By Kelly MacConomy
ALEXANDRIA,VA- We heard it through the grapevine! Woodlawn Press Winery in the Mount Vernon section of Alexandria is officially open for wine tastings and sales. Z~oenologists from Z Hood near and far came to celebrate the grand opening on July 26. The micro winery is the first of its kind to open in NOVA wine country.
Woodlawn Press Winery has earned the title of the closest winery to the Port City, usurping the long-standing claim by Paradise Springs Winery in Clifton and relative newcomers The Winery at Bull Run in Centerville and District Winery at the Navy Yards.
Located 12 miles from Old Town, Woodlawn Press is located just off Route 1 on Cooper Road in the Cooper Center. Technically, the District Winery is two miles closer but between traffic and parking concerns, Woodlawn Press couldn’t make it more convenient to stop and imbibe spontaneously after a day spent touring nearby George Washington’s Mount Vernon or waiting for a table at the always popular El Paso Mexican eatery across the street.
It’s a family tradition. Wife and husband winemaking team Bonnie Evangelista and Andrew Rosado were inspired by the winery, brewery, and brewpub Bonnie’s cousin opened in Washington, PA. Andrew had been experimenting for years with home z-oenological blending for personal use, buying supplies from Bonnie’s cousin who has also been in the wine supply business. Bonnie’s sister follows in the legacy of their grandparents as well, having already opened a winery in Virginia Beach.
Originally the winery was names to honor the legacy of historic Woodlawn Plantation. (“Mount Vernon” was already taken.) “Press” signifies a family heirloom: a wine-making press that Bonnie’s Italian great-grandfather brought from Italy in the early 20th Century. The press is on display in the tasting room.
Opening a winery is a leap of faith. As one veteran Virginia winemaker, owner of several vineyards and two popular wineries, is fond of saying that if you want to make a small fortune in wine, start with a large fortune. The women in the Evangelista family have proved to be not only progressive wine-making pioneers but also courageous and enterprising businesswomen.
Following her husband’s death, Bonnie’s great grandmother took to winemaking to support her family. She got so good at it that (it is suspected) her competition turned her in. She was arrested for selling alcohol without a license. The judge dismissed the charges predicated on her being a widow in dire circumstances. Winemaking is unto itself a gamble. Success is frequently more fleeting than most putative vintners expect.
Woodlawn’s wines are blended on site behind the tasting bar. The micro winery is different from the farm wineries dotting the Virginia landscape. Farm wineries must utilize 50 percent or more Virginia-grown grapes and other fruit by state mandate. The fruit used to make Woodlawn Press is sourced from west coast vineyards and orchards, mostly in California. Much like the original operations of the countless microbreweries that have gained such widespread popularity in the Old Dominion, you may sample the wines at no cost and purchase bottles (growlers at breweries) to take away, but pours by the glass are not served.
Souvenir glasses are, however, sold for more extensive sampling. Tastings are free for up to five wines.
The wine offerings at Woodlawn Press vary from what you will encounter in tasting rooms around the DMV and especially at Virginia vineyards. Because Woodlawn sources from out-of-state grape growers, they can offer varietals and blends that won’t grow in Virginia’s humidity, extreme temperatures, and predominantly heavy clay-based soil.
Woodlawn Press currently features seven wines at the tasting bar: four reds and two whites, plus a sweet wine that will change according to fruit in season. Peach wine is served and bottled for the summer season. Bottled reds include the tried and true American stand-by Cabernet Sauvignon and the Virginian great grape standard Cabernet Franc. It was exciting to see the Italian varietal Sangiovese grape on the tasting menu, which fares well here but is rarely bottled in Virginia. The final red to try was the Malbec which showed a lot of complexity, promising to evolve nicely all the more as it ages.
The whites offered were a Pinot Grigio, a nice nod to the couple’s Italian roots, and a wine you aren’t going to find in a Virginia tasting room. There is also a Sauvignon Blanc, the staple white of New Zealand, proving to be extremely popular around the DMV, especially throughout the searing hot, languid days of summer. Come be a most welcome guest at the Woodlawn Press Winery. Bottles are at this time priced at $16 for the sweet wines, whites at $19, and reds are $20.
The tasting room has great gifts and an assortment of wine accoutrements for sale. A play area for the wee ones and a pup lounge for the leash set offer an inviting, no-excuses experience for the adventurous Z~oenologist looking for a new “in vino veritas” experience along the winery road less travelled. Let Bonnie and Andrew be your guides. Come for the wine. Stay for the wine!
Woodlawn Press Winery is located at 8733-B Cooper Road, Alexandria
Hours are Thursday and Friday 3~7 pm
Saturday and Sunday 12~7 pm