Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Ingleside Winery Tour

I'd like to interrupt this irregularly scheduled program to bring you all back to a cold, rainy day in January... when 909 took a "company field trip" to tour Ingleside Winery. But first I'll take you back a bit further... to explain why we were there. In November 2012, 909 made the decision to shift our wine list towards selling only Virginia Wines, in an effort to support the local economy and increase awareness of how many delightful wines our region has to offer. We are very proud of the 909 Wine List that has blossomed as a result of this switch, but to get there took many months of research, tastings, and even a winery tour. Chris Flemer, head of marketing and sales for Ingleside, had come to 909 to allow me and +Brian Hyland (owner of 909) to taste some of their wines, and after the tasting he invited us to bring the entire staff to come tour the vineyard.

The vines at Ingleside
This seemed like an excellent idea, and a great bonding opportunity... so we informed our staff and started making arrangements for transportation. The plan was to go on a Monday, when 909 would be closed. Fortunately everyone wanted to go, but unfortunately no one wanted to be stuck with the task of being a designated driver. As the day of the tour approached, one by one the 909ers ran into conflicts... until it was down to just Brian and me. We flipped a coin to see who would be DD, (I won) and then we hit the road... heading towards Oak Grove, VA. We would later learn, Pocahontas traveled the same road.
The Original Miss America
The drive was short and pretty, even on a dreary rainy day. It took about 45 minutes to get there from downtown Fredericksburg, and the rolling scenery of farmland and forest almost made me wish the drive was longer. On the way, we jammed out to some solid classic rock tunes delivered to us by our buddies at 96.9 "The Rock". When we arrived, we entered the gift shop and walked around while we waited for Chris.
Divine Wine
 After we met with Chris, we talked for a bit about the state of the economy in downtown Fredericksburg (needs help) and waited a bit for a lull in the rain. Then we walked over to the first stop on the tour: a brilliantly designed miniature history museum established by Chris' dad, the owner of Ingleside Plantation. On the way there, we passed through their outdoor courtyard that is used for private events, weddings, etc.
We had the place all to ourselves
Ingleside Winery and Plantation is a family owned and operated business, which Brian had a lot of respect for since he is very familiar with running a family business (J. Brian's Taproom). The Flemer family has owned the Ingleside Plantation since 1890, and it originally operated as a Dairy farm. In 1940, Carl Flemer Jr. (Chris' Dad) realized that cows were not the most profitable use of this land, and so he decided to convert the area into a Nursery. A few years later, the Flemer family learned that the conditions on their land were ideal for growing grapes... and thus Ingleside Winery was born. Doug Flemer (Chris' brother) has operated and overseen all wine operations since the vineyard opened in 1980. Ingleside is one of the oldest continually operating vineyards in Virginia. The land itself has an even richer history...
A display of arrowheads found on the Ingleside Plantation
Ingleside Plantation is located in the Northern Neck of Virginia, the very site where the Powhatan Indians lived and hunted over 400 years ago. Many of the roads in this area are built on old Indian trails. The road to the vineyard, Leedstown Road, was one of the more well-used Indian trails... and legend has it that when Pocahontas was captured by the English, they used that very road to transport her back to their camp. The collection of arrowheads above could very well include a spear tip used by Chief Powhatan himself.
Mountain Lion on display at the Ingleside history museum
Along with artifacts from the local Native Americans, there were some very neat taxidermy displays that helped paint a picture of the wildlife that would have been common during that era. Call me crazy, but I wish there were more mountain lions and less people in Virginia... it would keep the deer population in check, and make going for a hike a lot more thrilling. Carl Flemer Jr. also put some very fascinating items on display that belonged to the colonists that called this region home... including wine seals from Washington family.
The real deal... Washington drank wine here too.
I should mention that I was sipping on a delicious glass of the 2008 Petit Verdot while we were learning about the abundant history of the region, which I believe really helped it all "sink in" :) After a bit, we headed over to the warehouse to see some wine-making in action! Chris spent some time explaining to us how the grapes got from the vine to the bottle, and showed us every step in between. I did not know until this tour that the juice produced from red grapes is in fact white, and red wines actually gain their color by mashing up the skins of the grapes with the juice and then the skins are filtered out later. So in theory you can make a white wine with a red grape!
A glimpse inside the warehouse
The barrels you see above were used to age the wines to perfection. Occasionally the vineyard will host a "barrel tasting" that allows guests to come and taste the wine directly out of the barrel, so they can experience how the wood helps add an "Oaky flavor" that is absolutely delectable. Today happened to be bottling day for their Pinot Grigio, so we got to witness the assembly line in action which was pretty cool. I took a short video of the process... it was quite mesmerizing.
After watching the wine being put into bottles, we were about ready to taste some of it! The staff had prepared a beautiful spread of cheese, meats, and crackers... even some chocolates, to pair with the wines. The tasting took place in a beautiful room designed to host wedding receptions and other tasting events. It was truly charming, with elegant lighting and handcrafted wood creating a very homey feel.
Fancy cheese and crackers
