A “Vine” Afternoon at Barboursville Vineyards


 Did you ever think you could live in a place too long?  Too long from the perspective of taking for granted a beautiful purple  Phlox covered countryside with vineyards, mountains and history just a short drive down the road from… Super Walmart?  Thanks to my friend and social networking mentor, Lewis Nelson, blog writer of Family of Five,  he arranged an afternoon outing with Fernando Franco, viticulturist at  Barboursville Vineyards.  It was a reminder and welcome opportunity to stop and appreciate the beginnings of Spring in Central Virginia.  

Holly and Fernando Franco


Lewis, his lovely wife Holly and precious daughter Gwen introduced me to their friend , Fernando who is not only a highly esteemed viticulturist but a salsa dancer and V.P. of the Charlottesville Salsa Club.  With a resume of 30  years of growing grapes and a disarming knowledge of Agronomy, we had a real expert to explain the intricacies of wine making.  Originally from El Salvador, Fernando spent over a decade at Prince Michel and  in Napa as a vintner and viticulturist  before taking over the vineyards at Barboursville thirteen years ago.    Fernando opened up the conversation by hospitably pouring us  a glass of  Sauvignon Blanc followed by a delicious Viognier. Most of my experience has been with Barboursville red wines and their dessert wines, Phileo and Malvaxia, but I would have purchased either one of the whites we tasted.

The Tour

 Our tour started in the large tasting room,  a double-sided fireplace separating it from the gift shop.  Souvenir  shopping is fun here with lots of wine related novelty items that are easy to pack in a small carry-on suitcase.  The Octagon room has  Octagon wine barrels  on the floor and  a  photo history and memorabilia on the surrounding walls.  At the center of the room is a table set with a floral display flanked by bottles of their signature award-winning Octagon wine, a meritage of  the winery’s  finest Bordeaux varietals.


  Octagon represents the eight sided architectural style used in the central hall designed by Thomas Jefferson for James Barbour’s plantation house. Unfortunately the home burned in Christmas 1884 and we are left with the ruins to contemplate a bygone era in Virginia history.  

We then  passed into a long hall of stainless steel vats. Immense vats, especially in comparison to our smaller boutique wineries in the Charlottesville area. This is definitely the granddaddy of vat rooms in our area!  We tasted some red blends straight from the vat  including a Cabernet Franc that was excellent! 

 Afterwards, Fernando offered us a ride to the newest area being cultivated at Barboursville, the Goodlow Mountain vineyard.  Hopping into his vehicle, we drove off the property and back on to the south end, passing by some of their oldest vines.

36,000 New Vines

The 2011 plans for the vineyards call for 24 acres with 36,000 new vines to be planted which will increase the total planted acreage by 20 percent!  3 acres  will be devoted to their newest varietal, planting 4,600 vines of Petite Syrah.  The conditions of Goodlow Mountain vineyard are similar to those found in the northern Rhone Valley of France where the Petite Syrah thrives. Fernando knows his vines and feels “this site maybe the most perfect site developed so far.”

 Completing our tour and my friends off in their own directions, I was left to wander the grounds on my own, exploring rooms and ruins on a sunny afternoon. The following are some of my favorite photographs. If you are in need of a classic backdrop for a photo shoot, this is definitely the location!  Brides, pay attention!

Clouds Billowing from a Fireplace in Ruins


Look for a future post about Palladio, the Five Star Restaurant at Barboursville!

New with the Old

Good Bye Barboursville, We’ll be Back! Hopefully, you will be too!

Leaving Barboursville

Don’t Be FOOLish, Visit These Virginia Wineries in April

Saturday April 2nd                                                 

White Hall Vineyards

Release and tasting of the 2009 Pinot Gris

They have joined with a few of our neighboring wineries to form the Appellation Trail.  Other wineries on the wine trail are Mountfair, Glass House Winery, Stinson Vineyards (opening 6/11) and Moss Vineyards (opening in 2012). Check back for more details on our April 16th Appellation Trail kick-off event!

Sunday April 3rd

Delfosse Vineyards and Winery

1:00 p.m. Wine and Food Pairing with menu by Genevieve Delfosse

$40 per person, reservations required.

