Peaks of Otter Winery

Over the weekend, Jamie and I went to Johnson Family Orchard for the simple fact of:: apples. We usually try to hit the Apple Barn, but the family has scaled back their massive orchard and leased out quite a bit of it. It’s also highly popular and there are people everywhere, so we figured we could try somewhere new. While we couldn’t do a Pick-Your-Own, they had a pretty good selection of apples to grab inside their store.

The drive up was rather nice since the leaves are changing and there wasn’t much traffic. Surprisingly, we did not miss the major turn-off because if you’re paying attention there’s a sign for Thaxton and like 30-50 ft later is a sign for the road to turn on. The closer we got to the orchard, the more we realized that this is one of the ways we take to get back to 460 while coming down from some hiking trails.

Another thing with this orchard is that they also do Peaks of Otter wines (it’s either the winery is right there or they have this mutual working where they can sell them and do wine tastings). So I got to try different wines!

Check out the view at this place.

And Jamie had to try the wines because he just wanted to try Kiss The Devil, but the guy explaining the wines pointed out you have to try all the wines before you can try that one. (I think he did it to mess with us because a couple came up later on and only tried four or five and got to try Kiss The Devil)

You’re given a sheet of wines with some information (name, what’s in it, pricing, websites, etc) and a little pencil to mark what you want (but I have a notebook!). We wound up at the wine tasting area at the last 10 on the list and joked with the guy about being short and old enough to drink wine.

Chili Dawg: You’re given a…dime sized blob of squeezy cheese (from a can) on your hand and lick that off (“Like you’re doing a shot of tequila!”) and drink the wine. It tastes like a chili dog. The first taste was surprising and then it was like you just ate an awesome chili dog and I hate hot dogs. Jamie immediately texted his boss to tell her that she was right.

Grandma’s Elderberry: I tried very hard to not laugh (“Your mother was a hamster and your father smelled of elderberries.” was all I could think of). It was a nice, sweet wine that wasn’t overpowering. My only note was “pretty good.”

Cherry Cheese Cake: I’m not a fan of cherry wines, but this one wasn’t bad and I was pleasantly surprised. It was much better than the Thomasillo Cherry (then again, to me, anything is better than their cherry which is disappointing because their pomegranate is amazing).

Cinfulicious: This was described as having a full stick of cinnamon in each bottle and works well even when heated up, especially if you’re a fan of mulled ciders. It’s a decent wine, it has a light cinnamony flavor that just builds itself up after a couple seconds and goes from a cinnamon candy flavor to “I’m eating cinnamon-sugar” and then to almost using a cinnamon stick as a straw. I want to try this warm to see the difference.

Apple Truffle: It’s apple mixed with a white truffle chocolate and it tastes like a Tootsie Roll. It is so weird because when it’s described, you’re kind of like “yeah right,” but then taste it and it really does taste like a Tootsie Roll. Jamie bought a bottle for Rhonda because she loves the candy. This also tastes much better than the Chocovine stuff. If you’ve tasted Chocovine and came out with the same reaction as I did (white wine that tastes like it’d been opened days before and mixed with melted Hershey bars), I definitely urge you to try this one. This is what a chocolate wine should taste like.

Ras Ma Tas Raspberry: My only notes are “not all that great,” and it reminded me of a mix between a Chateau Morrisette red (possibly the Laurel Mountain Red) and the Thomasillo (Tomasillo? I’ll have to check later)…blackberry? I think it was. And some sort of thick jelly. The sheet states “Great Body Lotion,” and that is probably the best description of it.

Frosty Morn: This is made with three different grapes, it’s a tasty wine, and you can taste a hint of oak in it (or whatever barrel they put this wine into. I liken it to oak because it is a taste that I recognize and that other people who do wine tastings have told me that such-n-such wine was in an oak barrell). This wine tastes like a wine I have had before, but damned if I can remember which.

Salty Frog Margarita Wine: This is a wine I’ve been wanting to try because every now and then a bottle or two will show up at our local Kroger (because the wine manager is awesome and that store is very into showcasing local wines). This was like drinking lime Jell-O but with a kick, or Lime Kool-Aid with a kick. To me, lime Jell-O and Kool-Aid taste about the same. It’s not exactly wine-like and it’s not exactly like drinking a margarita, but it’s not bad. I think I was expecting more of a margarita flavor like the kind of margaritas I’ve had at local restaurants (then again, I don’t think I’ve ever gotten a normal green margarita).

