AWG Correspondent

Anthony Marocco

Barren Ridge Vineyards Photos

Barren Ridge Vineyards Review

Region: Virginia

Reviewed: January 16, 2013 by Anthony Marocco
Published: January 17, 2013

The Place:  Located on a high ridge in the Shenandoah Valley, tucked between the Blue Ridge and Allegheny Mountains, is Barren Ridge Vineyards. This Shenandoah gem, formerly an apple orchard, is maintained by an unusual semi-arid climate that steers rain clouds away from the ridge with the help of its proximity to the two mountains. Hot, dry days and a constant cool breeze at night help set the groundwork for near perfect grape growing conditions. Owned and operated by John and Shelby Higgs, this duo works to preserve the heritage of the former St. James Orchard owned by John’s father, James Higgs. The winery is located at 1400 feet, with a gravel road that leads to the main building. In back of the building there is a gorgeous patio which consists of a fireplace, surrounded by tables and chairs while wooden trellises make up the perimeter. The vineyards are a mere 100 yards from the patio, and there are incredible views in every direction. The patio is covered by a deck which serves as a smaller tasting room and sometimes as a spillover location for larger events. As you make your way into the old, tin roof covered, restored apple barn, you will notice the original preserved structure and beams still intact. The stone tile floor, the scattered bistro tables and the fireplace in the center of the room all provide quite a cozy atmosphere. Along the left wall, as you enter the tasting room, double glass doors display the barrel room while the hallway straight ahead provides a glimpse of the production facility. Overall, I would describe this winery as gorgeous, warm and inviting.

The Experience:  As we came around the corner from the main road, the first thing that caught our eyes was the gorgeous fall foliage of the vineyards. The restored barn and it’s trellis-lined patio had a few couples gathered around the outdoor fireplace on the patio enjoying wine and each other’s company. After parking, we headed up the stone-slab walk way to the door and entered. We were immediately greeted by the tasting room server, and invited to join for a tasting. Without skipping a beat, we went with the full flight tasting and chatted with the Tasting Room Manager about the history of the vineyard. The staff was very pleasant and knowledgeable, and answered all of our questions about both the winery and the wines. There was a private event being set up in the tasting room, so we decided to head out back to take some pictures and admire the gorgeous views of the vineyards and mountain skyline. New customers were funneling in and being directed to the secondary tasting room, located in the back of the winery. Between the atmosphere, grand views, friendly staff, and great wine, Barren Ridge is great for a weekend wine tasting get-a-way in the Shenandoah Valley.

The Wines:  Barren Ridge offers a wide variety of wines, ranging in price from $14 to $32. With six whites, six reds, a Rose, and a Dessert blend, there is a wine to accommodate just about anyone's palate. Of the whites, the showstopper was the 2009 Chardonnay ($18). Citrus and tropical fruit aromas combined with lush, fruit forward flavors of crisp apple and tropical fruit bless the palate with a light buttery mouthfeel, adding notes of toasted almond slivers and a kiss of mango for good measure. The 2010 Harmony blend as well as the 2010 Tinkling Spring are two other notable whites that you may also enjoy. As for the reds, I was split between the 2010 Cabernet Franc ($17) and the 2011 Touriga ($19). The Cabernet Franc offers subtle dark fruit and oak with nuances of spice and cherry growing more noticeable in flavor adding lingering spice undertones on the medium-length finish. Touriga is rarely seen in Virginia but the few that do it do it well and Barren Ridge is no exception. Complex with a very floral nose carrying notes of blueberry and cedar becoming more dominant in flavor with a blueberry explosion on the palate, adding floral undertones on the finish. This would be dynamite to pair with a petit filet or other tender meat dishes. Tastings come in two flavors, the “Classic” tasting consisting of 8 wines for $5 or the “Reserve” full flight tasting consisting of 14 wines for $8. Feel free to stop in for a tasting Monday through Wednesday from 11am until 6pm, Thursday through Saturday from 11am until 8pm, or Sunday from 1pm until 6pm.

Insider's Tip:  Barren Ridge offers a Crush Club which consists of quarterly shipments of three handpicked selections accompanied by pairing recipes and detailed descriptions of each wine in the shipment. Being a Crush Club Member also entitles you to pre-release wines, free admission to 3rd Friday evening events, Crush Club pickup parties, 10% off wine bottle purchases, and free Full Flight Tastings. Speaking of 3rd Friday evening events, Barren Ridge offers what they call Firelight Fridays, every third Friday of the Month. These events cost $10, which includes a glass of Barren Ridge wine, musical entertainment and an option to bring your own dinner or purchase a catered meal. Wines are also available for purchase online through their website.

Address & Contact Information: 984 Barren Ridge Road Fisherville, Virginia 22939. Telephone: 540-248-3300, email:, website: Tasting Hours: Mon-Wed 11:00-6:00, Thurs-Sat: 11:00-8:00, Sun 1:00-6:00.

Overall Rating:  

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