Since spring has not really reached my home yet, I thought this was the best time to do more investigations into wine making and visit some friends who make wine for a living here in North Central West Virginia. The Lambert family owns and operates one of the loveliest winery’s in our northern Appalachian mountains. Hidden back on a hill the winery has some thing for everyone, even a newbie wine maker. I spent the afternoon with J.B. Lambert ( son of owners Jim and Deb Lambert) and Jimmy Blake as they showed me the wine making process. They let me taste some of their stock and ask questions about the most important parts of the wine making process.
The winery property includes several Gothic style stone buildings, a small vineyard, a banquette hall with a catering area, and a waterfall. By late spring the entire place is green rolling hills , flowers and out door fire places for warmth and lots of smiles.
The inside of the stone building is just a warm and inviting as the rest of the property with a tasting bar and kitchen area for a summer pizza night.
J.B Lambert was so helpful for answering all of my fermenting questions. The wine making in the family started with a humble story of a husband brewing in the family kitchen. Father, Jim Lambert started with the same inexpensive equipment as I have. He learned and increased the amount of wine step by step, from kitchen, to basement, to cellar, to garage, to full-out fermentation building under ground. The passion grew with each step and soon the family needed to add more space to accommodate the growing equipment and crowds that wanted to see and taste the wine the family made.
The smell of wine greats you as J.B. opens the heavy wooden door to this room where most of the real work happens. All equipment gets washed and sanitized before the fruit juice pours into the tanks. J.B. made clear that this was one of the most critical parts of the wine making process,wash and sanitize everything. Making sure that you start with clean yeast and bacteria free equipment to save you from having loses later. Then J.B. showed me their bottling machine. It fills the bottles, corks and labels them in a matter of seconds. Sadly, for me this process will not finished in seconds at home. I hope to spend most of one whole day doing nothing but bottling and corking two cases of bottles.
When I asked J.B. who designed the distinctive label for the winery, he said that Deb, his mother and Tracy, his sister, were the one who came up with the labels. Their style is apparent every where you look at the winery. They decorated the store, dinning area, and porch and helped with labels and logos. In this photo of bottles on the tasting bar you can see some of the lovely labels and colored bottles that they use.
I am hoping to make my own labels on printer friendly, water-soluble paper, I found on-line. This will give my Dandelion wine a unique look when I give it away as gifts. I can also date the wine to help me keep track of the aging process.
After I walked back to the kitchen area from the fermentation room, Jimmy Blake invited me to see their banquette hall. This is the most resent addition to the property. This way a wedding preformed outside can include a sit down dinner at one location. This addition makes the winery perfect for weddings, reunions, and birthday parties.
The banquette room includes beautiful french doors that open out on to a large porch with outdoor seating. While adventuring outside to taking more pictures of the grounds and buildings, I stumbled into the wineries most lovable mascot… their yellow lab. She is a real beauty.
I then went back to the tasting room to talk more about what other important steps in the fermentation process. J.B. Lambert felt that the next two most important steps in home wine making was to learning to rack your wine carefully and testing for alcohol content as fermentation slowed. You want to stop the process when you are happy with the end product not when the sugar runs out or when you get a vinegar instead of a wine.
Racking the wine is the process that removes sediment from the wine. At home the process can take up to three siphoning processes. When the wine has finished fermentation, to clear away sediment the wine is siphoned from one container to another. This process if done correctly leaves the sediment in the bottom of the first container. Then you allow the wine to sit for another few weeks to settle again and repeat the processes. Their other methods that maybe faster and more expensive but for the home wine maker it is just a simple game of waiting and siphoning.
The second thing that we discussed is stopping the fermentation process before it makes the wine to dry or becomes a vinegar. He explained the Hydrometer and how to use it and what the Campen tablets can do and how is can help me in both the cleaning step and the testing step. I now know that I can stop the fermentation any time. I can also learn to control the amount of alcohol safely and have better control over the finished product with this simple tool. He explained the a Hydrometer was an inexpensive tool at about 8 dollars and that Campden tablets were available at our local liquor store.
While J.B. and I talked I also sampled a few of the 25 different wines and sherry that they produce. My two personal favorites are their Blush White Zinfandel that is crisp, fresh and lite and the a White Niagara that is fruity without being to sweet. Then we tried the Lambert’s newest addition a deep red Chocolate Kiss.The sent is of a Tootsie roll, but to my surprise the flavor is of cherry’s bathed in chocolate, something like a chocolate covered cherry but with a strong cherry flavor. This is something that I will add to my collection soon mostly for cooking. What a great way to dress up a black forest cake with a wonderful wine sauce. Then I wanted an idea of what their Elderberry wine tasted like. I want to make mine, as good, if not better than, their wine at home. It was fruity but not to sweet and gave me a high mark to aim for this summer.
With the tour and tasting over, I was able to just sit and visit with my friend Jimmy for a while and take a few more wonderful photos. I snooped through their wine cellar and collection of pottery that they also sell.
A day with friends surrounded with the warmth of a fire and a glass of wine really can’t be matched. I left Lambert’s winery a richer person with advice from a local family, and time spent with my friend. I may just be able to make a few bottles of my own elderberry and dandelion wine now and miss some of the pitfalls along the way.
A huge thank you goes out the Lambert family for letting me see and photograph their lovely business and to Jimmy Blake for always being a friend willing to help me write a better blog.
This is the Vineyard/ Winery’s contact information for any one who wants to stop in to see them or call and order wines for your next event.
Lambert’s Winery is in north central West Virginia about an hour south of Morgan town, W.V. or two hours South of Pittsburgh, P.A. off of I-79 to exit 99 Weston. Take rout 33 west 4 miles to Gee Lick Road. Turn right 1.5 miles to Dutch Hollow Road turn left at winery signs. 190 vineyard Drive Weston, West Virginia, 26452. You can call the winery at (304) 269-4903 or visit their website at www. lambertsvintagewine.com and like them on Face Book. Summer time is the best time to see the winery but they are a very busy with weddings and events on the weekends. I recommend visiting during the work week if you can, when the family is able to really spend quality time with each guest.