AWG Correspondent

Anthony Marocco

Arterra Wines Photos

Arterra Wines Review

Regions: Middleburg Virginia AVA, Virginia

Reviewed: March 15, 2015 by Anthony Marocco
Published: April 7, 2015

This past weekend, we ventured into wine country for the first time in many weeks. Lately, I'll admit, life has been busy with work and other obligations. After browsing through the list of recently opened wineries, I came across one that had received high praise from some local wine lovers like myself. Arterra Vineyard and Winery became one of my must-visit wineries. Arterra is located just around the corner from Three Fox, up the street from Naked Mountain and close to Barrel Oak in Virginia's Middleburg AVA.

A gorgeous, red, metal sign greets visitors with the name Arterra Wines carved on the upper portion and Hawkmoth Art carved on the bottom portion. The winery, which was recently opened by owners Jason Murray and Sandy Gray-Murray, combines Sandy's art - it displays her artwork for sale under the Hawkmoth Art label - with the duo's wines under the Arterra Wines label. Sandy began her venture as an art educator before deciding to give up the full time education path to pursue her love of creating wine-inspired art under the Hawkmoth banner. Time constraints made it exceedingly difficult to expand her creation until the children were old enough to attend school during the day, which Sandy took full advantage of and opened a studio and gallery full time. It only made sense to combine the winery and art studio under one roof.

Jason's passion for wine is as much of an art as Sandy's is. The Arterra name, derived from the words art and terra (land) or the art of the land, speaks for itself. Jason has been involved in the Virginia wine industry since 2003. He began as a viticulturist and eventually became a self-taught winemaker overseeing the wine from vines to sale. His reputation for creating high quality red wines will only increase with his new adventure under the Arterra label. His knowledge of terroir, natural yeast, optimal grape ripening, quality vineyard sites and detail orientated production methods is outstanding, and if people aren't familiar with Jason now, they certainly will be in the near future.

When you enter the property, a gravel road carries you over the brook just past the entrance to the property and up a steep slope to new chalet-style winery. The wooden structure with an "A" frame front shadows over the small parking lot to the right side of the facility. Limos and buses are not allowed, and, in fact, any group of more than four people are encouraged to call ahead as they try to maintain an art gallery atmosphere.

Behind the building, freshly-cleared land laid bare waiting for the spring planting of the new estate vineyard. Now the question is, with all of this praise, where does Jason source his wine grapes? The answer is a couple of places, both of which are known for producing high quality vines. These trusted vineyard sites have developed a great relationship with Jason over the years and share his vision of quality. Seven Oaks Vineyard located in Philomont, Virginia is owned and operated by Mark and Madeline Skinner and produces Malbec, Petit Verdot, Tannat, Cabernet Franc, and Chardonnay grapes. Sycamore Springs Vineyard located in Waterford, VA is owned and operated by Mike Newland. Mike produces what Jason considers the highest quality Petit Verdot and Tannat around. A third vineyard located in Shenandoah Valley has received high accolades for their own wine production and has aided Jason's last few vintages. Jason plans to retain the first two vineyards to complement his estate vineyard which will be used to produce wines starting in 2017. Overall, the new vineyard will consist of approximately eight acres under vine, including Malbec, Petit Verdot, Tannat and Cabernet Sauvignon, as well as trial acreage of Chenin Blanc and Petite Sirah.

As we walked in the door of the tasting room, the floor-to-ceiling wood shined in the afternoon sunlight. Along the back side of the room sat many ceramics and other artistic creations from Sandy's studio. There are four wood-crafted tables and chairs that can easily accommodate 30+ people, and visitors can view the production space through the large glass windows located to the left of the tasting bar. The unique tasting bar is comprised of rectangular beds of river stones enclosed by a glass top.

We stepped up and introduced ourselves to Jason and picked his brain about his unique approach and detail-orientated wine production. Visitors can taste six wines for a nominal fee of $10. We began our tasting with his sole white, a 2013 Chardonnay ($29) that boasts a smooth, palate-coating texture and shows a great balance of crisp tree fruit and mineral-driven acidity. The back palate offers a nice round finish with hints of vanilla and toast.

The real treasures at Arterra are the reds - beginning first with the 2013 Cabernet Franc ($29). This wine absolutely blew me away. Plenty of depth and spice driven aromatics greet you as you approach the glass. A beautiful foundation of white pepper extenuates the lush, rich texture showing off ripe, dark red fruit with impeccable balance. This Cabernet Franc is probably one of the best I have had in Northern Virginia, if not the state. The wine finishes with smooth tannins, plenty of dark fruit, length and power.

Up next was the 2013 Petit Verdot ($39), which displays a full, supple palate boasting concentrated blackberry, plum, currants and red berries. The finish really displays the vibrant fruit while remaining lush and smooth.

Another red that put a smile on my face was the 2013 Malbec ($39). Resembling a French style Malbec, this red bursts with bing cherry and cassis from the intense aromatics to the balanced flavor profile. With fine tannins and ripe fruit, this Malbec proves that Malbec can indeed flourish in the state of Virginia.

Concluding the dry wines, we saved the best for last. The 2013 Tannat ($49) is beyond words and, in my opinion, really highlights Jason Murray's talents. Full-bodied and complex with plenty of depth, this red boasts cigar box, black fruit and sweet tobacco while holding strong to its masculine traits with concentrated flavors and intense, peppery tannins. This is what a Tannat is supposed to taste like, but, hey, don't trust my judgement? Try it for yourself. I guarantee you will be tempted to take a bottle home with you like we did.

We concluded the tasting with a special treat - Arterra's Late Harvest Tannat 2013 ($39). Initiating with herbal aromatics, this Late Harvest Tannat is bold like a Port (although it's not fortified) and shows off plenty of dark fruit and herb flavors and finishes with a hint of leather. A real treat and not a wine that is going to send you into sugar shock. Arterra also makes a Blueberry Apple wine for the wine drinkers that are looking for a tart, fruit-driven treat for those hot, Summer days. It balances both of the fruits' best qualities - the tart, crisp apple flavors with the juicy blueberry flavors.

Making high quality wine as their estate vineyard develops, Arterra is a model for new wineries. If you are in the Delaplane area, or really anywhere in Northern Virginia, you need to visit Arterra. There is truly something special happening at this new winery on Leeds Manor Road.

Address & Contact Information: 1808 Leeds Manor Road Delaplane, Virginia 20144. Telephone: 540-422-3443, email:, website: Tasting Hours: 11:00-5:00.

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