It's hard to decide which factoid was most interesting from our first visit to Morais Vineyards (pronounced "more-ice"): that the Portuguese owners had built an honest-to-goodness chapel for weddings on the grounds; that the winery's opening day and Virginia's first “real" earthquake happened simultaneously; or that all of the grapes are stomped by foot in the massive granite vat in the basement.
The tasting room staff may tell you that Victor the Vintner (as the winemaker is popularly known) does all the stomping himself, but owner Jose Morais quickly corrects that, adding “How would he ever get any work done??"
And there's plenty winemaking work to be done at this winery that hews to artisanal techniques, handpicking, using only estate-grown grapes, and eschewing filtering. With five years on the vine before opening day, the wines are interesting and promising.
Morais has the state's first Vinho Verde-style “Green Wine," made from Vidal Blanc and Albarino. The vintage we tasted lacked the Portuguese version's typical sparkle, though the winemaker reports that it's in the plans for future years.
Other wines include a Rose, a lovely Select Red from a blend of Merlot, Cab Franc, and Touriga; a 100% Touriga Nacional; a Merlot; Cab Franc; and three traditional Portuguese dessert wines, MV Tawny, Moscatel, and Cherry. The Cherry is our particular favorite - a beautiful, round, luscious wine that hits all the right notes - and the first wine we got so hooked on we found ourselves dabbling in day-drinking.
The public tasting room is large and bright, a uniquely designed round structure that's both elegant and restful, a perfect space to enjoy a tasting or glass of wine. A sweeping wrap around veranda offers views to the vineyards and plenty of outdoor seating. Play areas make for a family friendly environment, and picnic tables are available for those wanting to spend an hour, or a day. Groups of 8 or more should call ahead for an appointment. The tasting room and restrooms are handicapped-accessible.
The winery's intimate location has been the happy starting point for many marriages. A number of options are available; the Palacio Package includes use the ballroom, bar room, balcony, bridal and groom suites, patios, terraces and fully equipped kitchen.
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