This was the part Brian had been dreading... he was going to have to sit and watch while I tasted a plethora of delicious wines. It seemed unfair that he would go through the whole tour and not get to enjoy the fruits of their labors, so on an off chance he inquired if there were any decent hotels nearby that might make tasting the wines an option... so he could partake and not have to worry about drinking and driving.
Signature tasting glass
At this point, Chris really surprised us.... he offered us the opportunity to stay at one of the cottages located on their property! This was extremely generous of him, and we were very flattered and excited. On that note, we happily tasted the wines that they had to offer together... including my personal favorite, the Blue Crab Red. It's a delicious red wine blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Syrah... which creates a light, fruity flavor without the bitter tannins often associated with red wines, making it very easy to drink. After this outing, we quickly decided to add the Blue Crab wines (Red & Blanc) to our wine menu, in addition to the Cabernet Sauvignon that we were already selling.
Ingleside Wine at 909. Photo by +Andreea Manaf 
After our glasses had been emptied and refilled many times, eventually it was time for Chris to show us to our home for the night. We were instantly impressed. Only a short drive or walk from the gift shop at the vineyard, we had a quaint little A-frame cottage complete with sleeping loft, full kitchen, screened-in porch, and gorgeous overlook of a small pond in the backyard. The cottage is known as Summerton and if you happen to be visiting Ingleside... I'd highly recommend staying a night or two at this gorgeous cabin.
A shot of our humble abode in the morning light
After Chris made sure that we were settled in and comfortable, he bid us a goodnight and we thanked him profusely for being so kind. Ingleside had immediately become our house wine! Brian and I put some music on the background and proceeded to pop open a bottle of Blue Crab Blanc that we had bought at the gift shop to share and celebrate the evening.
Eventually it was time to venture out from our comfortable little cottage to forage for some food in the wilderness that is Colonial Beach (Just kidding... kinda). We called a cab company, and had no idea how much of a treat we were in for. After some haggling about the price to get into town and back (we agreed on $20) and some complications on directing the driver to our corner of the world... we were on the road. The first thing he said when we got into the car was, "I lied about the price..." (Okay.... ) "I told you $20 right? Well it's actually going to be $8" We were off to a good start.
We're riding in the Cash Cab! ... NOT
This is when things really started to get crazy. Once we got in the cab, this dude just didn't stop talking. We told him we'd been recommended a little Thai place, so he started heading that way. While driving he told us he was an insurance agent by day and he owed a bunch of money ($12,000) to the IRS so he started this cab company to make some extra dough. He also told us that he used to haul Nitro Glycerin across the country when he was fresh out of high school, making $4/mile. He claimed he'd go to Florida, Texas, Cali, and then back to Colonial Beach... all in a week. Very reasonable. Did you know Nitro Glycerin has a 20 degree temperature fluctuation tolerance before it goes BOOM? This guy learned that the hard way on a hot summer day when he had to detach his flaming trailer from the cab and just kept on rolling. He said it was the most paperwork he's ever had to do. After that he switched to transporting toilet paper... its slightly less flammable.
Getting bang for our buck
 Around this time, we learned that the Thai place was closed on Mondays. Great. He tried to take us to the only other decent restaurant in town... they were also closed. So we settled on going to the grocery store and getting some eats there. A Domino's pizza happened to be next door, so we ordered a pie as well. This dude went to go pick up another guy while we shopped, so he didn't charge anything for waiting on us.
Dinner of champions
On our way back to the winery, he told us a story of the time the cops busted down his door with a search warrant and proceeded to ransack his house. Turns out the warrant was for the house next door. Unfortunately, this dude had a $7,000 door that they destroyed (how he spent that much on a door... I'll never know) and they also damaged lots of his furnishings. Fortunately, he rented the furniture. So he went to the Judge, pleaded his case, and the Judge made the police station pay for the damage and personally clean up the mess. The Judge also awarded him $11,000, which meant he turned a profit since he had insurance on the furniture. He said he had 4 cops in his house for a month... organizing his paperwork by exact date and folding every piece of clothing in his house, including women's underwear. Oh by the way, he was a retired Maryland State Narcotics officer as well, and he has a secret 10x10 safe room that's not on the blue prints in his house that contains his 56 guns... including multiple machine guns. Seems like an average guy, right?
Give us all your doughnuts!
 Finally the driver dropped us off, and our heads were spinning with all the tales he had just told us. We were easily in the cab for an hour, just driving around (at no extra cost) so that he would have time to tell us these stories. But we were pleasantly entertained, and had quite the story to share. We gobbled up the pizza, had a few beers, and wrote some of his story details down on the back of the pizza box so we wouldn't forget them... and then headed to bed. Brian took the pull-out bed downstairs, and I got the king bed upstairs.
Rest and relaxation! 
The morning came before we knew it, and I slept extremely well. We gathered our things and prepared to head back to the 'burg. I couldn't of imagined a more wonderful way to get to know what Ingleside Winery was all about. I took a moment to reflect on the events that had transpired and give thanks for the new day while overlooking the beautiful pond in the backyard. Then it was time to head home and return to our daily lives. 
Peaceful moment of reflection on the back porch
In conclusion, thank you very much Ingleside for your hospitality and delicious wines! We look forward to our next visit :) 
Peace Out!

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