. . . And frolicked in the autumn mist in a land called Honah Lee”. Now you know where Honah Lee Vineyard got its name, but you'll have to travel there yourself to learn the story behind it. Honah Lee was our most recent new winery visit, #221.
When we visit a new winery we do several things. Generally, the first order of business is to check out the restrooms. A unique bathroom is one we’ll record for posterity in one form or another, AND we drink an awful lot of water. Next, we do our tastings. In between pours, Mike asks a series of questions for our journal. And, all the while Diane takes dozens of pictures. We always conclude our visit with a snapshot of the four of us. Sometimes we will include a memorable owner or server.
We have survived 37 “official” PoLo wine tours. Official means all four of us were together and we visited at least two wineries. I am in the process of organizing the photos from those 37 tours. As I go through them, I am reliving each moment. Some of those moments are firmly etched in my mind, but many of them have gotten swept up into one big poorly-defined recollection of people and places. Honah Lee has a uniqueness that will back it difficult to forget.
Unlike most winery visits, Diane and I had done a “recon” two weeks earlier. This is Mike’s army term for any winery visit prior to the official PoLo event. So, anytime we return to a winery, we’re more likely to remember it. But there are other reasons Honah Lee stands out.
Honah Lee has an unassuming tasting room. Although they have an area set up outside for events, the tasting room itself is a small cabin-like building on a road just off of route 15, James Madison Hwy. near Gordonsville. When we drove up, we weren’t sure we were in the right place. It’s natural to judge a book by its cover, but we have had some of our worst experiences at palatial, ornately decorated venues and some of our best in the most rudimentary shelters you can imagine. The inside of the tasting room reminded me of a country store. There was a small bar for tastings, but the room was filled with more than the various wine related paraphernalia we typically see. There were bushels of fresh peaches picked from the owners' trees, mouth-watering homemade pies, and shelves of local jams and jellies.
The owners are Brandy and Eric Hopwood. Eric is a young retiree from law enforcement, Brandy is a homemaker and loving caregiver to their adorable toddler Erica, and they are both farmers. They also run BerryWood Crafters which makes and sells the afore mentioned pies but also other baked goods, sauces, jams and jellies, jewelry and crafts.
Honah Lee does something that we love, something rare. They serve five or six of their own wines, but they also offer wines from selected other wineries, such as Well Hung, Bluestone, and Gabriele Rausse. The bad news is that you are asked to select six wines from their choice of about 20. I don’t particularly like this practice, although I understand why they do it. You can sample additional wines for a dollar a taste. That may sound like too much for a single pour, but these people are not stingy with their samples. That’s the good news. Each couple shared their tasting, so we were able to try 12 different wines.
Our server, Haley, worked there on weekends. During the week, she works at nearby Barboursville Vineyards. Honah Lee offers a much more intimate experience than Barboursville, and Haley was certainly up to the task. She did her best to answer Mike’s probing and provocative journal questions, such as “When did the winery open?” and “How many acres do you have under vine?”. The tasting also included a sampling of Brandy’s jellies and jams. They were yummy but be careful about the effect of the hot pepper jelly on your palate.
I generally don’t critique the wines we taste. Everyone’s palate is different, and I don’t consider myself an expert. I will mention one particular Honah Lee wine. It is called De La Merce and is labeled as a red table wine. It is a Merlot and Chambourcin blend, and you will get bacon on the finish. Po and Lo don’t always get the same aromas on the nose or flavors on the finish, but we all agreed on this one. It was both unique and delicious.I’ll conclude with our standard post-tasting portrait. It’s four thumbs up for the Hopwoods, Haley, and Honah Lee. See you on the wine trail.