The rolling hills of the Piedmont and the history of Montpelier make this one of the more idyllic settings for showcasing our local wineries. I’ve been there in all kinds of weather, but this is a must for history buffs, wine lovers and gardening enthusiasts. This event is well organized and traffic flow is smooth. Wear your Wellies or rain boots (just in case) since the ground may be a bit mushy after all of our recent rain. Bring some camp chairs, you’ll want to be able to sit back a bit after walking the gardens and enjoy a nice Viognier or Cabernet Franc. For hikers, save your wine for the end of the day and head out on the Montpelier-Grelen Trail, MontpelierTrails, a 3.9 mile loop with 9 miles of trails to explore. The Governor designated this trail a “Virginia Treasure” and is a fun way to explore the historical grounds, mountain views and it links to the Grelen Nursery on the Grelen Farm. Grelen is another find and worthy of a separate blog post, family oriented, great gift shop and in season berry picking, plus a sand box for the little ones!
Don’t miss visiting the Mansion at James Madison’s Montpelier, but allow extra time! Mansion tour tickets will be discounted for festival attendees. Exchange Café, featuring BBQ Exchange barbecue, is available for lunches! Wineries that are featured are, of course, Barboursville and Horton Vineyards, as well as Cross Keys Vineyard, Well Hung Vineyard, Democracy Vineyard, Reynard Florence Vineyard, Delfosse Vineyards & Winery, Lazy Days Winery, Villa Appalachia, Kilaurwen Winery, Mattaponi Winery, Prince Michel Vineyard & Winery, Peaks of Otter Winery, Lake Anna Winery, Jefferson Vineyards, Rockbridge Vineyard (blog post waiting in the wings) and Stone Mountain Vineyards plus even more!
Visions of warm sunny days, leisurely two hour lunches drawn out with conversation, an aproned waiter pouring bubbles into your champagne glass and soft music beckon us back to the Old Country. If you’re like most wine lovers from the United States, it is a dream to visit the birthplace of wine making, Europe. France, Italy and Spain are the most sought after destinations, followed by Germany, Portugal and Greece.
Thomas Jefferson was just so inspired during his travels to France, thus beginning the New World efforts of cultivating grapes to make wine. He started his vines on the slopes of Monticello, his mountain top home, overlooking Charlottesville, Virginia. Richard Leahy has written a wonderful book, Beyond Jefferson’s Vines, about the history of this endeavor and the more recent explosion of vineyards in Virginia. I especially like the praise offered by John Hagarty, www.Hagarty-on-Wine.com, “Richard Leahy has woven a rich tapestry of Virginia’s wineries and winemakers. If Jefferson could peruse this book a satisfied smile would surely grace his countenance because his dream of quality Virginia wine has been fulfilled. This volume will be referenced often for those seeking to better understand the Old Dominion’s wine ascendency. A riveting and rewarding read.”
Recently, I travelled “across the pond” in the company of my mother, to visit my sister currently living in Provence. The movie, A Good Year, with Russell Crowe and Marion Cotillard, , is one of my favorite movies and the film location of Bonnieux, Vaucluse, France was just a little southeast of Carpentras, where we made our home base. Maison Trevier, the delightful maison we stayed in, is within the walled village of Carpentras, around the corner from a wonderful fromagerie, La Fromagerie du Comtat. Grab a baguette, some home made fig preserves, olives and truffles from the market and you are in heaven. As I walked into the jardin of Gina Trevier, owner of Maison Trevier, I could almost hear the music from the soundtrack from A Good Year 🙂
I was accustomed to our lovely tasting rooms at the wineries in Virginia. Many of which supplement the costly production of wine on the east coast by building fabulous event sites for weddings and celebrations. Not all are like Pippin Hill Farm, Veritas, King Family Vineyards or Early Mountain Vineyards with their beautifully appointed celebration halls (which are quite gorgeous!) many are smaller, more intimate and not quite as opulent. Afton Mountain Vineyards has a wonderful outdoor covered space, complete with blankets and space heaters to enjoy the view even when it’s cold. They have a perfect spot with a contemporary arbor for weddings plus one of the coziest tasting rooms. See my post http://cvilleuncorked.com/2011/10/15/afton-mountain-vineyards-revisited/ for more about Afton Mountain.