About this time, the couple beside us came up and the husband requested to try only a couple different types along with Kiss the Devil. They tried the ones they wanted, he got a sticker, and never made a face or a noise or anything when trying Kiss the Devil.

Light Sweet Peach: My only writing is “ew.” Sometimes I’m a fan of peaches and sometimes I’m not. This was like drinking simple syrup without the thickness and someone just happened to add something like peach flavoring. It was really weird.

Blackberry Jammed: I like blackberries and some blackberry wines are pretty decent, but I wasn’t overly thrilled by this. It was lightly sweet, but also kind of “meh” and unmemorable.

Then we hit the end because they ran out of the Strawberry Reserve. Some people wandered away to go do other things and someone else went behind the little wine tasting area to call out to people wandering around that the wine tasting was going to start soon. They also had wine glasses for sale and joked about the little taster cups were “kind of sanitized” and from the local doctor’s office.

I love when people have a good sense of humor and people don’t take what they’re saying seriously. These guys were great.

We did not try the Peach Delight nor the Dry Apple “Virginia Apple Lovers” wines. I think these were also sold out by the time we got there.

Mojo: It’s a mojito wine that tastes like an actual mojito and not one of the pre-mixed containers you can buy. It was like fresh mint was shoved in the bottle and definitely a plus if you love mojitos. I like mojitos, but I have to be in the mood for them. I was surprised to find that Jamie liked the mintyness of the wine while I likened the initial taste-then-inhale to the smell of the salon my mom went to when I was a kid. Not bad, brings up nice memories, but wasn’t something I was expecting.

Blackberry Cobbler: It wasn’t bad, and it wasn’t like I was expecting. I was expecting a more powerful taste because of the cobbler name, but it had a nice, light taste. Jamie said he liked it. I think this would be a good wine to get people to try wines with or to give to someone who hasn’t tried Peaks of Otter wines.

Light Pear: It was sweet and it was crisp, it wasn’t overpowering and it wasn’t like drinking a fruit cup which I found to be a relief. Jamie didn’t care for it, but then again, he hates pears almost as much as he hates peaches so I’m not surprised. I would probably try a taste of this again before determining whether or not I’d buy a bottle. Or, if I get the extra money and feel like being a bit different, I’ll just buy a bottle.

Sweet Heart: This is a pomegranate/apple wine. It tastes more like pomegranate juice and I didn’t care all that much for it because it kind of tasted like really tart pom-juice. Jamie really liked it (but Jamie loves pomegranate juice) and my only notes are “ew.” I think I’ll stick with the Thomasillo pomegranate.

Fancy-pants painted bottles and copper pot thingy right in front of their Wall Of Ribbons. It was really cool

Peach of Otter: I like peaches, but Jamie and I were both in agreement that this was a…not great wine for us. My only note was “ew.” I probably could’ve written a little more, but by this time it was both guys doing the taste testing.

The older gentleman was very much looking for speed and trying to bang out every single one out with little care on whether or not you just finished your other sip of wine while the younger guy was explaining what that specific wine was. It was pretty funny.

Cafe Vino: This is likened to Kahlua liquer (which happens to be misspelled on the little sheet, I don’t know if it’s intentional, but it amuses me) so I had my doubts. I hate Kahlua. This smelled like fresh roasted coffee, like walking into a coffee shop right after or during the time where they roast their beans (so, for you locals, it smells more like Mill Mountain Coffee and Tea than it does Starbucks) and it tastes like coffee. Not like Kahlua or Bailey’s is supposed to taste like coffee, but like you just got handed a cup of black coffee.

During this time, the older gentleman was talking about this wine, describing how they got the taste of coffee to be how it is (it’s like eating chocolate covered espresso beans: fascinating and oddly awesome) and the younger guy was walking around and almost everyone who was doing the tasting got to have this twice. Jamie and I got to have another taste of this, but a couple of couples didn’t get to try it because the older gentleman stopped mid-sentence and asked what he was doing. The younger guy pointed out that he figured he could keep pouring the same wine because it makes more sense to pour the wine you’re talking about instead of doing the next one on the list and messing with peoples’ heads. I think this is what got Jamie to definitely pick this wine.

