Journal | January 3, 2017
Possibly unique to the winegrowing trade is the time honored site visit. This is where one winery operation visits another with the intention of sharing information, walking the vineyards and tasting the wines. I’ve had the opportunity to do these in situ visits in Europe, South Africa, California and Oregon, and of course the East Coast.
A few days ago we visited Muse vineyards near Woodstock Virginia. The place is enchanting. The approach, a steep switchback descent down to the Shenandoah River, quickly eases my angst of the endless and faceless fast food/interstate end of town. In the winter, passengers can catch glimpses of the centuries old farm from above (driver must not take eyes off of road). A classic Shenandoah low water bridge with a pedestrian swing bridge adjacent greet visitors who then drive right into the vineyards.
We are greeted by Robert Muse, Sally Grooms Cowal, Aury Holtslag, Tim Rausse and their requisite canine accompaniment. The feel of the place reminded me of Linden: quiet, simple, laid-back and farming focused. Owner Robert Muse has been inspired by many wines over the decades and is determined to try his hand at growing every grape that went into those wines. I was particularly impressed with the Nebbiolo, perhaps due to the deft hand of Tim Rausse, whose Italian father, Gabriele was the first Virginia winemaker I met upon my arrival in 1981. Gabriele was managing Barboursville and I was newly hired to make wine at a now defunct winery called Tri-Mountain located only about 20 miles north of Muse in the Shenandoah Valley.
After several hours of walking the vineyards and tasting from barrel we had a very European like lunch at the farmhouse. By “European”, I refer not just to the meal and wines, but to the conversation, atmosphere, and leisurely pace. Satisfied and content we returned back to our own mountain retreat.