Glass House Winery

2:15-5 p.m. Live Music with David Tewksbury

Paramount Theater “Big Night at the Paramount”

3:30 p.m. . The brothers in Big Night–chef Primo (Tony Shalhoub) and businessman Secondo (Tucci)–have come to New Jersey to open a bistro named The Paradise that serves the finest in traditional, authentic Italian cuisine.

Sample food and wine, meet winemakers and chefs before the movie. Special guests are Virginia winemaker Gabrielle Rausse and Tavola Restaurant owner, Michael Keaveny. 

Tickets are $12

Afton Mountain Vineyards

2009 Vintners Reserve Merlot Tasting one day only!

Tuesday April 12th

Barboursville Vineyards

Palladio Cooking class: Seafood

6:30 p.m. Enrollment is limited to 12 and admission is $95

 Friday April 15th TAX Day!

Keswick Vineyards Tax Free Zone zone for the day 🙂

Look for more events the second half of April, this should be a good start for enjoying early Spring in the Virginia vineyards!


 Virginia Wine Lover magazine has announced their First Annual “Best Of” Readers’ Choice Awards.

 One lucky voter will be gifted with a wine weekend getaway.

The polls close on April 15, 2011 so be sure to vote now!


I shall be telling this with a sigh                         
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I–
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference

…Robert Frost

I know this may be one of the most over used quotations, but it fits so perfectly that  I can’t resist.   For some unknown  reason I have procrastinated visiting Delfosse Winery in Nelson County, but after recently running into Yvette Okros, Tasting Room Manager for Delfosse, we decided to make it a priority.  With another winery also in mind, we travelled south on 151, the Rockfish Gap Turnpike,  toward Wintergreen.   We veered off at highway 6  in the direction of Delfosse Winery . Our GPS steered us left onto Old Roberts Mountain Road.  Surely, this wasn’t the way most people visit Delfosse!  Gravel road, rutted in many places and traversing over the crest of a small mountain?  Definitely this was the road less travelled by!

Arriving at our destination, we found a breath-taking Virginia valley flanked by European-style terraced vineyards. We were warmly welcomed by Yvette, who ushered us in and introduced us to the owner, Claude Delfosse.   Yvette arranged a table for us to sample wines and get to know Claude a bit. It was nice to have the opportunity to casually hang out with Claude and ask questions about wine making at our leisure.  

 Claude Delfosse,  a Fulbright Scholar,  decided to “take the road less travelled by”  himself  when he veered away from his professional career of Aeronautical Engineering.  French by birth,  he chose to make the U.S. his home and settle in Virginia .   He was relaxed and pleasant, sipping wine with us and expounding on the attributes of some of his wines. He lights up with a big smile when reflecting on some of his award-winning wines.  I really liked the way Claude named some of  the wines after his family members.  One stand-out wine, Reserve d’ Oriane, was named after his daughter.  A complex blend of Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc with a touch of Viognier and Petit Manseng.  The Merlot was excellent also, but Claude seemed most proud of the 2006 Meritage , a Double Gold Medal winner at the Monticello Wine Cup!  We clearly agreed!  We enjoyed homemade crepes along with our wine for an added treat!

We closed out the day and headed out to explore the grounds. Not the best day, cloudy and overcast before bud break, so no lush vines to photograph. The winery sits at the foot of a hill across from a pond with a quaint bridge for photo ops.  A  generous elegant patio area  expands the dining space outdoors and features  a whimsical  frog sculpture fountain at the center.  This must be a wonderful spot in warm weather and we plan to spend some time here enjoying wine with friends in the Spring and Summer!  

Perched above the pond and winery and just below the Cabernet Sauvignon vineyard is a precious log cabin surrounded by perennial gardens and a flagstone patio. What a heavenly spot for a weekend getaway!  The cabin is perfect for a couple and you can invite friends or host a gathering from this vantage point. During the day, take advantage of the miles of hiking trails surrounding the property.

I can only say that I’m sorry I have missed out on this winery in the past and will rectify that in the future!

I highly recommend the drive south from Charlottesville on 29 with Delfosse as your final destination and enjoy the hospitality of Mr. Delfosse, Yvette and Dave ( our wine server who was knowledgeable and unintimidated while  pouring in front of his employer!).

