Ox-Eye Vineyards Review
Address: 44 Middlebrook Avenue Staunton,Virginia 24401.
Phone Number: 540-849-7926
Tasting Hours: Jan-Mar: Mon, Wed, Thurs, Sun 12:00-5:00, Fri 12:00-7:00, Sat 11:00-7:00
Region: Shenandoah Valley AVA, Virginia
Reviewer: Anthony Marocco
Review Date: 2/23/2013
Reviewer: Anthony Marocco
While glancing at the Virginia Winery Guide map during our trip around the Shenandoah Valley, I noticed Ox-Eye Vineyards nearby; but we also noticed it is located in the center of downtown Staunton. Curious, I pulled up the Ox-Eye Vineyards website to find out just what this winery is all about.
History  Ox-Eye Vineyards (the actual vineyard) is located near Staunton in Augusta County, but has a tasting room in downtown Staunton. The 100-acre farm was purchased by John and Susan Kiers in 1996 with the main intention of growing wine grapes in Augusta County. This particular site was chosen because of the unique climate of the Shenandoah Valley, hot temperatures during the day and much cooler temperatures across the valley at night. Other factors were the low rainfall as well as the deep limestone soils. These conditions, we were told, allow the grapes to ripen and intensify the sugar content while maintaining the acidity in late summer and early fall. The vineyard was named Ox-Eye after the ox-eye daisies that are strewn throughout the vineyard. The Kiers planted their first two acres of grape vines in 1999 and, eventually, expanded the planting to around twenty acres.
The original venture was to sell grapes to local vineyards, but after 10 years and some deliberation between the couple they decided to build their own winery. They did just that in 2010 and began selling their own Estate Bottled wines. Not long after, the Kiers purchased and renovated an old coal and lumber office building which was built in 1903. This would come to be their main tasting room location. The building was completely renovated and its doors were opened to the public for the first time in the spring of 2011. The exterior brick is painted an eye-catching yellow to match that of the ox-eye flowers that grow on the Vineyard property, while the interior glimmers from the refinished pine floors, windows, and tasting bar.
The Place  When entering through the front door, to the right you will notice a small coffee shop style arrangement, with arm chairs and small tables, a television and assorted reading materials for patrons. Directly in front of that are a few large wooden wine racks with assorted Ox-Eye Vineyards offerings for sale by the bottle. To the left is the L-Shaped tasting bar. One rear corner of the room has a door which leads to the outside patio. The other corner presents a staircase to the upper lever of the building. The upper level, over the coming months, is being developed into a small restaurant setting with tables and food service to be offered. The walls will be adorned with local artists masterpieces which will be for sale. Speaking of outside patio, around back you will notice what was used as a drive-in loading dock during the lumber business years is now a quaint patio lined with wine barrels and bistro tables. Overall, the building offers a lavish, upscale loft style atmosphere, but is in no way pretentious.
The Wines  As for the wines? Lets just say, they make some quality wines to include some traditional German style varieties. The highlights of the tastings were balanced across the whites and reds. For the whites, my top pick is the 2011 Riesling ($18). Citrus aromas mesh with bright acidity, adding a touch of minerality mid palate, while maintaining a semi-sweet but not puckering finish. Looking for a slightly more fruit forward refreshing approach, try the Brads Stickdog Petit Manseng 2008 ($25). This white is nothing short of intense from aroma to taste with bold tropical fruit characteristics, finishing sweet with a kiss of spice and subtle banana notes. Next up, on the red side, is the Pinot Noir 2010 ($24). Currant and jammy cherry pie notes tease the nose while cherry flavors take a step forward on the palate, finishing with a touch of oak and an almost buttery texture. What better way to finish the tasting, but to save the best for last in the form of the Lemberger 2010 ($20). It is a robust Austrian varietal. Light floral notes and dark fruit aromas collide head on with a kick of black cherry and black pepper flourishing on the palate, exhibiting hearty tannins and a zesty peppery finish. The wines at Ox-Eye were decent (though the German/Austrian varietals really stood out as my favorites overall).
The Experience  The staff was very knowledgeable and hospitable, and the facility itself was more than inviting. After the tasting concluded, I tossed around the idea of enjoying a cheese platter with a glass of wine, but instead decided to take a walk around to take in some of the art on the second level. For those who wish to enjoy a glass, they are very well priced at five dollars per glass. Except the Gewurztraminer, Petit Manseng, and Pinot Noir which all bear a six dollar price tag. Perfect to enjoy with a book in the lounging area in the corner of the tasting room or on the back patio in the spring, summer, or fall. If you are looking for a nice meal afterwards, feel free to talk to the tasting room staff as they are extremely knowledgeable and offer a wide array of options and suggestions in the area.