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.

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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!).

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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.
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Grace Estate Winery Mount Juliet Farm 5273 Mount Juliet Farm Crozet, VA 22932 tel & fax: 434-823-5014 web: http://www.graceestatewinery.com

Virginia Wine Lover Magazine Favorite Tasting Room Poll

If you haven’t subscribed to Virginia Wine Lover Magazine, the holidays are a great time to sign up for this publication. It offers wine news, gift ideas, events and information about local wineries to share with your holiday guests.

According to Virginia Wine Lover , the results are in from the  September poll asking readers to vote for their Favorite Virginia Winery Tasting Room.  Some 3,000 responses accounted for the top 25 winners selected from Virginia’s 220 wineries with tasting rooms. Selections were made on the basis of Friendliness of Staff (39%), Attractiveness of Location (37%), Staff’s Knowledge of Wine (19%), Proximity (3%) and Price of Tasting (2%). Several of the wineries that are local to our Charlottesville area made the list.

Cooper Vineyards in Louisa County, midway between C-ville and Richmond, took top honors as favorite tasting room. Perfect! Planning our first trip there this weekend which also coincides with their Holiday Open House ( free tastings Sat. & Sun. 1-5).  Many of you may already be familiar with Cooper Vineyards.They were selected for the Cooper staff friendliness, the architectural design of the tasting room and for their fine wines. Cooper Vineyards recently earned the coveted LEED Platinum certification( the highest standard) for excellence in “Green” building technology. They have one many awards already and their Noche dessert wine is extremely popular.  Made with Norton grapes and infused with chocolate, Noche is a versatile wine. According to Cooper Vineyards, it has hints of black cherry and raspberry complement rich aromas of cocoa with a chocolate ganache finish. Great for sipping, drizzled as a chocolate sauce over ice cream or combined with nutella for a chocolate fondue. This wine is definitely on my shopping list for Thanksgiving. These recipes can be found on their website or on VWL’s site.  

2nd place honors for best tasting room went to Early Mountain Vineyards.  Agreed!  This winery is a very popular spot, augmented with a most hospitable tasting room staff, offering select wines from the Commonwealth and an attention to detail to create a most enjoyable wine tasting experience. Located in southern Madison County, EMV has already established themselves as a TGIF spot and situated conveniently between NoVA and Charlottesville, a premier wine tasting destination. The event facility rivals Pippin Hill for country elegance and an exquisite wedding venue.

Prince Michel nabbed the 4th favorite tasting room for its Madison County location. Prince Michel was chosen as the exclusive winery to produce the official 250thanniversary commemorative wine for this year-long celebration. The  two wines chosen to pay tribute to this historic occasion are Prince  Michel’s award winning Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon. Both wines are  made from grapes grown in the Monticello appellation of Virginia.  Embellished with the custom designed commemorative label, these wines  will be available in over 200 locations around the area. They will also  be available April 21 for tasting and purchase at the First Annual  Monticello Wine Festival at the pavilion on Charlottesville’s downtown  mall. Prince Michel also has a tasting room on Carter’s Mountain with beautiful vistas over  Charlottesville extending down to Nelson County.

Barboursville Vineyards,  Glass House Winery,  Keswick Vineyards, Horton Vineyards, Pippin Hill Farm & Vineyards and  Pollak Vineyards made the top 20 tasting rooms in Virginia.  Each winery is unique in its own right offering a little something different from the others. Barboursville for its history, longevity, and 5 star restaurant, Palladio, serving award-winning wines like Octagon and Nebbiolo. Glass House lends an atmosphere of the tropics with its glass conservatory and warm welcoming tasting room staff.  Top that off with Michelle Sanders’ gourmet chocolates and you could wrap up Christmas gifts right there.  Keswick Vineyards is a cozy tasting room in the heart of hunt country with a beautiful backdrop of historic plantations. With this many delightful wineries to choose from, it’s no wonder Charlottesville has become such a great weekend destination. I think you’ll need more than a couple of weekends to get a real taste of Thomas Jefferson’s wine country.