Pure Passion: This is something I wanted to try because I like passion fruit flavored things. I don’t remember what Jamie thought of it, but all I have on my notes are a question mark and a quick-sketch of one of my comic characters with a “wtf” look. What the hell did I just try? Explosion of flavor, but what flavor? I’m still not sure.

Pumpkin Pie: I thought this would be fun to try. I’m not as big of a fan of pumpkin pie as I am butternut squash pie (It’s been over ten years and I still can’t get over the fact that half of my family lied to me about the pumpkin pie every year. But that’s ok, I’ll take my grandma’s “punkin’ pie” that’s really butternut squash pie any day. It’s better flavor in the spices). I figured this would be fairly close to the taste of pumpkin pie…and I really hope it’s just me and the fact that I had tried 17 wines already on a fairly empty stomach…but it tasted like the smell of my Nanny’s house and that weirded me out to no end because she’s been dead for quite a while and I haven’t been in that house for years (I do have some of her stuff that smells like her and her house so maybe that’s why I can easily liken this taste to that smell). I was disappointed because it did that to me and also I’m fairly sure that’s not how it really tastes. It did have a nutmeg/clove/cinnamon taste to it. I’d give it a second chance.

By this time, the older gentleman has noticed that I am messily writing notes in a little notebook (it’s not that little, it’s one of those “lil’ chunky books”) and came right up wanting to know what I was doing. I’m taking notes! He pointed out that’s what the sheet of paper in front of me was for, but I countered with the simple logic of “but how will I know what wines to buy later if I don’t take notes on what I thought of them?” He seemed to understand that logic and was intrigued that I was taking notes on this.

I guess he’d never seen anyone take notes before? (ok, I know doing it at places like my local Kroger or Fresh Market is a bit weird since usually they have a small selection and all the wines are right there) I guess it’s one thing to see people mark out or circle what they want to buy right then but it’s so weird seeing someone make notes. Sure, the notes are for me and may not make much sense, but they help me out, especially if I go back and want to try a bottle. It’s kind of like that mentality of: you don’t have to have a good memory to tell the truth. Bullshit. If you don’t have a good memory, you will run into gaps that give you problems and therefore: notebooks help. It also helps when you have a neat idea.

The older gentleman made a joke about something and then told the younger guy that they should get a photo of me to put on their website. I thought it was pretty funny and snorted a bit, Jamie made a joke about how he’d have to get paid if they wanted a photo and the older gentleman acted shocked before saying “not that kind of website.” It cracked a lot of people up.

Plumlicious: It was…interesting. Kind of tasted like a plum, kinda not. It was lightly sweet, not overpowering and was something that I’d have to give another try before making a definite response to. I think this was one of the wines where the older gentleman was banging out tastes and that’s what I literally got: a taste. Not enough to make a definitive decision about, a couple drops that mixed with the last drop or two of wine from the last wine we tried and just enough to cover some tastebuds.

The Mango Tango: There is a scene in the short-lived but wonderful television series called Firefly in the episode Shindig where Kaylee (Jewel Staite) pokes Mal (Nathan Fillion) excitedly and goes “Oooo! Mangoes!” This wine made me think of that exact moment. I hate mangoes, I think they taste like pine trees smell and that is something I do not want on my tastebuds. But this wine makes me realize why people love mangoes and I was pleasantly surprised. I’d like to try this wine again to see if I get the same experience.

Vino Colada: This is their version of a pina colada. I hate coconut and while I did deal with it for a number of mixed drinks while we were on vacation (because that Twilight Zone thing was pretty good), so I didn’t really have much…hope for this one. But, again, I was pleasantly surprised and found that this is something that did not taste like coconut. It had a hint of pineapple, but wasn’t overpowering. I liked it, Jamie said it wasn’t too bad.

Strawbery Shortcake: Jamie and I both agreed that this was pretty good, had a light sweet taste to it, and tasted like something oddly familiar but we couldn’t figure out what. I was really tempted to make a joke about how it tasted like blending up the doll (late 80s, early 90s Strawberry Shortcake doll that was like, what, six or seven inches tall?)

