AWG Correspondent

Brian Yost

Valhalla Vineyards Photos

Valhalla Vineyards Review

Region: Virginia

Reviewed: September 28, 2013 by Brian Yost
Published: October 14, 2013

The Shenandoah Valley doesn’t have the concentration of wineries that you might find in Central or Northern Virginia, but the few that are in this wine region tend to be spectacular and produce excellent wines. Valhalla Vineyards, located in the southern tip of the Shenandoah, illustrates this general rule.

The vineyard is not terribly far from Roanoke, Virginia. The route from the city entails a very steep, winding drive up Mount Chestnut Road. During the ascent, your passengers will enjoy a stunning view of the Roanoke Valley as you gain elevation. You, unfortunately, need to keep your eyes on the road. Also be forewarned that your GPS will probably not guide you all the way to your destination. The address on the website is 6500 Mt. Chestnut Road. Both the GPS and my iPad took us to a residential gate just down the mountain from the winery. So if you think you’ve reached your destination, but something just doesn’t look right, well, just keep driving. The entrance to Valhalla is clearly marked. You can’t miss it.

Once you arrive, get out of the car and look at the view. I took pictures that don’t do it justice. The winery is situated near the top of Mount Chestnut at an elevation of 2000 feet. From here you have a commanding view of the entire Roanoke Valley against the backdrop of the Blue Ridge and the distant Peaks of Otter. I suspect that you will stare with slack-jawed amazement. I have not visited every winery in the state, so I can’t say with absolute authority, but you’ll be hard pressed to visit a winery with a better view.

The “Cellar Door” tasting room opened in 2003 and is a large space with high, vaulted ceilings and a big stone fireplace against the back wall. The facility appears ideal for winery-sponsored events. There is a single, large stone tasting bar, but no obvious way to disperse a crowd of wine tasters. Exiting through the back door, you will find a huge covered deck with another stone fireplace, and it was here that we were able to enjoy our first fire of the season. Visitors might also retire to one of the many tables liberally distributed around the property. There is no food prepared or served in the tasting room, but inside or outside there are options for relaxing with a picnic.

Jim and Debra Vascik planted their first vines in 1995 and produced their first vintage three years later. Their vision, and perhaps the terroir, set them apart from most other Virginia wineries. The vineyard is professed to have a climate similar to France’s Rhone Valley. This may or may not be the case, but it does allow them to specialize in big, bold reds. Of the 21 acres under vine, only three are devoted to white varietals. Valhalla specializes in Syrah, the Bordeaux varietals (Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Malbec and Petit Verdot), and Sangiovese; they are also the only producer of the Italian varietal, Alicante Bouschet, on the east coast. Intended for cellaring, many of these reds spend as much as forty months in French Oak. An emphasis on quality led the owners to completely abandon the 2013 harvest, which is arguably the worst year in Virginia wine history. I ask you, who else does that?

At the tasting bar we discovered two menus. My wife opted for wines from the standard list, which offered a choice of any five of a dozen wines for a very reasonable six dollars. The reserve tasting offered eight limited edition or library wines for ten dollars. Are you kidding me? The most recent red vintage was six years old and there were three that were twelve years old.

I tasted the “Rheingold,” which is their reserve Chardonnay, and tried my wife’s Viognier. The Chard was done in a Burgundian style and was not over-oaked. There was a hint of butter on the nose, but the oak didn’t overpower the crisp apple notes. The Viognier was quite good and very typical of the varietal. I could give you a few more notes, but I want to talk about the reds. Bold, blended reds are the specialty. The “Valkyrie” and “Gotterdammerung” are two Bordeaux blends. Both have big cherry bouquets, but the Valkyrie also has a hint of chocolate on the nose and cherry on the palate with a bit of leather. The Valkyrie has real legs and can easily go even longer in the cellar. There are some Nortons on the tasting menu. They no longer grow the varietal, but like I said, these wines are several years old. The two Nortons I tasted were good and fairly typical Nortons, but with enough age to take the edge off of the acidity that is a characteristic of this hybrid. I tasted two Cabernet Sauvigons. The first was 6 years old, had just been bottled and needed a bit more time on the shelf. The older Cab had the most beautiful nose. I could spend hours just smelling it. It had a great mouth feel and big cherry notes with a bit of leather on the palate. These are wines worthy of collecting or just setting aside in anticipation of a special occasion. The most expensive wine is listed at only $30 per bottle. Somebody pinch me.

If you like big reds, this is your venue; but even if you don’t, it’s worth the drive just to see the view. On Friday evenings, there is music and every other weekend, Valhalla hosts a “Dancing Under the Stars” event. On the third Saturday of each month there are tours of the cave, and there are periodic library tastings. Check the website to see what’s happening. If we lived a little closer, this would be one of our standby wineries for entertaining guests.

Address & Contact Information: 6500 Mt. Chestnut Rd. Roanoke, Virginia 24018. Telephone: 540-725-9463, email:, website: Tasting Hours: Apr 4-Dec 28: Fri 4:00-7:00 (closed Fri in Nov & Dec), Sat 12:00-5:00, Sun 1:00-5:00.

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