Silverback Distillery Adds a Different Spirit this Christmas in Nelson County

Silverback_Distillery_Spirit_Lineup I Love Christmas! And as excited as I am about spending the holidays with the ones I love, there’s always the question as to what to give or what to do with our out of town guests. Well here’s a a different type of spirit that makes for a fun “get out of the house”  trip and even get some Christmas gifts or  stock up the bar for New Years Eve.Gorilla Juice

Chest thumping enthusiasm is palpable as wine drinkers and beer lovers “fall off the Brew Ridge Trail” and into the new tasting room of Silverback Distillery in Nelson County. Curiosity tempted us away from apple butter festivals and past some of the wineries and breweries dotting 151 in Nelson. Just a short drive south of 250 and Afton is the newest attraction, opened the end of August by partners in life and business, Christine and Denver Riggleman and close friend and operations manager, Blake Rhodes.

DSC04021  The distillery bears Denver’s nickname of Silverback (gorilla of course) because he had grayed prematurely, lifted weights and is actually quite gentle unless provoked.Silverback Distillery

We arrived shortly before closing and within a small window of time that allowed us to connect with the Silverback himself, Denver, for a quick but thorough tour of the distillery. Proud of not only the design and the process thoughtfully chosen by the couple, we were treated to  a brief chemistry lesson in spirit production. Silverback_Distillery_StillThe  two stills used would make Willy Wonka want to switch to Bourbon,Gin and Vodka. Sleek and sparkling in the sunny room, the contraptions rest above a hidden geothermal system for heating and then shock cooling the spirits to achieve the best flavor possible. Teflon lined fireman’s hoses transfer the mash to the stills. The stills are Denver’s million dollar plus babies, don’t quote me on this but I remember the dollar figures astounded me.DSC04022

The motto which reflects their commitment to safety, fun and the environment is


Monkeying AroundI won’t steal their thunder, head to 151 in Nelson and take a tour, there’s an encyclopedia of information about distilling spirits and the bourbon to come at Silverback. You can even  shop for some fun non-alcoholic gift items  for tea-totalers.

Love these Bottles

Hours are:

Monday: 12:30-6
Tuesday: CLOSED
Wednesday & Thursday: 12:30-6
Friday: 12:30-7
Saturday: 11-7
Sunday: 1-6

* Special Note * Closed the same days as ABC stores-early closing on Christmas Eve, Closed Christmas and New Years Day.

Too Busy for Virginia Wine? Grace Estate Winery is a Cause to Pause

Grace_Estate_VinesCool breezes, crisp mountain air, Peach trees and Redbuds blooming, Dogwoods lacing the fringe of new Spring growth and we’re too busy to pause in the moment! One of the perks of living in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains is reveling in the natural beauty that surrounds us, unique to each season. We have celebrations and festivals competing for our time. So much to offer but our schedules demand our attention.


Last weekend, we made an appointment for ourselves…with each other!  Bob and I headed out to take a peek at the most recent winery opening on the Appellation Trail, Grace Estate Winery, neighboring already established Stinson Vineyards and White Hall and just down the road apiece from Mountfair and Glass House wineries. If you judge someone by the company they keep, we have another winner in Western Albemarle County.  Jake Busching, formerly known for bringing attention and awards to Pollak Vineyards, has taken Mount Juliet Farm and Grace Estate to a new height (be sure to check out the silo, speaking of height).  His experience in farming and wine making goes back to Jefferson Vineyards, as well as Keswick and Horton.  The fruit at Mount Juliet will be kept for local use in wine making, thus remaining true to the terroir (still have a hard time saying that word!).


For years, local Crozet and White Hall residents have driven past the mature vineyards at Mount Juliet Farm and now, we have access to enter the property and admire the vines up close.  White varietals are Viognier, Chardonnay, Petit Manseng, Sauvignon Blanc, and Vidal; red varietals are Merlot, Malbec, Petit Verdot, Tannat, Cabernet Franc, and Cabernet Sauvignon.  Personally, I’m looking forward to Pinot Gris which are planned for the future! All of the wines are made from Grace Estate grapes and Jake plans on keeping it that way.