Welcome to Delfosse!

PVCC Viticulture/Enology Snapshots

A Class That Is Not Over the Hill!
Rausse and Class
Church at Kluge Estate

Nip/Tuck: Grapevine Surgeons, Rausse and Hill


Gabrielle Rausse

 Gabrielle Rausse and Chris Hill, a tag team extraordinaire, taught our  Dormant Vine Pruning class Saturday  at Piedmont Virginia Community College.  Both are experts in the field of viticulture with decades of experience between them. Even though their theories sometimes differed as did their teaching style, their mutual admiration was palpable. They discussed the pros and cons of irrigation and whether to allow the roots to strengthen by reaching  deep into the soil for hydration.  Chris was personable,  very straight forward and hands on, while Gabrielle lapsed into stories of his personal experiences that literally had us rolling!

 I think there is a potential book here, perhaps  Gabrielleisms: Wine and Wisdom by Gabrielle Rausse!…or Gabrielle Walks the Vine!  …but I get to write it!  Listen to Gabrielle explain about growing the best grapes and making wine in Virginia.  It sounds a little quiet in the beginning, but listen carefully to the end; he tells an interesting story about a winemaker at Afton Mountain Vineyards and her excellent results!

In this video clip, Chris demonstrates “vigor” in a grapevine starting from a tiny green shoot!

Grapes are  only produced on one year old wood and pruned leaving two to three buds.  We were introduced to cane pruning and spur pruning, single trunk and two trunks, cordons and buds.

We had an incredibly beautiful day in Virginia, starting off a bit windy and brisk. We walked through vineyards on the Kluge Estate, partly owned by two different banks and marked by pink ribbons.  Sections had been neglected and we were able to see first hand how mismanaged vines look. Poor vines!

Nodes, shoots, spurs and canes were the topics of the day. Loppers and bypass-pruners in hand, we all had an opportunity to put our new limited  knowledge to the test on vines intended for sparkling wine.  Chris and Gabrielle critiqued our work and corrected our mistakes. We were taught about uniformity and different ways of training the vines. All in all, an excellent class!  We learned quickly and did a little pruning at Blenheim Vineyards as well.  Of course, the finale was wine tasting at Blenheim poured by Gabrielle’s son Peter. Finally,  a quick stop at Kluge for a case of Albemarle Simply Red to round out a perfect day!

Reflections of Afton Mountain Vineyards


Brothers Hanging Out


Afton Mountain “Grapes Don’t Grow in Ugly Places”


Rain or shine this is a beautiful spot!
When we lived in Texas, I used to turn off the lights during a nighttime thunderstorm, open the blinds and lay on the floor with my daughter watching the lightning crackle across the darkness.  There was something exciting and yet comforting about being in the safety of our brick walls  anticipating  the next electrifying  spark to light up the room.  Today  it wasn’t lightning but the whipping winds blowing rain sideways off Afton Mountain which colored our afternoon.  Ducking our heads, we raced across the parking lot towards the shelter of Afton Mountain’s  tasting room and a glass of wine.
 I  like wine and  wineries, period,  and I liked this one!  I know when customers are embraced and when they are treated as a necessary nuisance.  In this case I felt we were welcomed into the personal living room of a friend hosting a private party.  It didn’t hurt that Sunday is family day for the owners,  Tony and Elizabeth Smith.  They worked the tasting bar, pouring wine and filling us in about the wines and history of Afton Mountain Vineyards.   Basically, they  have three labels.  I liked their new  logo, but the label for the Festa de Bacco was my favorite.  Bacchus is the Roman god of wine and intoxication and his image in gold is on the bottle.  It is a Tuscan blend of Sangiovese, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Petit Verdot. It was also my favorite of the wines we tasted.
Bottle and glasses in hand, we made our way into the “living room”, cozy yet roomy with the fireplace lending warmth and atmosphere.  Ben and Jacqueline Rullman, of Mountfair Vineyards were whiling away the afternoon hanging out with their fellow wine compadres. I love this wine community in Albemarle County!
 That’s Jacqueline with me on the sofa- she handles marketing and tastings with her husband, Ben at Mountfair.
Special Note: The Smith’s have copyrighted the slogan “Grapes Don’t Grow in Ugly Places” and t-shirts can be purchased in the tasting room.  I gotta have one!  It’s the perfect t-shirt for wine lovers and real estate agents!
I think Part II of this post will be more photos, just can’t do it justice in one posting!
Mark your maps for a visit to Afton Mountain Vineyards next time you’re in our area!  Warm baguettes and brie are available to augment your tasting!

