The Tasting Room: Winding road leads to quiet beauty

Nestled might best describe Winding Road Cellars, located in Markham. Opened a little over a year ago, the small, picture perfect winery is situated behind a slight rise and—nestled—between two diminutive hills with a view of an expansive pond.

The setting engenders an immediate, â??Oh, this should be fun,â? reaction. And, of course, it is.

The dream come true winery is loveâ??s laborâ??s found for Scott and Linda Culver. It began several years ago when Scott Culver decided to take up the hobby of home wine making. He found a local winemaker who was willing to sell him juice.

â??One day I left the house with an empty five-gallon carboy and returned home several hours later with an oak barrel and 60 gallons of juice,â? said Culver. His first problem was the realization he had to remove a basement window to install the barrel in his nascent winery and then gravity siphon the juice into the barrel.

â??The wine turned out so well one thing led to another and I got the bug,â? said Culver.

Let that be a warning to those interested in pursuing wine making. The hobby can pop from mild interest to passion faster than a cork flying from a champagne bottle.

But the hobby was a productive counterpoint to Culverâ??s career. He had spent 20 years with the Fairfax County Police Department and went on to second careers as director of security for a large Virginia bank and then a law enforcement position with the Federal government.

He is still employed full-time but anticipates â??retiringâ? to work at the winery within three years. â??I always knew I would never retire and do nothing at all. Iâ??ve always had the bug to do something for myself,â? explains Culver.

Since wine making held its fascination, the idea of opening a commercial winery began to crystallize after working part-time for several years at a local winery. The winery owner became Culverâ??s mentor and â??because of the enjoyment we had visiting other wineries, it triggered going commercial,â? said Culver.

Today, the winery has evolved from a home basement operation to a stand-alone tasting room and cellar facility located behind the Culverâ??s residence.

The transition from his lengthy daily commute in Northern Virginia to a two-minute walk to the winery will further incentivize the vintner to move onto his next career.

Winery and vineyards

The winery and tasting room is housed in a new attractive farmhouse styled building with an inviting front porch, emblematic of what might be found at the end of a winding road. The interior is all spacious polished pine that creates a relaxed feeling as one heads to the tasting bar in the back center of the room.

There are six wines on the tasting menu: Vidal Blanc, Chardonnay, Chambourcin, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon and a semi-sweet Chambourcin dessert wine.

On the back side of the property a five acre vineyard is planted in seven varietals including a small block of Pinot Noir, a grape that is notoriously hard to grow in Virginia. Culver will likely make wine from the temperamental berry only for his familyâ??s personal use.

As is typical for a new winery, all the current wines have been produced off-site in the early going. The first estate bottling will be released soon. Itâ??s an undisclosed blend of three reds and will be called Tribute.

Total annual production is around 700 cases a year and the Culvers do not see their dream growing exponentially. â??Iâ??m happy in trying to create a very small, intimate boutique winery. I donâ??t have any grandiose plans to compete with large wineries,â? said Culver.

Linda Culver mans the tasting room during the week when her husband is at work. The winery embodies one of her life long dreams. â??When we first got married I thought it would be a wonderful experience to work side by side with my husband. Now we are living that dream and itâ??s much better than I thought it would be.â?

Winding Road Cellars is located at 4280 Leeds Manor Road in Markham and is open Thursday through Monday, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Visit them at http://windingroadcellars.com/.

Johnâ??s Pick of the Month

Winding Road Cellars

2010 Chardonnay

$27

Chardonnay is one of the most ubiquitous wines on the planet and for good reason. It tastes great. And so it is with Winding Roadâ??s Chardonnay. This medium-to full- bodied white showcases nice tropical notes on the palate and is framed by a creamy mouth feel with a soft butter finish. Thanksgiving dinner offers an opportunity to enjoy a wide range of wines and this clean, bright Chardonnay would make a boom companion to the repast.