Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Naked Mountain: Quality Virginia Chardonnay

Courtesy of Naked Mountain Vineyards & Winery.
Virginia wines get little love. They’re blasted for being overpriced, overoaked, too sweet, too watery, too stemmy or just plain gross. I’ve visited many Virginia wineries and tasted scores of wine from the Commonwealth over the years, and I’ll admit it: these descriptors are right on… for some Virginia wines. Every year, Virginia winemakers put out really good wine, but it seems sometimes that every solid bottle of Virginia wine is followed by three others that are mediocre to bad.

Like any wine from any region, the producer is key. Sure terroir matters, but good wine doesn’t make itself. This is why I go back again and again to quality Virginia winemakers like those at Linden, Barboursville, Glen Manor and Veritas, just to name a few. I’ve recently come across a new (to me) producer, Naked Mountain, located east of the Blue Ridge gateway town of Front Royal. Bob and Phoebe Harper planted the first vines here in 1976. Planting grew over the years, reaching annual production of 6,000 cases. A couple of young wine enthusiasts, Randy and Meagan Morgan, bought the winery in 2010. Naked Mountain boasts that its chardonnay has been served at the White House twice, once during a State Dinner hosted by Bush I and once at a Clinton meeting with state governors. Not a bad couple of notches to have on your wine’s resume.

I spent this Thanksgiving in the beautiful Blue Ridge foothills with family and friends. I popped a Naked Mountain chardonnay one night and poured it for five or six people, all of whom enjoyed it. Here are my notes…

Having never tried a wine from Naked Mountain before, I poured myself a glass with few expectations. That said: I was impressed with this wine. It showed generous aromas of baked pears and apples, some buttered popcorn and lemon cake. The palate is full of bruised apples, pear and guava fruit, along with buttered popcorn and cinnamon flavors frmo the oak fermentation. Medium acid saves this from being overwhelming or flabby. It’s not a stunning wine, but it outdoes a lot of California chardonnays at twice the price. I picked this up at a Virginia wine shop for $12, and I consider that quite a bargain. 86 points

I’ve never been to the winery, but it’s in a very scenic area that is really accessible to Washingtonians or Appalachian passers-by. I think I’ll make visiting Naked Mountain a priority in the coming year. And I think I’ll try the new release (2008) of this barrel-fermented chardonnay soon.


  1. Never been to the place and if there will be a chance, I should hurriedly taste that wine. As a wine lover for almost 2 years already I think that wine is very delicious. Thanks for the share.

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  2. Hey Jack, thanks for reading. If you live in the Virginia area, there are a lot of great wineries to visit.