.
Ox-Eye has four whites and three reds, although one of the whites was sold out on the day I was there. Often when I go to tastings, I usually have a couple that I really like, some I am lukewarm about, and others that I’m not a fan of. Except for Pollak, where I really enjoyed all the wines, and Hilltop, where I loved just tasting the different creations, not many wineries provide a tasting in which I would be happy getting a glass of any of them. After doing the tasting with Ox-Eye, I would place them in wineries where I enjoyed all the wines I tasted. Each one had something different to offer and I liked the range of noses, nuances, and notes.
The three whites were a Chardonnay, a Riesling, and “White Ox.” The “White Ox” is a blend of the
Chardonnay and Riesling and is described as a great “all around sipping wine.” It does get a little sweet for me, but the floral notes helped to balance that out. The Riesling had a remarkable nose of peaches and honey and had an overall tart and tangy dynamic. The Chardonnay, which although normally I’m not a fan of, is steel fermented, which keeps it from being oaky and buttery, the two Chardonnay flavors I don’t like. It is stronger and fuller but with subtle front notes of apple, lemon, and citrus.
The three reds—a Pinot Noir, a Cabernet Franc, and Lemberger—are also strong wines. The Pinot Noir starts with strawberries on the nose but is more spicy with red currants on the palate. The combinations makes is spicy, musky, and floral. The Cabernet Franc is also spicy but more from black pepper than currant. The tasting notes suggest violet, leather, and raspberry aromas with a fruity and leathery finish. I’m not sure I got that, but thought it was an intriguing description. Finally, the Lemberger was the wine I ended up ordering a full glass of. When I first sipped it, I wasn’t sure it was for me. The more I drank it, though, the more I liked it and after a couple of sips was completely won over. I got a lot of black pepper on the nose, and the taste has black pepper and cherries, making it a little spicy and a little sweet.
With Staunton being near Nelson County and Afton Mountain, it is well-situated for wine tasting and I do love going for excursions to the different wineries. But, there is something really pleasant and exciting about having access to the perks of a winery, tastings and unique local wines, right in town. So, next time you are in Staunton on a Saturday, plan a great day of exploring the Farmer’s Market, doing a tasting and enjoying bread and cheese at Ox-Eye, attending a matinee at Blackfriars Playhouse, and dinning at any number of great restaurants (like Staunton Grocery). And, it will all be within a couple blocks.