by Brian Yost
In the center of Upperville, there’s a small stone building that was constructed around 1800. Originally a tavern and then cycled through a variety of other uses as a real estate and law office, an archery supply shop and an interpretive center, it recently was renovated for its current use as a wine shop.
As you drive through the village on Route 50, you’ll notice signage for The Local Taste. I should also point out that owners Kiernan Slater and her husband Christopher Patusky use the venue as a tasting room for their Slater Run Vineyards wines.
The business was never intended to be strictly a tasting room. The idea of mingling the two purposes was always the intent. And despite its small size, the interior is not at all crowded and the historic character of the structure was maintained. Great thought went into the layout and décor, lending a sense of space and subtle elegance. It’s quite charming and inspired me to linger, taste the Slater Run offerings and browse the larger wine collection.
It’s definitely not a big-city wine shop. Indeed, the wine wall in most modern grocery stores has a larger selection. Nevertheless, Slater and Putusky engaged Neal Wavra, former manager of the Ashby Inn, to curate the small collection. The lack of volume is more than offset by the interesting assortment that Wavra
There are French, Italian and California wines you’ll likely recognize, but there are a number of gems that also will excite the serious wine lover. In addition to a high-end Lebanese blend, there was a sparkler from England, a Super Tuscan from Arizona and a Riesling from Germany’s Nahe Valley. I might have spent more time perusing the labels, but the real purpose of my stop was to taste the Slater Run wines.
In 2010, Slater and Patusky planted their first five acres of grapes on Plum Run Farm not far from Upperville. They’re now planting additional vines, which will bring them to just over twelve acres of fruit.
They retained Katell Griaud as winemaker. She holds a masters degree in Oenology from Bordeaux University and has made wine at both Trump and Casanel. So she approaches the task with an understanding of the challenges of making wine in the Commonwealth. I should point out that she has handily overcome those challenges. The Slater Run wines are exceptional.
Four of them are currently being poured at the tasting bar and two Bordeaux blends will be released over the next few months.
The pair of whites included a Pinot Gris and a lightly-oaked Chardonnay. Both were well-crafted, balanced wines that displayed the typical characteristics for those varietals. I was particularly fond of the Rosé, which is done in a dry, Provençal style, but the Cabernet Franc was the real standout. There was no hint of green pepper, which indicates that the vines were properly managed and the fruit was ripe. Having said that, I was very surprised by how well the wine was drinking, when you consider the age of the vines. I think this bodes well for the future of Slater Run wines. My hat is off to the winemaker.
In addition to the wine, there are a few other items available for purchase. You will also find charcuterie, cheese, bread and baked goods. There are also a number of works by local artists and artisans. It’s sort of amazing how many items are in that space without giving it a cluttered feel.
I also should mention the quality of customer experience at The Local Taste. When I arrived, Adale Henderson was behind the counter. I found her to be extremely knowledgeable about every aspect of the operation, the history of the building and the local community. She was very upbeat and extremely customer-oriented. It was certainly the kind of experience that will inspire me to return.
Whether you live nearby or are just passing through, The Local Taste should be one of your stops, if only to check out the historical building. It’s a lovely and compelling spot. And if you’re exploring Virginia wine country, the Slater Run wines are a must taste. I’ll definitely return for the release of the Bordeaux blends. So maybe I’ll see you there.