Tucked away in a corner of Fauquier County, behind a small hamlet known as Summerduck, lies a true Virginia treasure. Because Summerduck is known more for its raceway, who would have thought a winery would fit in this locale?
Located at the historic Roger’s Ford, where it is said Confederate and Union troops repeatedly forded the Rappahannock River between Culpeper County and Fauquier County on a fifty five acre tract of land located next to the C.F. Phelps Wildlife Management Area, Rogers Ford Farm Winery offers visitors a breath of fresh air away from the hectic sprawl that is becoming Route 17 outside of Fredericksburg.
In its prime the estate that the Puckett family now owns once was 1,000 acres.
Seated on the estate is the farm house, circa 1825 that was the Puckett family home when they purchased the property in 1979. Johnny, son of winery founder John Puckett, lived there until recently when he moved to Fredericksburg to be closer to work. Now the house has been renovated to contain the tasting room.
Upon entering the house originally made from trees felled on the property, one is greeted by a fire place that exudes the warmth that is always found there. As striking as the fireplace is, the yellow pine flooring laid out with different widths. An addition was added in 1900 and the contrast is seen between the craftsmanship of the two eras of construction. The beams in the older part were notched by hand and numbered when the house was built. Many of the windows still are of the wavy design seen in older homes.
The front room has been converted into the tasting room displaying a curved bar with the tops of wine bottles that have been cut off and attached. Again the yellow pine flooring stands out and adds to the ambience of this elegant place.
As lovely as this house is, it does not compare to the wines that are served. John Puckett, an aeronautical engineer, decided he wanted to start a winery and put his family to work growing an experimental crop to see what would make it. Although recently retired, allowing Johnny to take over the operation, John is still around giving sound viticultural and enological advice to any willing to receive from his rich years of experience.
On the farm, the Pucketts grow mainly Vidal Blanc and Petit Verdot, with the rest of the grapes used coming from a group of vineyard owners in central Virginia and Northern Neck. From these grapes are produced wines that reflect the current trend in Virginia wines, excellence and maturity.
Among the whites produced is an unoaked Chardonnay produced in the New Zealand style which bears the name and picture of John’s oldest grandson, Jacob Christopher. This Chardonnay is very aromatic wine with just a taste of sweetness that makes it an excellent pairing with veal or seafood, or just by itself.
Another of John’s grandchildren’s names adorns a white blend that has been extremely popular ever since it came out. Lily Grace is a white blend of chardonnay, viognier and Vidal blanc. A light, oaked wine that is the perfect wind for shrimps on the barbie. Many drinkers of this wine prefer it as a chaser for luscious Virginia raw oysters. Another wine that is great as a solo, Lily Grace cries out for the warm summer afternoons and evenings.
Rogers Ford’s best wines, many say, are their reds. In 2008, John made a bordeaux style red that is just coming into its prime. Virginia Red Select is an unfiltered blend of Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon and Petit Verdot, this wine is a must for the red wine drinker who loves Italian meals.
In 2011, the latest vintage of Virginia Red Select to be released was made. An oaked
blend of 75% Syrah, 15% Cabernet Franc and 10% Petit Verdot, this blend differs from the normal Virginia bordeaux style delivering a bold, intense structure that is an education in itself to the most informed palette. Although it is a very drinkable wine at present, it is still young and will only get better with age. Only 55 cases were produced, so it is a wine to buy now and set aside for as long as 5-10 years.
Petit Verdot is one of the five Bordeaux grapes used for mixing in France, where the growing season is much shorter. The Petit Verdot grapes never fully ripen, thus the name Petit Verdot, or little green. In Virginia, where we have a longer growing season that affords the opportunity to enjoy the full ripeness of this wonderful varietal, Rogers Ford has produced a wine that is unfiltered with a robust taste screaming for a big roast with Yorkshire pudding and all the trimmings, or at least prime rib. The Petit Verdot is bottled in a uniquely styled bottle with handles on each side of the neck ordered from the manufacturer in Italy.
Brandy Station Dulce is a Rogers Ford wine is made from the Vidal Blanc grapes and then distilled into brandy and blended with more Vidal Blanc wine. Packing a punch at 18% alcohol, this sherry style wine is an aperitif that only requires a thimble full to bring a warm fuzzy feeling.
Sometimes meeting people can be an experience in itself. The Pucketts are that kind of people, warm and enjoyable. The beauty of their farm vineyard and the wonder of their wines make a trip to Sumerduck well worth it.