The Tasting Room- Historic Sharp Rock Vineyards: Farming the land for over two centuries

In 1794, a tax protest erupted in Pennsylvania that became known at the Whiskey Rebellion. Itâ??s also the year that a pioneer family established Sharp Rock farm in western Rappahannock County.

Perhaps itâ??s fitting the farmâ??s original founder and its current owner have a link to the production of each eraâ??s popular libation; whiskey then wine today.

Sharp Rock farm received its moniker from a well-known landmark that jutted out of the Hughes River that flows past the property. Decades ago the huge boulder was leveled off and a bridge built over it. Nonetheless, the original name of the property has prevailed for 221 years.

Jimm and Kathy East are the current proprietors of the farm, boutique winery and bed and breakfast. Unlike the farmers of the past, the current cash crop is wine grapes, a fruit seldom grown in Virginia in the 18th and 19th centuries.

The Easts purchased the facility in 2004 having worked for the previous owner for a year. â??I really did not have any training other than helping Dave a little. I never hired a consultant,â? Jimm East said.

David and Marilyn Amour founded the winery in 1998 but work commitments led them to sell the property to the Easts. Jimm East worked for more than two decades in the outdoor recreation industry and was seeking to transition to a job requiring less travel.

Sharp Rock fulfilled his needs. It also met the needs of the wine drinking public who soon found the nascent winemaker producing clean, flavorful wines.

Today, East still maintains contact with outdoor enthusiasts but it comes in the form of chatting with visitors to his tasting room. Sharp Rock lies in the long shadows of Old Rag Mountain, one of the most popular hiking destinations in the mid-Atlantic region.

â??On Saturday and Sunday afternoons we get a number of hikersâ? returning from an adventurous hike up Old Rag. Over 100,000 hikers summit the iconic mountain each year.

Small is beautiful
Sharp Rock Vineyards is emblematic of a small winery and lodging establishment. It is situated on 25 beautiful, rolling acres. The Blue Ridge Mountains serve as backdrop. Wine production tops out at around 700 cases annually; a fraction compared with many Old Dominion wineries.

But while production is small the lineup of wines offers considerable depth. East produces about a dozen wines each year from eight varietals grown on the farm. The eight acre vineyard is home to three white and five red grape varieties.

Eastâ??s creative winemaking is showcased in the unique blends he crafts. Vidal Blanc, Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc are often melded together to create bright, crisp white wines.

Experience has taught the winemaker that red blends offer greater flavor options rather than bottling 100 percent varietals. It enables guests to experience new aromas and flavors â??that isnâ??t the same old thing.â?

The winery and tasting room reinforces the historic nature of the farm. It is housed in a 1860s era barn. The winery is located on the ground floor. Guests ascend a narrow set of stairs leading to the former loft to sample and buy wines. The atmosphere is simultaneously down-home and artisanal.

Visit and stay
If it sounds like a day spent at the winery would be time well-invested, you would have numerous like-minded folks in your camp. The ambiance of Sharp Rock is geared to reducing stress for overworked city denizens and locals alike. Proof? Both B&B cottages are booked solid on the weekends.

Each cottage comes with its historical bona fides. The â??Cottageâ? was the original dwelling on the farm and dates to 1794. The â??Carriage Houseâ? was built in 1850. Both buildings are nestled near the Hughes River.

East describes a typical guest experience. â??Recently we had a couple spend a weekend at the Cottage. He fly fished in the Hughes while she read nearby. Later they did a wine tasting and received a bottle of wine as part of their stay. The next day they hiked Old Rag.â?

Sounds suspiciously like a prescription from your doctor to unwind and relax, eh?

Sharp Rock Vineyards is open Friday, Saturday and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. For information on wines, lodging and events visit http://sharprockvineyards.com/

Visit John on his blog Hagarty On Wine or reach him at jfhagarty@aol.com


Johnâ??s pick of the month

Sharp Rock Vineyards
Circa 1794
$30

This red Bordeaux wine pays tribute to the founding of Sharp Rock farm over two centuries ago. It is a blend of the five classic Bordeaux grapes and casts a deep garnet color in the glass.
The aromatic wine telegraphs mouth filling flavors of cocoa and blackberry framed by a subtle touch of cigar box and earth nuances. It is vinified in a style that is approachable now or capable of sleeping for a few years to further enhance its rich, black fruit flavors.