Reflections in the Silo
The winery, otherwise cleverly referred to as the Barnery is rustic and farmish, flanked by a large silo and now furnished with benches for casual reflection and sipping. The wines we tasted were all quite impressive, Bob really liked the Baril which is French for barrel and is a lighter hued Bordeaux blend  of 40% Cabernet Sauvignon, 40% Cabernet Franc and 20% Petit Verdot which belies the complexity and spice fruit flavors. I’m not embarrassed to admit that I still love Chardonnay and the 2011 was creamy with pear over tones  but not oaky.  I think the overall best wine was the 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon and it appeared Jake was pleased with this  result himself. The vintage was excellent and blending 80% Cabernet Sauvignon and 20% Merlot was a masterful combination especially having been aged for 16 months in French Oak. Buy this!
Looking for something to do? Head west out Garth Road and visit Grace Estate and their lovely neighbor, Stinson Vineyards.

Grace Estate Winery Mount Juliet Farm 5273 Mount Juliet Farm Crozet, VA 22932 tel & fax: 434-823-5014 web:

Chris Breiner PVCC Viticulture and Enology Scholarship

Last night family and friends gathered at Horton Vineyards to honor and celebrate the memory of Stone Mountain Vineyards’ winemaker, Chris Breiner. Guests were asked to share a favorite story about Chris and raise a glass to his life. I had met Chris a few times and on my last visit to Stone Mountain Vineyards, chatted with him at length about the direction they were going with on-tap wines. He seemed very proud of this venture and am sorry that his life and enthusiasm were cut so short. The idea of a scholarship to help students of the wine industry is an ideal way to remember him and his contributions to the Virgina wine community.

In memory of Chris, the Virginia wine industry has created a need-based scholarship for students in the Piedmont Virginia Community College Viticulture & Enology Certificate Program.

Chris supported this useful program every year since its launch in 2005, teaching the bottling class at Stone Mountain and helping with the wine marketing class. Make a donation in any amount to the scholarship in his name at this event or online at the PVCC web site at
A friend, Mark Simpson attended and had commented below:
The Hortons certainly paid a fine tribute to Chris. Chris’ family was there as well as many tearful friends. His distributor is donating $20 to the Chris Breiner scholarship @ PVCC for each case some SMV wines sold in March 2012. Other wines will garner $10/case. The scholarship is intended for students seeking a viticulture career and not for those who only want to take one class. If you donate, be sure to indicate on your check or online donation that it is for the “Chris Breiner Scholarship.”

Chris Breiner Stone Mountain Vineyards

RePost from Neil Williamson
Contact: Neil Williamson The Trellis Group 434-962-0847
Winemaker Chris Breiner Remembered
DYKE, VA – Chris Breiner, Winemaker and Managing Partner
at Stone Mountain Vineyards, died on February 14th, 2012. In addition to his work at the winery, he also managed the family law practice in Alexandria. An innovative winemaker with a wry wit, his tireless promotion of quality Virginia Wine led his peers to elect him as Vice President of the Virginia Wineries Association and as past Chairman of the Jeffersonian Grape Growing Society/Monticello Wine Trail. Well respected throughout the wine community, in 2009 he was selected as a Knight in the Brotherhood of the Knights of the Vine.
Dennis Horton, founder of Horton Vineyards and a long time friend said, “Chris was one of the good guys in the Virginia
Wine industry. You knew where you stood with Chris and he always, always, did exactly what he said he would do. I will miss him tremendously.”
In a statement the Breiner family said, “Stone Mountain Vineyards is truly a testament to the vision and hard work Chris, and our late father Al, put into their collective dream. Both men had an abundant love of agriculture and of the land. They saw the vineyards and winery as a perfect vehicle to keep the rural mountain land preserved in productive agricultural production. The family remains committed to this shared family vision. The tasting room will reopen, as scheduled, on March 2nd and regular winery operations will
continue; Chris would have wanted it no other way”. Services and interment will be private.

