On a trip to a vineyard a couple months ago, I picked up a Virginia Wine newsletter. The cover story was on the opening of the Virginia Wine Factory in Brambelton, VA. I did a scan over the article and then went to the website to check it out. Although mostly intrigued by the name and the curiosity of what a “Virginia Wine” factory would include, the website further intrigued me with mentions of customizing tastings.
Brambelton is not really in my neck of the woods, so it took me a while to follow-up. I finally made it over in early November when visiting my best friend, Kathy, in Arlington. After telling her about it, we decided to take the afternoon and travel over.
Though knowing is half the battle, I definitely could have saved myself a trip. I don’t often write bad write-ups and this isn't a full compliant. My thesis about Virginia Wine factory is that it is suffering an identity crisis.
As a wine and food bar . . .
- The website mentions a great combination of foods and intriguing wine bar sides with a living room-like atmosphere. Kathy and I had already eaten lunch, but I did overhear another patron asking about food. The response was the only food available at that time was olive tapenade and one other side. So, as a full-rounded wine bar and food experience, it fell a little short. I'm sure this isn't always a problem, it just happenrf to be so on the afternoon I was there.
As a wine bar the offers tastings . . .
- The tasting costs $10 for four wines and you pick either four whites or four reds. They are large tastes and end up being about one glass. However, I’m used to getting to try 8-15 wines for $5, so this seemed a little steep. Yes, things are more expensive in Northern Virginia, but even at NoVa wineries you get at least 8-10 for $10.
- When I first read Virginia Wine Factory's website, it mentioned customizing tastings to you. That is evidently no longer true. With Kathy, when I mentioned to the owner (who was doing our tasting) that Kathy likes sweet wines, she swapped one out and replaced it. With me, she didn’t really ask about preference. My misreading, I guess. It is a shame, though, because that to me would be worth the trip.
- Although the previous two observations are really more my issue, what I find to be the most problematic about the tastings is that tastings are supposed to be educational. At winery tastings, there is a sheet that lists each wine and provides a description to tell the taster something about the wine. In a tasting at wine shops and stores, in the absence of a write-up, there is usually a lengthy verbal description of each wine before you taste it. At the Virginia Wine Factory, each wine is poured in a glass, brought en-masse to the table, and that’s it. No write-up. No description. No educational experience. I even asked for information about the wines and the owner just replied in a sentence or so. They like it to be a surprise.
As a Virginia wine bar. . . .
- For me, this is the biggest identify crisis issue. The website reads, “The time has come to show the world exactly how good Virginia wines can be! A full international wine list is available, virtually all served by the glass.” To me, this means that Virginia Wine Factory is dedicated to Virginia Wines. If that is true, then why also have a full range of international? If Virginia wines are so good, then isn't that all you need?
- Being the “Virginia Wine Factory” means a specialty in
Virginia Wine. This was particularly
exciting for me because though I’ve gotten to sample lots of wine from
Vineyards around me, there are a lot of Virginia’s wineries I haven’t
tried. In visiting Virginia Wine Factory, I was looking forward to a wine
bar that would further my exposure to Virginia wines. Yet, of the four reds I tasted, only one was
a Virginia wine. Of the four white’s Kathy
tried, again only one. In revisiting the website after my trip, I noticed that the rationale is that they want you to compare Virginia wines to international to see how good the Virginia is. But 3 against 1? Can those odds really pan out? I have had some great wines in Virginia, but of my tasting and Kathy's, the Virginia wine wasn't the winner.
Take these observations for what they are worth. On the positives, the owners seemed friendly, the environment was attractive, and the potential is there. For me, I can’t really say that it was worth the trip, but who am I to whine.