In storybooks, staircases often lead to enchanting places like a princess’s tower chamber or the glowing lantern room of a lighthouse. A hidden stairwell in Williamsburg’s Merchants Square leads to something even more entrancing—wine.
Nestled between The Precious Gem and R. Bryant’s Ltd. in Colonial Williamsburg is the narrow entrance to Williamsburg Winery’s newest tasting room. The downtown location was prompted by the wild success of the winery’s holiday pop-up in 2016. Less than a year later in October 2017, the Merchants Square tasting room and wine bar was in full swing.
Like the Wessex Hundred venue, the Merchants Square site is intimate and heavy with cherry wood accents. The second-story space is divided into a humble wine bar, formal seating area and cozy high tops separated by a painted red brick column.
The room’s backmost wall is coated in chalkboard paint and embellished with whimsical drawings of grapes, vines and the winery’s signature logo.
We arrived shortly before closing and settled into some barstools in the back of the tasting room. Knowing tasting flights are a specialty at Williamsburg Winery’s downtown spot, we shared both the Cider Flight and Virginia Sparkling Flight.
Arriving first were the ciders, a quartet of golden raisin pours served with a detailed tasting sheet. From left to right we sampled Potter’s Craft Cider Farmhouse Dry, Albemarle Ciderworks’ Jupiter’s Legacy and two Castle Hill ciders, Serendipity and Celestial.
A tartness surfaced in the first two, both of which were crafted with traditional cider apples, followed by a bouquet of flowers and citrus in the Castle Hill varietals. All proved pleasant on the tongue and easy to drink on a cool, autumn evening.
We then raised a toast to my personal favorite, sparkling wine. On the docket for Virginia bubblies were three sparkling whites and a blush-colored Veritas Mousseux. The first two bruts, a Horton Sparkling Viognier and Thibaut-Janisson Blanc de Chardonnay, were delightfully crisp and breathed aromas of fall fruits like peach, apricot, pear and apple.
Shining in the third flute was an extra dry pink sparkler harnessing a delicate sweetness and elegant berry profile lush with cherry, strawberry and raspberry. Unlike the 100 percent blends of Viognier and Chardonnay in the preceding bubblies, the pink Mousseux showcased a blend of both Chardonnay and Cabernet Franc.
Capping off our final of eight tastes was Thibaut-Janisson’s Xtra Brut. This tete de cuvee pour drips with luxury and complex savors of baked apple and toasted almond.
Had it not been for the commute home, we would have stayed for more as the downtown tasting room also sells select in-house and visiting wines and ciders by the glass and bottle. Tapas like local cheese and charcuterie are available for purchase too.
Williamsburg Winery Tasting Room and Wine Bar is located at 427 W Duke of Gloucester St., Williamsburg and is open Monday through Saturday, noon—8 p.m. and Sunday from noon—6 p.m.