After attending a party last weekend for our friends and cohorts in wine who are moving to Nashville, ( Yes, that would be you, Pam and Jeff!) we returned to a winery we had visited together last year, Sweely Estate Winery in Madison County, formally known as Acorn Hill.
The last time we went to , we had a relaxing afternoon on the patio sharing a bottle of wine and my compadres razzing about my “level” of wine that I like to keep in my glass. Yes, I have a “comfort level” of wine that visually I find is the correct level. Kind of like when you’re baking and have to get eye-level with the counter to make sure the measuring cup is accurate. The color of the wine is beautiful at that volume and swirls against the glass creating syrupy legs, nice. This is all part of an enjoyable wine tasting experience, plus it’s an excuse to refill the glass! Anyway, we headed to Sweely, recently rumoured to be heading in the same direction as Kluge. Definitely Not!
With hands on attention from the owners, Jess and Sharon Sweely, we found the winery active and viable. In fact, I was delighted to see Margaret Prior, a friend, smiling across the tasting bar! Margaret has recently joined the Sweely staff and her pleasant personality is an excellent addition to the tasting room staff. Leslie Weinhardt was guiding the tastings, a veteran of pouring and tasting, previously hailing from Jefferson Vineyards and following the winemaker, Frantz Ventre (not literally). Leslie offered me a tour of the winery and we headed through the immense “living room/ gift shop” complete with a magnificent fireplace and red leather chairs toward the lower level event hall and cellar level library and conference room. We passed through the slate floored art gallery featuring prized art on one side and the other side showcasing local artists. Rock, slate and brick hard surfaces combine to create a beautiful site for events and has recently been used for weddings, graduation parties and meetings.
Two towering fireplaces anchor each end of the soaring Vintners Hall and opens onto a stone patio and lawn for wedding ceremonies and parties. Additionally, the caterers have the opportunity to use the restaurant grade commercial kitchen outfitted with Vulcan Professional appliances. Sweely offers cooking classes on a regular basis so be sure to check out their website for dates and menus.
Leslie then showed me two other rooms below the main level used for dining after the cooking classes, small meetings and other smallish get-togethers. Inside the wine library is the most magnificent table credited to the fine craftsmanship of Tom (Thomas) Pastore of Madison, Virginia. Inlaid fine woods and curved book cases make this cellar room warm and cozy. Truly beautiful!
Completing the tour we returned to the tasting room and encountered Sharon Sweely, amiably chatting with visitors. I mentioned the fact that I love wine but never claim to be an expert. Sharon explained that theirs was a user friendly wine tasting room and they love getting novices to wine tasting. Every one has personal tastes as to what they enjoy drinking and they are not “wine snobs”.
Their wines are less than 13% alcohol and fruit forward, the reflection of Frantz Ventre’s attitude about wine, growing up in the world–renowned Bordeaux wine region near St. Emilion, France. Two different labels, Sweely Estate and Wolftown, from the Wolftown-Hood area of Virginia (literally an eye catching label) denote the complexity of the wines. The Wolftown label are the lighter wines and the Sweely are the heavier, more complex wines. Wolf enthusiasts love the Wolftown label with the peering eyes of the wolf staring at you. We tasted several of the wines, most of which were bottled in 2007. There are new wines being bottled (the couple of financial bumps encountered have past) and are available in several markets including Kroger stores and the Virginia Shop, and many local restaurants. We settled on two favorites, the Wolftown White Blend of Chardonnay and Vidal Blanc, not oaky and with a spicy lingering finish and the Cabernet Franc which won three Gold Medals! The Cabernet Franc was excellent! 78% Cab Franc, 14% Malbec, 5% Petit Verdot and 3% Merlot!