A Visit to Walsh Family Winery
An exciting transformation.
With grape tons of enthusiasm and some years of experience under their belts two Virginia wine young professionals are bringing new life to North Gate Vineyards.
Since they posted about their opening in March, I have wanted to check out Walsh Family Wine. Vacuuming and laundry were done early and off I went to the wilds of western Loudoun.
There’s a story with this place. It was North Gate Vineyards, but in 2018 the Walshes purchased it and set up shop. What they have done in a short period of time is pretty fantastic. The property is gorgeous, and they’ve created a nice spot to unwind and relax. Most important, the wine is good too.
I arrived and a man (who I later realized is co-owner Nate Walsh) offered me a glass of rosè, then asked me what I would like today. He gave me a menu and sent me to the tasting bar.
I was mighty impressed by the rosè greeting at the door. It added a bit of class to the overall experience. I proceeded to the tasting bar and settled in for the six-wine tasting. Although I felt the fee was high, the pours were quite generous.
Tasting Walsh Family Wines
The rosè was pleasant and crisp without the sweet, sticky taste rosè at some young wineries can have. A great touch here is the labels on the bottles, with notes describing the wine and process. I could easily see the rosè was 90% Cabernet Franc and 10% Merlot. I tend to find Cabernet Franc rosè to be lighter.
The next wine was the 2017 Sauvignon Blanc. I’m excited to see so much of this grape in Virginia. This was a good one, with notes of lemon and the appearance of orange blossom at the end adding an unexpected note to the crisp acidity of the wine. I even bought a bottle to bring home. The 2017 Viognier was next. It is a blend of 75% aged in neutral oak and 25% in stainless steel.
The first red offered was a pleasant and drinkable Bordeaux style blend. Using barrels left from North Gate, the Walsh Family created the 2016 En Passant. The 2017 Russ Mountain Merlot is a blend of 90% Merlot and 10% Petit Verdot. I usually find Virginia Merlot to be soft and light. This one was outstanding. The Petite Verdot added darkness and depth, and for me, made this bottle a winner.
Finally, the Staggerwing Tannat. I overheard some others at the tasting bar discussing Tannat and their experience with the grape at other wineries. One protested he didn’t care for the grape at all. But, he gave the Staggerwing a try and wound up loving it.
I’m always a little hesitant with Tannat, because it’s a BIG grape and it is a tough one to work with. If the winery doesn’t do it right, it can be pretty average. This one was a nice surprise – big and bold but kept soft and under control. I still got the astringency at the end that is typical of Tannat, but the overall experience delicate. This is a well-done wine.
The Winery and Vineyards
The winery property is gorgeous. They did a nice job with layout and decorating. Having gone on a nice Spring day, the weather was perfect for the many folks on the patio enjoying the day outside.
Outside offers you a lovely view of the vines on the property, but there are several varietals sourced from other Loudoun County vineyards.
On the way out the door I got to chat quickly with co-owner Sarah Walsh. Since they had only been open a week, she was busy with crowds eager to check out this new winery. I shared with Sarah that I though the facility was fantastic and the wine was solid. She told me I had purchased “Sarah’s favorite three-pack,” which I thought was funny. I brought home a rosè, Sauvignon Blanc and Tannat. I plan to throw the Tannat into my eventual Virginia Tannat backyard tasting bonanza, which hopefully will come together one evening with patio furniture and a fire pit.
When to Go
Walsh is open Fridays from 12-8, and Saturdays and Sundays from 11-6. Getting there earlier is key - you get your pick of a spot in the shade on the patio, or in cooler weather by the outdoor fireplace. Having been back a few times since this first visit, the tasting room is generally on the quieter side until about 12:30 or 1, and then visitors start picking up. Every associate I’ve met at the bar has been knowledgeable about the wines and very helpful and friendly, so the atmosphere they promote is very informative and welcoming. There is plenty of room to picnic on the grounds, and they do allow you to walk about in the vines.
Their tasting menu does change, so if the tannat is not there on the list, mention that you’ve heard about it and you want to check it out - there is often some in a decanter, and I think they are proud to show off this special wine.
Walsh is close to many of the Loudoun county wineries, as well as restaurants in downtown Purcellville, so you can combine your visit with other stops and make it a great day!