The Shenandoah Valley and Muse Vineyards and Winery
By Bob Tagert
The Shenandoah Valley and Muse Vineyards and Winery
This month we decided to return to the Shenandoah Valley and make the beautiful Muse Vineyard and Winery as our goal. For the past two years we have written about our friends, The Eastport Oysters Boys, a band of locals from Annapolis and Eastport, Maryland. Once again, the Boys performed at the Woodstock Cafe the last weekend of September and we were there. If you want to learn more about the Eastport Oyster Boys and the Maritime Republic of Eastport, google MRE. The wives of the Boys spent their Saturday at Muse Winery and we heard a lot of good things about it so we decided to make it our destination.
If you have read our previous Shenandoah road trips you remember that we like to take as many back roads as possible, especially this time of year. On this particular Sunday it was raining for the first time this month, so we chose to take Interstate 66 west to I-81 and south to Woodstock, Virginia. It made the trip quicker, but at a price of leaf watching, especially for the driver.
We did notice that the leaves were beginning to show color and by the first few weeks in November, the colors should be reaching their peak. When you take exit 283 off of I-81 you can follow the signs to Muse Vineyards which is only about 2 miles out of town. The winery lies in a hidden corner of the Shenandoah Valley along the scenic North Fork of the Shenandoah River and at the foot of the mountains. The river snakes its way through the bottomland as it journeys to join up with the Shenandoah River. A low concrete bridge takes you across the water to the gravel road that leads to the tasting room.
I was a little apprehensive about the width of the road if I encountered a vehicle coming the other way. Much to my relief, I discovered after reaching the tasting room, that there was a separate exit that took you back to the main road on the other side of the winery. Although the roads were not marked one way, be assured that you will not encounter any head on traffic.
Muse Vineyards is considered a boutique vineyard “where art, science, passion, and reverence for the tradition of classic wine making converge to produce award-winning wine.” Vines were first planted on their 50-acre farm in 2005 and the tasting room opened in 2016. In 2015, Muse’s 2009 Clio, a Bordeaux-style blend was awarded a gold medal in the prestigious Virginia Governor’s Cup. Today Muse produces approximately 2,500 cases.
The proprietors of Muse Vineyards are husband and wife Robert Muse and Sally Cowal. We met Sally as she worked tirelessly in the tasting room. It is evident that she and Robert care deeply about their wines. According to Robert, Muse Vineyards’ viticultural philosophy and practice is that of minimalist agriculture. “We aim for as few sprays as possible. Our commitment is to employing only the latest generation of low-impact materials and taking great care when and how we use them.” “When grapes are allowed to speak for themselves,” Robert notes, “they speak of the place where they were grown. They speak of the climate. They even reveal things about how they were treated.”
The tasting room has a very contemporary feel with clean lines and high ceilings. The seating includes several 4 and 6 tops as well as communal tables and comfy sofa chairs. The interior is awash with bright colors which contrasts nicely with the changing leaves outside. Not only do they provide upright heaters for the outside patio tables, there is also a huge stone fire place to ward off the fall chill inside.
If you arrive with an appetite, they can solve that need with offerings from their kitchen. Served Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays are Panini, seasonal soups, seasonal salads, grilled shrimp or chicken Caesar salad. There are various platters as well as an A la Carte menu available at all times. Check their website for details.
A quick note here. The wine maker at Muse Vineyards is Tim Rausse. Tim’s dad is Gabriele Rausse, who first opened Barboursville Winery in the early 70’s and today has his own winery in Charlottesville. Gabrielle is considered the modern day father of Virginia wines and has produced some of the best. We tried all of their wines when we visited and they are top drawer across the board while leaning heavier toward reds. Tim Rouse is following in his dad’s footsteps.
While Muse Vineyards was our ultimate goal on this road trip, we always like to add a few other spots of interest. The town of Woodstock, as well as Edinburg, are fun to visit and you can find dining options as well as accommodations at each town. We have stayed at, and particularly like, the Edinburg Renaissance Bed & Breakfast and the Inn at Narrow Passage that sits along the North Fork of the Shenandoah River, a few miles down from Muse Vineyards. There is also a circa 1792 cottage on the property that has been maintained and updated with modern amenities – including a swimming pool – without sacrificing the original charm of the home, and is for rent with room for up to 6 guests.
When we drove back home we opted for Route 11 north instead of I-81. It is slower but allows more time for sightseeing and observing the fall colors. This is how we came across Filibuster Distillery in Maurertown, slightly north of Woodstock. With spending my whole life near Washington D.C., the name filibuster struck a chord…just can’t stop talking. We had to stop in. Their business began on the corner of 9th and M St. NW, not far from the Capitol, so Filibuster was a natural choice for their name. “We wanted to lampoon the intensity of the political culture in D.C.-maybe if everyone just talked it out over a few drinks, things would go more smoothly” is a quote taken from their website. Their whiskeys are made in single batches and consist of Bourbon, Rye, Boondoggler Whiskey (Boondoggler is neither a bourbon nor a rye in the traditional sense, but combines elements of each for a one-of-a-kind taste experience and is quite tasty).
The distillery is in an old warehouse but you don’t have to drive to Maurertown to taste it. It is available in Virginia ABC stores and is carried by all of the Alexandria Restaurant Partners establishments – Vola’s, Mia’s, Majestic, etc – where it is the featured bourbon.
The leaves will be gone by the end of the month. Take a road trip to Muse Vineyards and enjoy some of Virginia’s best wine and scenery.
Publishers Note: Take a close look at the Muse logo and see if you can see what is “special” about it. Email what you see to firstname.lastname@example.org.