As a real estate agent, I’m finding more and more people choosing the Charlottesville area as their home. Parents who have adult children graduating from the University of Virginia are building homes here after becoming acquainted with all Central Virginia has to offer. The wine industry, education, the arts, temperate climate, health care and more are inspiring weekend visitors to purchase second homes within driving distance from New York City, Philadelphia, Baltimore and Washington, D.C. If you’re interested in viewing homes for sale in the area, please call or email to schedule a visit. We’d love to welcome you to Charlottesville!

 

Trump Winery Open for Business!

Tuesday, October 4th, heralds the grand opening (or re-0pening) of the former Kluge Estate Winery  in Albemarle County, Virginia under a new name,  (can you guess it?)  Trump Winery.  Donald Trump’s son, Eric Trump is President  and Patricia Kluge and her husband William Moses will serve as Vice Presidents of the winery.  Attending the celebration were the aforementioned, as well as Governor Bob McDonnell. The Governor  has played a key role in promoting Virginia wines in the United States as well as Europe and soon will be encouraging business with Israel. According to Todd Haymore,  Secretary of Agriculture and Forestry,  McDonnell and Virginia’s first lady,  Maureen McDonnell are credited  with helping boost Virginia’s wine sales.  The McDonnell administration  passed a program giving tax credits to individuals establishing or expanding wineries and vineyards in the Commonwealth.

The media were present to photograph, video and ask questions of Donald Trump, and I  found him to be just like he is on television-assertive and gregarious, but better looking in person!  There is no question that Trump knows how to deal with the media.  When asked by  reporters why Donald could make this venture successful when Patricia Kluge could not, he came to her defense in typical “Trumpian” manner and explained that he had the advantage of not having a mortgage! Touche! Another question regarded the intentions of the real estate aspect of his investment . 

Mr. Trump  said  he planned to keep the property “high-end”.  When a reporter from The Hook asked about Albemarle House, Donald Trump tossed the question back and asked him if he would want to buy such a big house on such little property! We know who owns the surrounding estate!   He is still in the market for Albemarle House but feels the bank  has it valued too high. 

 

 
 

 After answering several questions, the baton was then passed to his son for details about the winery itself.    Patricia Kluge joined Eric at the microphone and remarked on her role in the business.  Geraldine Fabrikant, a senior writer for Business Day at The New York Times, interviewed  Patricia Kluge  recently and found her to be, not surprisingly, quite resilient and up to the task of re-establishing herself in the wine industry. Subsequently, Eric Trump stepped aside allowing Gov. McDonnell  to praise the wine industry in Virginia.

Ultimately, Donald and Eric  Trump and Patricia Kluge  plan to expand the vineyards and employ new marketing ideas to the wines and their labels.  They refused to elaborate and left it as a surprise for wine lovers.  Additionally, Eric mentioned the potential for  “hundreds” of jobs associated with the growth of the winery. 

No matter what locals think, the Trump name creates fervor and  excitement in a realtively sedate area of Virginia. I know it  certainly was fun for me to sit in the Trump   helicopter even though I couldn’t wrangle a ride out of the pilot!  The pilot  did however mention that he loved  flying over our  scenic Virginia wine country!  Planning a trip to Charlottesville?  A must-do after visiting  Monicello, home of Thomas Jefferson,  is  the new  Trump Winery and the neighboring  vineyards  owned by Dave Matthews,  Blenheim Winery!

Cheers to Good Taste at Pippin Hill Farm & Vineyards

In the previous post I spent much of the focus on the surroundings,  but very little attention to the experience at Pippin Hill Farm & Vineyards.  When we arrived, the final tear down and post wedding reception clean up was  in progress.  It was actually an opportunity to get a glimpse at the attention to detail offered at Pippin Hill.  We passed through the Granary in the direction of  the Tasting Room and spied a table of leftover  floral arrangements  by  Pat’s Floral Designs, lovely mini garden urns of hydrangeas, berries and David Austin roses. One of the gentleman offered us some of the flowers and we selected a beautiful apricot rose and strolled out to the veranda.

