Well-Done Whites and Historic Charm in Staunton’s Wharf District
One of my favorite things to do when visiting Staunton is strolling through the Wharf Area Historic District, a quaint section of the city surrounding a former train depot for the Virginia Central Railroad. I adore admiring the late 19-century architecture of more than 20 original structures, and on a recent sojourn looked most forward to a respite at the tasting room for Ox-Eye Vineyards, situated in a renovated 1904 building now set for sampling some of Virginia’s best dry white wines.
Vineyard Vibe: Before serving as a tasting room, Ox-Eye’s space in Staunton was used as an office for a coal and lumber business and a scale house for horse-drawn coal wagons. After the lumber shop closed, the building stood vacant for many years before being purchased in 2010 by John and Susan Kiers, who prefer wine to wood and decided to renovate it into a place to sip their well received vintages. Today, the updated interior beckons patrons with cushy brown leather chairs perfect for relaxing with your Traminette, modern lighting and décor and a sleek wooden bar in front of large windows allowing for historic street views. I am charmed by the setting during my stop and love knowing my environment has just as much character as the wine I am about to try.
Tasting Notes: All of Ox-Eye’s grapes are estate-grown on a 100-acre family farm in Augusta County. The Kiers say the elevation, climate and slope of this particular area of the Shenandoah Valley emulate the Finger Lakes region of upstate New York and assist them in specializing in dry Austrian- and German-style wine varieties. I decide on the $7 tasting in order to evaluate the full lineup and am most impressed with the Scale House Riesling Reserve, a dry version of this popular varietal with bright citrus flavors that linger on the palate. Also noteworthy were the Shy Ox Rose and the Lemberger (Ox-Eye is the only vineyard in the Valley growing this grape), a complex red with notes of rich cherries. It’s a warm afternoon, so I settle on purchasing a bottle of refreshing Riesling and head to the patio to picnic.
Favorite Finds: Grab a wine by the glass and head upstairs to linger in the second floor gallery featuring local artists. When hunger strikes, take advantage of light fare offerings like an antipasto box, stuffed grape leaves or several cheeses and take them under the covered archway behind the building. This outdoor space complete with an old piano and sidewalk chalk for the kids (or kids at heart) was once where loaded covered wagons would pull up to be weighed by the Fairbanks scale.
Hours and Events: The Ox-Eye tasting room is open Monday–Thursday from noon–6 p.m., Fridays from noon–7 p.m., Saturdays form 10 a.m.–7 p.m. and Sundays from noon–5 p.m. Every other month, guests can attend an opening to welcome the newest artists to the upstairs gallery. Admire the artwork, enjoy snacks and $3 glasses of wine and meet the artist. Check Ox-Eye’s website and social media for the dates of the next opening.
44 Middlebrook Ave., Staunton, 540-849-7926, OxEyeVineyards.com