Early Bird Gets the DuCard

2012 VA Wine Expo Pre-Sale Special!
Planning on attending the Virginia Wine Expo in Richmond on Feb. 24-26? We have a deal for you! We will be offering ALL of our wines (including wines not being tasted at the Expo!) for a special 15% off discount if you order between now and noon on Thursday Feb. 23rd! Minimum purchase is two bottles. You can pick them up at our booth at the Expo and save on any shipping! Wines currently in stock include (see website for details:

–2010 Signature Viognier
–2010 Gibson Hollow White
–2009 Sweet Virginia Vidal Blanc
–2009 Cabernet Franc Vintner’s Reserve
–2009 Popham Run Red (Bordeaux blend)
–2009 Petit Verdot
–2010 Norton

To pre-order, simply email us at with your desired order, name, email address, and phone number and we’ll back with you to confirm your order and get your credit card info. Don’t miss out on this opportunity! Looking forward to seeing you at the Expo! (

By the way, on display (and for sale) in the Tasting Room this month is the beautiful photography of local artisan, Carl Zitzmann ( Check it out!

Congrats to DuCard Vineyards for being a co-winner of the Virginia Green Travel Leader Award! Read about DuCard’s green efforts here (!

Thank you for your interest and support!


Co-Winner: Virginia Green Travel Leader Award

Open Friday – Sunday, plus holiday Mondays, 11 AM – 6 PM. And by appointment. Follow us on

Darden Students Sabering the Wine and Spirits Market

Last Friday I had the opportunity to join the Darden M.B.A. students at a conference organized and offered by the Wine and Cuisine Club. Planting the Seeds of Business presenters were relevant, educational and entertaining.  From the seasoned keynote speaker, Andy Mansinne, President of Aveniu Brands to Jennifer Drapisch of Pernod Ricard, a recent 2010 graduate of Darden, marketing and distribution via the three-tiered system was addressed from all three perspectives.  The three-tier system was set up after the repeal of Prohibition.  The  premise of the system requires  producers to sell only to distributors who then sell to retailers, and then only retailers may sell to consumers.   The wine business seemed to be the most complicated, dealing with regulations changing from state to state.

Incorporating social media (socialnomics) into the sales plan appears to be crucial and now used by 93% of marketers.  You Tube and Facebook lead the way so look for some  fun ads during the Super Bowl.  Jameson 1780 has an excellent program for marketing via Facebook and The Missing Barrel of Jameson.  Fun to play and tag your friends on Facebook. I actually took a break and got hooked by the game, but once I figured out the person who”stole” the barrel, I couldn’t figure out how to enter the answer into the game??  

Barefoot wine has recently gotten the attention of the “millennials” and is taking advantage of the Facebook social phenomenon.  Originally a brand of a couple of nudists, they were bought out by Gallo and retained only a portion of the original name.

We also learned how to “saber” not “savour” a sparkling wine or a Champagne bottle but unfortunately didn’t get a clear photo of it. A great party trick so, in lieu of a photo I have included a You Tube video “How to Saber” so you can impress your friends or your sweetheart for Valentine’s Day.

Notable quotations of the day:

“The way to make a million in the wine business is to start with 5 million.”

“You have to be different…meaningfully different.”
“Wine is very communal.”

“A bottle of wine is intended to be shared-you don’t necessarily share a beer,” (a keg,yes, but not a bottle.)

Good Night Darden and a special thank you to Sara Hester and compadres for an informative, entertaining conference and cocktail party and for inviting me!

Participants included:

Commonwealth Restaurant and Skybar  Richard Averitt, Founder

Devils Backbone Brewing Company

Hayes Humphreys, Chief Operating Officer

E&J Gallo Winery Lee Susen, Marketing Director

General Mills Polly Madsen, Associate Marketing Manager

Pernod Ricard Jennifer Drapisch, Assistant Brand Manager

VinConnect Kevin Sidders, President

Virginia Eagle Distributing Scott Heinz, Chief Operating Officer

Darden Wine and Cuisine Club Hosts 2012 Conference

Conference Site Banner

I have to hand it to the  graduate students at  University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business!  A business conference focusing on wine, food, beer and spirits will be hosted next week by one of the larger student clubs, The Wine and Cuisine Club  This is an annual conference  providing both local and international  information and resources for MBA students with  personal or  professional interests in these industries.  WACC  (clever name)  appears to be a productive wine club, turning a kick back atmosphere for students to socialize and converting it into potential business opportunities. For a limited number of registrants, dinner Thursday evening the 26th, will be at  The Local,  offering networking opportunities for students with sponsors and presenters.  Unfortunately I’ll have to skip the dinner but look forward to learning along with the Darden students at the conference on Friday.