Puff: The younger guy made a joke about how they were trying to get this wine to be like “Puff the Magic Dragon” but to please refrain from singing the song. This is where I got in trouble. I pointed out that I’ve never seen nor heard the song (I’ve heard about the song, but that doesn’t mean much). The younger guy asked me if I was sure I was over 21. I pulled my wallet out and showed him my ID, which amused him to no end, and I pointed out that my childhood was Ninja Turtles and playing video games. Jamie told him he’d get me to watch the video on Youtube, but only on the condition that he’s not home because he can’t stand the song (he likes the cartoon dragon, but that’s it). This is a dragonfruit wine and tastes like the lipsmacker lip gloss. It was interesting.

Blue Ridge Mountain Grape: This tastes like a grape freezy-pop that has a dry-wine undertone. This was really weird to me and Jamie said it wasn’t bad. I figured people who like grape juice would like it a lot more. Is it weird? I don’t care much for this wine because it reminds me of Welch’s and Juicy Juice grape juice too much?

Sangria: This is a fruity wine, like it’s supposed to be. It’s not overly alcoholic tasting, like some sangrias are, and it’s not a poignant dark wine that grasps at a hint of other flavors. This is a nice mix of flavors and it’s something that I wouldn’t mind drinking every now and then. I’m not a fan of sangrias, but I found this is something that I’d imagine the “how to make a real sangria” recipes taste like, with the orange slices and whatnot mixed in.

A 4ft statue of their little Kiss the Devil guy

Beale Treasure Sweet Apple: Jamie thought this one was ok; my only notes were “meh” and “the bottle’s cool looking.” I’ve definitely learned, I’m not a huge apple-wine fan. This was, unfortunately, a very forgettable wine, but that’s just my opinion. I saw quite a few people doing the wine tasting making notes to buy a bottle or having that look of pleasant surprise that they enjoyed it. More power to you, but I’ll go with something else.

Blueberry Muffin: This was explained as “the best wine to have with dessert, with a snack, even for breakfast.” The older gentleman laughed and continued “Ocifer, I just had a blueberry muffin.” It was pretty funny and it really does taste like a blueberry muffin. It was bizarre, it was fascinating, and I was surprised that Jamie didn’t hate it.

Afterwards, we got to try Chili Dawg again and I think that second try made it even better. It was also really fun to watch the girl who came up look around at everyone, give the guy a funny look like “yeah right” and “what the hell am I supposed to to?” while he was trying to explain that it’s like doing a shot of tequila. The look on her face of sheer terror mixed with disgust was priceless.

Kiss the Devil: We made our way through the list and got to try this wine. Technically it’s a cooking wine, but they do offer a taste test of it. 30 different varieties of peppers are mixed together to make this…insanity. I figured it’d be hot, probably with a hell of a kick and…it didn’t disappoint. Holy shit.

This is the first thing in years I’ve been able to kick back like a shot and I figure that if I did what Jamie did (swish it around then swollow), I’d be just like his boss’s boyfriend—on the floor and crying. I stopped breathing, I turned red, and it physically hurt to breathe. Jamie took a sip of Cinfulicious and said that helped a lot. I think I was able to get a sip of Ras Ma Tas, but I’m not sure. All I know is whatever I took to “help tone it down” did not help at all.

We got our stickers. The guy who tried it earlier was kind of sympathetic because he’d tried it and they both watched me as my eyes popped out and my hands went over my mouth. I somehow got some on my lip and it felt like my lip was rotting off for at least ten minutes afterwards. We left to go choose different wines, I tried a sample of apricot jam (and found it to not be the jam I am looking for so it’s all good). This would be good as a cooking wine and now I want Chicken Vicious.

We also went and picked a peck of apples, Jamie picked some homemade cheese, and the lady behind the counter gave us directions to a festival that was going on a few miles away. It was a lot of fun, we enjoyed ourselves and that’s really what counts. I’ve learned about a couple different wines, I found a few apples to turn into apple chips (or eat). We also got a little business card for their “wine club” thingy, which means…something. I guess it’s a “if you get X amount of stamps, you get something off your next purchase” like a couple bucks or something


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