Muffled Grapes?

Driving to  a bloggers  meeting this morning at Cville Sheblogs with my  cell earphone out and the radio on (highly unusual), I picked up the Joe Thomas In the Morning program.  This was very fortuitous!  The subject was part two of the battle over noise between a local land owner and his neighbor, a vineyard owner.  Apparently tension is building a bit and both sides are calling for support from local  friends and non residents alike. Joe was broadcasting the neighbor’s viewpoint after airing Al Schornberg’s side on the previous day. Unfortunately, I missed that one, Darn!  Several bloggers have posted their opinions on the matter, including Cellarblog and MattieRocks who has provided music for some of the wedding events at Keswick.

Al commented on my earlier post with an explanation of the efforts they have made to dissipate the noise level affecting neighboring farms. See his comment on ” Alert! Keswick, We’ve Got Your Back”  post from the other day.He provides a detailed list of the steps taken and I highly recommend reading his comment!

Tomorrow evening should prove interesting, look forward to seeing everyone there!  Albemarle County Board of Supervisors at 6 p.m.

Rainy Sunday at King is a Plus!

King Family UnCorked!

Most of you who’ve visited King Family on the weekend know what to expect! A beautiful vineyard with polo ponies, a lovely outdoor patio and the new brick enclosed fire pit… but crowded with loads of people!  We brought my brother-in-law out to taste wine and pick up the newly released “3”.   I figured it would be packed with visitors, but the weather was in our favor this time and it was only slightly busy.  The tasters dribbled in with the rain and we had one of the most pleasant visits to King Family in a while.  Notice that we are not deterred by crowds, just appreciate an occasional  bit of calm while enjoying our wine. We felt we had the winery to ourselves and it was nice for a change.  A fire burning in the fireplace, umbrellas stashed in the corner and you could actually hear the conversation at the table. Nice!

"3" and Me

We bought a bottle of Cabernet Franc and on the tasting hostess’ recommendation paired it with crackers and a sharp cheese ball. Great tip!  Delicious, definitely try it next time you’re there! I carefully protected my bottle of “3” while touring the barrel room one more time and came away pleased with the time spent at King Family on a rainy March afternoon.

Categories Uncategorized

ALERT! “Noise Ordinance”- Keswick,We’ve Got Your Back!


Keswick Vineyards is doing their best to be a good neighbor!

Come support our neighboring vineyards at the Albemarle County Office Building March 9th at 6 p.m. !

This is a reprint of Keswick’s blog that I felt should be seen by as many people as possible.


A Call to Action

I got into winemaking for many reasons, the love of farming and definitely a love of wine. I get butterflies in my stomach when I see sweeping vineyards and land being farmed to create products that not only bring joy to customers, but also provide a much-needed boost into the economy of the surrounding areas.

It is with this in mind that I request your help regarding a certain matter, that not only affects us at Keswick Vineyards, but also potentially many other wineries in the county of Albemarle in the future. We opened our doors last year for weddings to be hosted on the property knowing that many a bride would want to say their vows surrounded by beautiful vineyards, with gorgeous views of the Southwest Mountains. What better way to start a new chapter in one’s life.

Albemarle County’s noise ordinance leaves much to personal interpretation, and dependent on the surrounding residents may be used to force the wineries to cease holding these events. It is with this in mind that I urge you to read the information regarding this ordinance, and if you feel like we do, to sign the petition as either a resident or non-resident of Albemarle County [there are two specific petitions].

Petition for Albemarle county residents

Petition for non-residents

We are having a public hearing at the county office building on March 9th at 6pm and showing your support  would be greatly appreciated.


Keswick Vineyards