I wonder if Thomas Jefferson knew he was going to be used in marketing endeavors for centuries and that his name would be associated with the birth of wine making in Virginia?  Who knows which graduate student will make their mark on history in the wine or food industries?  For technical accuracy I took this photo in Williamsburg at the Williamsburg Farmers Market after noticing a clever marketing ploy by Betsy’s Baked Goods!  Sorry, I digress…

Keynote speaker will be Andy Mansinne, President of Aveniu Brands, a company that specializes in bringing to the United States of America distinctive brands  from some of the world´s foremost production regions.  They are the exclusive U.S. marketer for about 30 wine and spirits brands from eight different countries.

After the presentation guest will proceed to breakout sessions with the following speakers:

Commonwealth Restaurant and Skybar 
Richard Averitt, Founder

Devils Backbone Brewing Company

Hayes Humphreys, Chief Operating Officer

E&J Gallo Winery
Lee Susen, Marketing Director

General Mills
Polly Madsen, Associate Marketing Manager

Pernod Ricard
Jennifer Drapisch, Assistant Brand Manager

Kevin Sidders, President

Virginia Eagle Distributing 
Scott Heinz, Chief Operating Officer

Cheers to  Sara Hester!

Vice President, Darden’s Wine and Cuisine Club Conference  MBA Candidate, Class of 2012 | Darden Graduate School of Business | University of Virginia  and all the people who were involved in coordinating this event!

Virginia Wine Highlights of 2011, Optimism for 2012

 Wine Enthusiast Magazine has named Virginia as one of the 10 best wine travel destinations for 2012. The article, listed online and in the February issue of Wine Enthusiast Magazine, highlights Virginia as one of only three domestic destinations to make the list of wine regions that are ideal for wine lovers to visit in 2012. Virginia was named along with regions in Italy, New Zealand, Spain, Hungary, Germany, France, Chile and two regions in California. The article cites Virginia’s rich history, natural beauty and wine makers as some of the many reasons why Virginia is a hot wine travel destination. This article just out on Virginia.Gov!

2011 proved to be an exciting year for Charlottesville and the wine industry throughout the Commonwealth of Virginia.

The North American Wine Bloggers Conference made their way to the East Coast bringing along international publicity for Virginia wines. Over 300 wine bloggers descended on Charlottesville visiting local wineries, dining on the lawn at Monticello and tasting food pairings along Main Street and  the Downtown Pedestrian Mall.  Governor McDonnell and First Lady Maureen have promoted our vineyards and wineries enthusiastically.  First Lady Maureen McDonnell has  incorporated wine and wine tourism promotions into her First Lady Initiative Team Effort or FLITE. More domestic and international promotions are planned for 2012.

Having only recently started blogging about wines, I was thrilled to sip alongside world-wide experts at the wining/dining table. Despite intense heat, Virginia wines showed well and local wine-makers relished the opportunity to present their best.  Almost simultaneously, Charlottesville was thrust into the limelight by the demise of the Kluge Estate and the “intervention” of consummate real estate investor, Donald Trump. Thus, the new Trump Winery.

Following a year hit by weather extremes, please read the following excerpt from Stephen Barnard’s blog post Mother Nature Ruled 2011 for Keswick Vineyards which illustrates 2011 better than I ever could.

After the 2010 vintage in Virginia [arguably the best in recent times], the 2011 growing season was also going to struggle to reach the lofty standards of its predecessor. To say that 2011 failed miserably, would be similar to saying that Drew Brees had an okay year [this makes sense if you know that he broke Dan Marino’s all time passing yards in a single season, 5084 set in 1984 when Marino played for the Miami Dolphins].

