If you haven’t heard, Hazy Mountain Vineyards is the most recent budding addition to the Central Virginia landscape and the buzz of the wine community for more reasons than one.
Hazy Mountain is located in Albemarle County just moments off of the BrewRidge Trail that courses down 151 beginning in Afton, Virginia. Along the trail are multiple wineries, breweries and distilleries attracting tourists and locals alike and a favorite area for destination weddings. The winding approach and views of the winery are eye catching and hints at the birds eye views ahead. The winery itself along with an event hall is sited on top of Turk Mountain with panoramic views overlooking several blocks of vines, some just in the process of planting, while others bearing fruit after 3 years. Between the beauty of the scenery and the Mediterranean/Italianate style architecture, prompts scenery competing with Napa with a dose of Tuscany as the vineyards mature. The multiple photo ops around the property and inside will beckon brides from across the continent and surely will be a certain popular wedding venue.
The attention to detail begins noticeably with the artisanship of the iron work on the doors, palladian windows and extensive rock used in the construction. Some of the local contractors that helped fulfill the dream were and are Jay Moffett for paving and hardscape, Scott May for landscaping and Webber Painting for the painting and staining of the prominent beams. The focus is clearly on the vistas and the landscaping employed mainly to soften the stucco and rock. I thought some accent Italian Cypress, Sky Pencil Hollies and a lovely kitchen garden of herbs including lavender and rosemary would enhance the overall image.
We had the good fortune to slip in on the first day open and return promptly on Father’s Day to soak up the views, the breezes and enjoy sampling wine, beer and an appetizer. After spending some time touring with Sarah McGinnis, General Manager, and quizzing her about the goals and expectations of the winery, it was refreshing to hear how the venture is being paced to achieve highest satisfaction for visitors. I would love to return on an early morning to see how the winery appears to float on top of the clouds on cooler mornings as Sarah mentioned and during the winter when we are knocked out by spectacular fuschia and orchid colored sunsets.
Comfort and a pleasant time for all appears to be high on the list. Radiant tile floors warm the inside tables surrounded by windows left open for the breeze until weather necessitates closing. According to Sarah, consideration of the surrounding neighbors is reflected in the hours of operation and limitation of outdoor music. There had been and still may be some lingering negative feelings regarding the immensity of the project and impact on the environment during construction but some neighbors are being won over and hopefully more will appreciate the venue as time passes and the vines take hold. Certainly small country lanes that travel to wineries are disconcerting to long time locals, with the amount of vehicles passing up and down two lane roads, but cars moved slowly and all seemed peaceful, even on a busy day like Father’s Day. Reservations are definitely recommended to get a select table.
At first we were a bit confused about ordering, laminated QR Code Stickers are on each table with the intention of quicker attention to guests and ease of delivery. For guests used to this style of service, especially during the 2020 pandemic, it is easy. For patrons who do not use smart phones or need extra service, the staff are readily available to answer questions and assist in the process of ordering. It is a learning curve right now as the best way to accommodate guests but also to stay in keeping with protocols.
I, along with most winery visitors, are accustomed to a brief overview of the wines and some tasting observations. In this case, printed sheets are shared to read through and then make a decision. I was a bit of a pain on the first visit, opting to act as a devil’s advocate-opposite sorter personality to illicit a reaction and see how the staff performed. Kind of a mystery wine shopper. I can honestly say the staff and management were prompt in answering questions and delivering service with a smile and no attitude. Refreshing! Loved the Antipasto Appetizer! One order was perfect for two. I ordered the chilled Sparkling Rosé due to the warmth of the day and Bob enjoyed the HAZY Pale Ale.
WINE & LUKE
Luke Trainum is the winemaker in charge and also local to the Shenandoah/Charlottesville area. He was very pleasant, explaining his passion for the subtle underlying contributions from the terroir giving wines as well as meats their flavors. He grew up with a family who raised heritage breed pigs specialized in hams and sausages popular in the area and Washington D.C. It was interesting hearing his background, “The pigs are raised outdoors in a mix of open pasture and hardwood forests, all in a way to give the animals a broad diet that had a tremendous influence that you could taste in the meat. We would cure hams and shoulders in salt and hang them in the old Spanish style, after a few years those flavors would magnify. This gave me my first understanding of terroir, or a sense of place coming out in the flavors and textures of a final product, and the time and process needed to pursue perfecting it.”
Luke’s first vintage was working in the cellar in the Sierra Nevada foothills in Amador California. From California he returned to Virginia and spent a vintage in the cellar and vineyard in the Monticello AVA. In 2017 Luke joined Hazy Mountain Vineyards and spent a harvest working with Matthieu Finot at King Family Vineyards in 2018 and had a double harvest year in 2019 by working at a large winery in New Zealand during March and April, then making wine at Hazy Mountain that Fall. Currently, the majority of the wine is sourced from the owners other vineyard, Little North Mountain in Swoope, VA. Both Little Mountain and Hazy Mountain are at higher elevations and rockier soils which will help in dealing with the humid summers in Virginia. It will be interesting to see how well the Pinot Noir develops compared to the notably successful Pinot Noir wines at further south but higher elevated Ankida Ridge.
We purchased the 2019 Chardonnay for it’s acidity and minimal malolactic fermentation, a less heavy creamy Chardonnay and the 2019 Cabernet Sauvignon Silver Label. We will be back to taste more, currently the bar wasn’t open for traditional tastings.
WHO CAN VISIT
Safety is a chief concern for patrons and wristbands are provided to ensure age appropriate drinking. In the cooler season, patio space heaters will warm outdoor areas as opposed to firepits to protect the public. Children are welcome and non-alcoholic drinks and food are available for a family atmosphere. I failed to ask about pets but children are encouraged and were having a great time with their families, especially climbing on the boulders =).
Future events are on temporary hold for the moment (perhaps starting in the Fall) while the staff work out the kinks of a fledgling business and striving for positive press and excellent reviews when operations are in full swing.
Definitely make this a stop as you travel through our Virginia wine country!