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Ingleside's version of Petit Verdot stands apart because of ideal climate conditions, Maria Swain says.

You've probably seen the bright-blue crab on the labels of wine bottles that Ingleside Vineyards calls its Blue Crab series. Or the label with three sails that the Oak Grove-based winery has labeled its Chesapeake series.

To many, they are the face, the taste, of Ingleside. They are your everyday wines, made to be enjoyed at the moment.

But Ingleside has another series, simply called Ingleside, that is not often seen in the Richmond market.

Those are the wines that are taking Doug Flemer's winery to a new level.

Winemaker Bill Swain has produced several standout wines in this series. Colonial White is one. It's a blend of 47 percent viognier, 28 percent albarino and 25 percent petit manseng that has terrific aromas and is crisp and clean ($17.95 at the winery).

On the red side, the 2008 Sangiovese (85 percent sangiovese, 11 percent charbono and 4 percent graciano) is fruit forward — think cherry — and similar to chianti. ($19.95).

Albarino? Charbono? Graciano? These grapes usually are not mentioned in the same breath as Virginia winemaking.

"That's the pioneering spirit Doug has," said Swain, a winemaker at Ingleside for nine years. "We've been aggressive in trying new things."

A better-known grape is Petit Verdot, and based on a recent vertical tasting, Ingleside's version matches up with any in the state. Elegant is the best adjective for the 2006 Petit Verdot, the vintage selling to the public ($19.95).

"It's showing beautifully," said Ingleside assistant winemaker Maria Swain, Bill's wife.

Bill Swain, who worked at wineries in California, Washington, Oregon and Venezuela, was lured to Ingleside partly because of Petit Verdot.

"He tasted it in barrels when interviewing for the Ingleside job in early 2002 and was very excited about the obvious superior quality of this wine," Maria said. "In California, it is very rarely seen as a pure varietal. Bill is pretty certain he was the first Virginia winemaker to bottle Petit Verdot as a varietal, from the 2001 vintage."

What sets Ingleside's version apart?

"Some combination of macro- and micro-climate conditions at our site makes our location ideal," Maria said. "Most probably our typically warmer nights happen to suit Petit Verdot perfectly, as we always get excellent sugar, flavor and color, even in off years.

"In tasting our Petit Verdot against others from Virginia, ours is always deeper and more intense," she said.

Maria's description of the 2006 Petit Verdot: "The aromas are a blend of berries — blackberry, raspberry, red currant — and some licorice with a nice complement of vanilla oak. At almost 14 percent alcohol, it is robust wine with lots of flavor and plenty of soft tannins, all integrated to give a balanced finish."

Maria and Bill have been married for nine years. What's it like being the wife of a winemaker?

"It has been a great life being married to an excellent winemaker," Maria said. "My husband is my best friend, a great mentor, and also an inspiration to me in my life with wine."

For those who haven't tried Ingleside wines recently, Maria says, "a lot of people don't know what we're doing. Come taste, and see."


Grand opening of Good Luck Cellars on Saturday (11 a.m. to 6 p.m.) and July 24 (noon to 5 p.m.); 1025 Good Luck Road, Kilmarnock;

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