The Alexandria microwinery opens July 26.
There are no idyllic fields of vines and fat, purple grapes and green, rolling hills. There’s not a tasting room. You can’t even buy a glass of wine and drink it at Woodlawn Press Winery.
But, you can buy wine made in the back of the store and bring a bottle home.
Woodlawn Press Winery, opening in Alexandria this Friday, July 26, is more akin to a wine shop crossed with a microbrewery.
Woodlawn buys grape juice, primarily sourced from the West Coast, ferments it, ages it in stainless steel tanks (and uses French oak staves to mimic the flavors of barrel aging) and bottles, labels and sells its wine at the store.
It’s small production. It’s made in Virginia. But it isn’t Virginia wine.
And Bonnie Evangelista prefers that.
Owners Evangelista, with Andrew Rosado, her husband and the winemaker, point out that it was a deliberate choice not to use grapes from their state of operation.
“We don’t like the taste of Virginia wines,” says Evangelista. “I’ve never been drawn to any one that would get me excited.”
Woodlawn instead prefers vagabond grapes. Where a grape is grown is usually tantamount to its flavor, reflected in that elusive sense of terrior.
Here, Rosado buys juice from Evangelista’s cousin’s Washington Winery in Washington, Pennsylvania, which the winery originally bought from a distributor. Rosado adds yeast, ferments the juice and lets it sit in the tank. The debut malbec ($20), for instance, has been aging with the oak staves for about five months.
Rosado aims for a peppery, dry outcome for the malbec. He says they’ll be “very generic” in describing their wines to guests; the labels do not list a vintage or where the grapes are from, usually information customers want when buying a bottle. The year and geography usually tell the story of the land, the weather and what to expect in the bottle.
City Winery, with locations in DC and a handful of other cities, also falls under this microwinery umbrella, making wine outside of the rural landscape of traditional vineyards. Unlike Woodlawn Press, the winemakers source grapes from particular vineyards, like cabernet sauvignon from Bettinelli Vineyards in Napa, California, pinot noir from Hyland Vineyards in Willamette Valley, Oregon and malbec from Catena Vineyards in Agrelo, Mendoza, Argentina. Its story, from the website, says “We are proud to focus on terroir—the French expression of certain varietals growing better in specific climates and soils. Being a winery in the middle of the city allows us the luxury to seek the most expressive and world-class fruit for our customers.”
Rosado says Woodlawn Press’ story is that of family.
Evangelista is a third-generation amateur winemaker, with her grandfather and grandmother buying juice and turning it into wine in their home. Evangelista will display her family’s vintage wine-making equipment in the store. Her sister owns Virginia Beach Winery, which also buys juice from distributors.
Because of Virginia’s farm winery laws and its required percentages of state-grown grapes in wine, Woodlawn Press doesn’t qualify and therefore can’t allow guests to buy and drink wine on premise.
Evangelista hopes to eventually work on changing state laws, like how the other drink-industry lobbies worked to get laws passed so guests can buy beer and cocktails and drink on-site at breweries and distilleries.
At this point, Woodland Press can offer complimentary samples, and tell the story of a family of home-winemakers. // Opening July 26; Woodlawn Press Winery: 8733-B Cooper Road, Alexandria
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