Features 3 minutes 25 March 2024

Try Virginia’s Exclusive Members-Only Wines at These Top Restaurants

RdV Vineyards is an up-and-coming producer to know.

Imagine a generously sized white farmhouse centered around a soaring water tower that looks like one of the bucolic properties on buyingupstate. But instead of wild forest or rustic, cow-dotted pasture, there’s rolling hills of perfectly manicured land with tidy rows of grape vines. This isn’t New York’s Hudson Valley and it’s certainly not Bordeaux, France.

It’s Delaplane, Virginiathe small, unlikely village that houses one of America’s most exciting vineyards. 

Celebrating red Bordeaux-style blends, RdV Vineyards—within the Middleburg AVA (American Viticultural Area) about an hour drive west of downtown Washington, DC—is the work of New Jersey-born, Swiss-raised former marine Rutger de Vink. The vineyard—which produced its first vintage in 2008, releasing wine three years later—makes two prime expressions sold at lofty prices: the signature, age-worthy Lost Mountain vinified predominantly from Cabernet Sauvignon with a bit of Merlot costs $225; while its more approachable sibling Rendezvous runs $100, a Merlot-forward blend with Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot and a splash of Cabernet Sauvignon. A third, entry-level expression made from a mix of the four varietals is named Friends and Family and sells for $50—only to the DC market and members.

So yes, like many top California wineries, RdV’s micro-lot wines—of which around 2,500 cases are produced annually—are accessible by membership. And while the list of around 2,000 members is currently maxed out, the estimated wait to get on the list is under a year. Want to try sooner? Visit the property in person (by appointment only) where some expressions are for sale based on availability. Otherwise, try any of the growing list of top-tier DC and New York restaurants carrying these bottles.

Jennifer Chase
Jennifer Chase

But it goes without saying, on a restaurant list, these wines will be significantly marked up in price. Would you spend $500 or more on a Virginia wine?

Legendary New York sommelier Aldo Sohm who runs the wine program for the iconic Three MICHELIN Star Le Bernardin doesn’t find it challenging to sell RdV wines. In fact, he’s currently sold out of Lost Mountain and waiting for his next order to arrive.

He calls the wines “conversation starters,” describing their identity as a mixture of “the lushness of New World and the complexity of the Old World.”

Erin Healy, head sommelier of Two MICHELIN Star Daniel, is also intrigued by RdV’s bottles, admitting that she’s excited “to see high quality wines with a sense of place largely unfamiliar to the world of wine.”

Jeff Mauritzen
Jeff Mauritzen

And while in the scheme of powerhouse wine-producing regions Virginia might be considered more up-and-coming, the state credits Thomas Jefferson for establishing vineyards in the late 1700s at his home in Monticello. But it’s clear that Virginia has come a long way since, with producers like RdV leading the conversation.

It has been 20 years now since de Vink set out to find the ideal terroir for a vineyard that could rival the best of both France and the West Coast. He spent three years scouting land domestically, and in 2004 he settled on a picturesque Delaplane hillside. He spent two years soil mapping and preparing the land before he planted it exclusively with Bordeaux varietals: Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, and Petit Verdot.

Jennifer Chase
Jennifer Chase

Winemaker Joshua Grainer—who studied winemaking at Château Malleprat in Bordeaux and at Stefano Lubiani Wines in Australia—has been onboard since day one. He makes wine entirely from estate-grown fruit (RdV owns 18 acres on Lost Mountain's eastern and southern slopes) that’s treated with a commitment towards regenerative and sustainable farming. Beyond dry farming (wherein farmers do not irrigate to supply vines with water), the team prioritizes practices that support native cover crops and flora, and employ practices like no-till farming (growing crops with minimal soil disturbance).

After juice hit barrels, it's rested for two years in caves that run under the vineyard. Wines are then bottled and matured an extra year before hitting the market.

Grainer says he’s inspired by the wines coming from Napa and Bordeaux, naturally, and he believes that RdV’s land offers the potential to produce expressions with characteristics from each region.

He credits RdV’s terroir, a marriage of the Atlantic-influenced climate and its interaction with the property’s “ancient granite hillside,” which results in wines with “incredible concentration, minerality, and a unique sense of place.” 

Jeff Mauritzen / Jennifer Chase
Jeff Mauritzen / Jennifer Chase

And that true sense of terroir or “expression of a singular place,” is what excites Bar Spero’s assistant general manager Jaryd Spann in DC, and why he chose to carry all three RdV wines at the inspired, seafood-focused restaurant.

He cites the vineyard’s unique place in the world and the granite hillside upon which the estate is founded, noting “This terroir is unlike any other producing a traditional Bordeaux-style blend.”

In the last year, restaurants like New York’s fine dining Indian Accent and seasonally driven The Noortwyck have each added RdV wines to their lists. 

Indian Accent beverage director Amy Mitchell carries Lost Mountain, a wine she calls a “show stopper,” while The Noortwyck co-owner Cedric Nicaise chose Rendezvous, describing the wine as “high quality and delicious.”

Jeff Mauritzen
Jeff Mauritzen

Hak Soo Kim, head sommelier of iconic French restaurant Per Se, also sells Rendezvous. He compares it to those from Bordeaux’s Saint-Émilion AOC, an area whose wines are known for being powerful and concentrated, as well as delicate and refined. He describes Rendezvous as “elegant and fresh.”

With so many acclaimed restaurants looking to tell the story of a leading Virginia wine, it might be time for RdV to start producing more. 

Hero image: Jeff Mauritzen

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