Mother Nature ruled this year and her awesome power was on display more times than anyone of us would wish for. From a devastating earthquake in New Zealand to the horrific Tsunami in Japan, 2011 was littered with catastrophic natural disasters. Closer to home, Tuscaloosa was hit hard by the April 27th Tornado, Virginia experienced a 5.8 magnitude earthquake on August 23rd, quickly followed by the August 27th appearance of hurricane Irene. 2011 was certainly unforgettable, but for all the wrong reasons.

All in all though, I think we manged to dodge a bullet, in that it would have been far corse than what it was. I am thankful for having some experience in Virginia and after working the 2003 harvest, I was way more prepared this time round. I can only shudder and imagine what would have happened had this been my first vintage in Virginia. Overall I give the vintage a B+, the wines are developing character and should be fantastic. Although lighter in style than 2010, these are vibrant wines and will no doubt bring pleasure to many a wine drinker.

I love the end of his blog post extolling the best blend ever, he and wife Kat’s baby girl, Aria, born in December.  A 50% blend of each parent, expecting to take 80 years to mature! 

 After all, it was a very good year.

My friends at Drs. Viglione, Haines and Bagheri selected a new winery-Pippin Hill,  to kick off their new name, Charlottesville Dental Health Partners. A fun time for all who could participate, it was the unveiling of their philosophy, Our Focus is On You. Toasting a relationship between health and dental health, dentists partnering with their patients for total body health.

I had the pleasure of visiting many wineries in Virginia this year and even some in England.  Lots of fun with family and friends. The potential for the 2012 Virginia wine industry  is exciting and I look forward to the progress of our friends and encourage the support of  “Drink Local”!  I think I made that up?

Cheers from Bob and Tricia!

I Spy…Dreaming Tree Wine

Dreaming Tree Wine for Sale in Charlottesville
Only 14.99 at Target

I’m expecting some Dreaming Tree wine any day delivered to my doorstep.  Just like a little child waits for a birthday card, a valentine or  a toy ordered out of a catalog.  In the meantime, I headed off to pick up cold medicine and herbal tea  trying to avoid an ensuing cold.  Lo and behold, sidestepping down the wine aisle I fortuitously stumbled upon the Dreaming Tree Wine!  Yes, TARGET has the Chardonnay  and the Cabernet Sauvignon. So, if you’re out shopping and want a taste of something a part of Dave Matthews, try your local Target store! Look for future reviews of the wine when I feel better and can actually taste and smell.

Trump Buys Kluge Estate and Winery

Cville gets “Trumped”

For over 200 years,  Charlottesville, Virginia’s claim to fame has been the home of Thomas Jefferson,  3rd President of the United States and co-author of the Declaration of Independence. Henceforth, another high-profile name will be associated with Charlottesville. Today, Donald  “The Donald”  Trump  achieved quite a coup in purchasing over 647 acres in the piedmont wine country of Virginia for a mere 6.2 million dollars.

Valued at over 28 million dollars, the largest tract included 647+/- acre tract of  planted vines, event pavilion, large office barn, a carriage museum, and three cottages ideal for staff or guest accommodations. 60+/- acres of clear land that has ideal slope and elevation for future planting.  Tract 3,  a 131.7+/- acres tract contains the original vineyard as well as the winery production building, 2 2BD/1BA cottages, a barrel cave that can hold approximately 500 barrels, and a modular office. 

J.P. King Auction Company, Inc., the oldest real estate auction company in the United States conducted the auction. A video of the Kluge Estate and Winery

offers the public a glimpse of the exquisite property that fell under the same circumstances encountered by many during these tough economic times.  Donald Trump was poised and ready to capitalize on an incredible investment opportunity… and he succeeded.
During  a recent PVCC viticulture class, I had the chance to prune some vines under the tutelage of Chris Hill and Gabrielle Rausse. I wonder if Mr. Trump will ever invite me over?  That might have been my first and last tour of the Kluge vineyard.
Locals can only speculate what plans Trump has for Kluge. Will his name be the new label? Will it be Gold??   Highly likely considering past history.  One thing is certain, Virginia’s wine country and Charlottesville will gain more international attention with the Trump branding.

Church on Kluge Estate

 We are an understated area, elegant and quiet, will Charlottesville ever be the same?