Each winery around the Charlottesville area has it’s own personality. Some are dog friendly like Keswick with it’s Yappy Hours on Sundays but also known for fabulous weddings with a plantation feel that Scarlett O’Hara would have loved. Some are tropical and create gourmet chocolates like Glass House Winery and seating under the glass conservatory jungle of banana trees. Pollak Vineyards sits below the mountain overlooking a pond and has offered fly fishing lessons in the past. Mountfair does weddings on a smaller scale and many of the wineries offer live music on weekends. Veritas has their Starry Nights, outdoor fire pits and a bandstand. King Family Vineyards hosts Polo matches and an annual benefit for breast cancer, the Pink Ribbon Polo Classic coming up on June 20th, 2014. None of this takes away from the fact that Virginia is producing award winning wines that rival the wines of the Old Country. Southern hospitality abounds and you won’t be disappointed in visiting a tasting room in Virginia.
By contrast, the wineries and tasting rooms we visited in France were small, most do not charge a tasting fee and can limit you to three tastings, unlike Barboursville Winery (with it’s 5 Star Dining at Palladio) or Horton Vineyards where you taste quite a large selection. Not to be outdone by the ruins at Chateauneuf du Pape, Barboursville has their own ruins of Governor Barbours home, designed by Thomas Jefferson himself. In Chateauneuf, you can taste in a Cave, a small room under ground where you may taste from several different wineries or in the main tasting room for Chateauneuf du Pape that even sells souvenirs. The French term for tasting is “degustation” so look for a sign that includes the term. ‘En vente directe‘ indicates that they have direct sales and “vin a’ emporter” means they sell wine that you can take with you.
In Gigondas, my favorite village of the trip, we visited a more contemporary tasting room with very small bottles in a test tube style presentation, where you may taste many vintages and some world class wines. It was a bit like stepping up to the counter in a store than tasting at a bar, but they had an amazing selection of wines.
The smallest winery we visited was Clos de Trias in Le Barroux and the winemaker’s home really did remind you of A Good Year, family owned and operated, this winery is one of the few 100% organic, biodynamic wineries in the world. With the family Great Dane, Tauro, sneaking in to watch us barrel taste, it was the best wine tasting on our trip. The wines were excellent and we had a wonderful tour by Paige Carnwath and my sister, both who’ve bottled, pumped, picked and tasted for the wine maker, Evan Bakke.
If you want to taste wine and make an effort to converse about your tasting in France, explore this link for French wine tasting terms. It’s like the old adage, when in Rome…
Whether you venture out to wineries in France or Virginia, the wine community is a big family, facing the same obstacles of weather, and uniting to support each other. Both countries appreciate wine from bud break or bud burst to the final product, so go, enjoy and savor the experience wherever grapes are grown.
Cool 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.
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.
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 Vineyardsin 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!
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 www.pvcc.edu/giving_to_pvcc/.
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.”
We are anticipating an absolutely incredible afternoon tomorrow with crisp Fall weather and even a little frost on the pumpkin tonight! Texas Rangers are playing tonight, trying to beat the Yankees for their first ever entry into the World series! What a Weekend! If you haven’t already made plans for October 23rd and 24th, try to come out to Orange for The Pick of the Piedmont Fall Wine Festival! I’m glad our friends invited us to this event!
Tickets are available online and are $20.00 and $5.00 for designated drivers and youths 13-20. Wine cooking demonstrations, arts & crafts booths plus live entertainment, hours are from 11:00 a.m. until 5:00 p.m.