Our visit was at a leisurely pace, encouraged to linger and savour the experience.  Mariah, one of the excellent tasting hostesses, greeted us and took the initiative to set up outdoor seating for us, pulling a low table to the center and arranging chairs for conversation.  She obliged us with a wine tasting outside and brought each wine out in adorable hand crafted  carafes!  I wanted to take one home and wondered if they would be available for guests to purchase in the future.

I’m afraid we enjoyed the wine and food pairings so much that we weren’t quite attentive to the description of each wine. The tastings are separated into whites and reds, each flight 5 dollars per person. The  chardonnay was really nice, not too oaky, fermented partially in steel and new french oak barrels.  We chose two different tapas style pairings, one of roasted garlic and lemon hummus, crusty bread and marinated olives.  The other appetizers paired well with the red wines, a charcuterie platter of dry cured salami, Kite’s country ham, La Quercia prosciutto picante with bread from the wood burning oven sweet spiced pecans and marinated olives. 

 Later, we were treated to a surprise from the chef, a plate of Oysters Rockefeller.  I can really get used to this lifestyle!  Of the red wines we tasted, the Winemakers Select Red was my favorite, a blend of Cabernet Franc, Merlot and Chambourcin.  Some liked the 2008 Shaps Petit Verdot with spicy and bold, with deep crimson color.

Happy Father’s Day to my sweet husband of 29 years!  He is very indulgent taking me to yet another winery on Father’s Day and so is Brian, our youngest son, by hanging out with us! Needless to say, they are my usual partners in crime along with Carolina, bride- to-be!

During our tasting the afternoon humidity became a touch sweltering and we moved indoors,… ahh, nice and cool inside.  The vantage point here was just as well thought out, with windows framing the patio and the wood burning fireplace centering the room.  Tables, sofas, and seating were comfortable and I believe Architectural Digest would do well to write about this place! Can you tell I liked it?

Get an “Official” Taste of Spring on The Appellation Trail

 Albemarle County is catching on fast! I try to arrange self-guided wine tours for friends and clients with location and proximity in mind.  Now, the newly formed  Appellation Trail has done just that!   By organizing a mapped tour of four ( soon to be five wineries ) a logical sequence of wine tastings is simplified for tourists and locals.  Loudoun County has a similar set up for 27 wineries broken down into “clusters” for easy touring.  Wikipedia describes an appellation as a legally defined and protected geographic indication used to identify where grapes are grown.  It is also defined as a geographical name (as of a region, village, or vineyard) under which a winegrower is authorized to identify and market wine according to Merriam-Webster Dictionary.

Playing off of the name of the nearby Appalachian Trail,  the  “AT”  is a unique wine route that connects five artisanal wineries in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains:  White Hall Vineyards,  Mountfair Vineyards,  Glass House Winery,  Stinson Vineyards & Moss Vineyards (opening 2012).

  This Saturday April 16th  is the celebration of the” official opening” of  The Appellation Trail!

Spring is the Time for Wine!

                                           Appellation Trail Grand Opening Winery Events on April 16th:

 White Hall Vineyards:

Vertical tasting of  2006, 2007, 2008 & 2009 Petit Verdot,  paired with cheese (12:00 to 3:00pm)

 Mountfair Vineyards:

Pre-Release Tasting of the 2009 Engagement Blend with live music!

 Be sure to stop by  &  join them on the patio for a delicious glass of wine while taking in the beautiful views & the sweet tunes of  THE LOST SOULS!

 

 

 Glass House Winery:

Tank tasting of 2010 Viognier with Live music — The Stoned Masons (3:15 to 5:45pm)

 Stinson Vineyards

 Winery Preview Opening featuring Gryffon’s Aerie meats & mini-burgers.  Preview four of their seven wines!  The 2010 Sugar Hollow White, Sauvignon Blanc, Rosé, and Sugar Hollow Red will all be available to taste and purchase.  Additionally, they will be featuring Gryffon’s Aerie meat and miniburgers – stock up on pasture-raised, heritage beef, pork, and sausage!

 

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.

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.

Kindly

Keswick Vineyards

   

The House That Came With A Vineyard…

Accidentally but  purposefully,  I stumbled upon Stinson Vineyards!  Scheduled for a wine blending class taught by Matthieu Finot (love how the French spell Matthew!) and hosted by Stinson Vineyards, I drove towards White Hall in western Albemarle County.  I am a local realtor and know my way around the area quite well and had never even  heard of this vineyard!  We literally drove past it 3 times, before noticing the parking area between the Piedmont House and the newly transformed garage addition tasting room.  I actually asked for directions at the Piedmont Store at the corner of  810 & Sugar Hollow Road and was sent off in the opposite direction.  Surprisingly, it is located just past the store on the right, practically a stones throw away!  Recently,  Cathy Harding  had  written an in-depth article about it in Cville magazine.  She is (and should have been sooner)  now on my list of  absolute ” must reads”.    At this point I decided we need to get the word out about this up and coming winery.

Finally inside the tasting room,  I explained my difficulty in locating the winery.  I was smilingly informed by  Scott Stinson, owner/renovator/architect,  that if I had  just asked for him they would have directed me there. Well! If that’s not country living with lifelong locals! Ask them for directions and the ironic typical  response is, “You remember where the old Gentry place used to be…”!  If you knew all that you wouldn’t be asking for directions!  Sorry,  I digress…

The Vineyard

Stinson Vineyards, as described on their website,  is now on its way to becoming an environmentally sustainable, family run micro-vineyard. Piedmont House, the main house is  in White Hall, Virginia, a tiny country town with panoramic views of the Blue Ridge Mountains.  Built in 1796, it was expanded to the current square footage in the 1840s.  Apparently,  rumor circulated  that General “Stonewall” Jackson occupied the home  during his Valley Campaign of 1862.  The Stinsons purchased  adjoining acreage to start their new five acre vineyard for a grand total of twelve acres. The original,  mostly Cabernet Sauvignon vines from the 1970’s on the property were sadly neglected  and have been  undergoing restoration, hence the need for newer healthier vines.  The Stinson’s plan to open the winery to the public June 16th and celebrate their grand opening on the 4th of July of this year.  Stinson,  Mountfair, White Hall, Glass House and soon to be winery, Moss  will combine to create The Appellation Trail, the newest  wine trail in the northwestern sector of Albemarle County.

The Class

This was my first class through PVCC towards a certificate in oenolgy and viticulture and was it ever fun! Several  class members hailed from Northern Virginia and a few are in the process of opening their own wineries with vineyards already in production. Dennis Vrooman, a veterinarian in Virginia Beach,  Christine Wells Vrooman and their son have a vineyard in Amherst, named Ankida Ridge Vineyard,  with their own winery soon to open!

M. Finot discussing our amateur wine blending efforts

Matthieu Finot, winemaker for King Family, led our class. He is serious about his vocation but had a good sense of humor in dealing with some of us not  as experienced oenophiles!  Many of the students were  already acquainted from previous classes and quite knowledgeable about wines which  created a pleasant, relaxed atmosphere.

 

Rachel Stinson, Director of Operations, helped facilitate our class. She also happens to be Scott Stinson’s  daughter. He defers to her readily and has the utmost confidence in her abilities.

Rachel Stinson tasting Chardonnay prior to blending

She is an asset to the operation and an excellent ambassador for the family venture. Rachel is working alongside Matthieu learning about the entire wine making process.  She is also tech savvy and I believe is responsible for their blog and social media.  We enjoyed having her and Nathan Vrooman on our wine blending team! Look for good things to come from one of the newest wineries in our state of Virginia! I look forward to watching their progress and tasting their future harvest!