Intrigued by numerous mentions on Twitter about the recently opened winery in the shadow of Old Rag Mountain, we set out on a leisurely Saturday afternoon drive to investigate DuCard Vineyards. Heading north from Charlottesville we turned left from 29 North in Madison onto Rt.231 towards the Town of Etlan. For some strange reason, I thought it was closer to Greene County and thought we had missed the turn to Rt.643. Actually, we really didn’t care! We were enjoying the snow dusted Blue Ridge Mountains and crossing rivers resembling film locations from A River Runs Through It.
The approach to the winery is down Gibson Hollow Lane past impressively large rock outcroppings and on the left a noticeably different vineyard trellis system. Light snow flurries and flirtatious peeks of sunshine created a soft pleasant backdrop to the winery. We were welcomed into the tasting room by a crackling fire in the fireplace surrounded by leather upholstered furniture and a warm smile from Marty Mitchell, the tasting room manager. Marty is very knowledgeable about wines, having completed the certification courses in Oenology and Viticulture offered at Piedmont Virginia Community College in Charlottesville. Fortunately for us it was a slow January afternoon at DuCard, providing us the undivided attention of Marty and the tasting hostess, Heather Gerry.
My first question regarded the trellis system employed at DuCard. Marty informed us the system is known as a modified Lyre System and it appears very much like rows of football goal posts!
This allows for more sunlight on the grapes and better air flow to discourage diseases. It’s even more than that but I don’t have a degree in viticulture and won’t pretend that I do. Suffice it to say, it is working and the grapes have been used to create award winning wines for other wineries in the past.
The next question was about the history behind DuCard. Having formerly owned the property as a weekend getaway the owners purchased the adjoining old apple orchard to start growing grapes. Several years later, owner Scott Eliff is now involved in the process of winemaking, using the facilities at Rappahannock Cellars. The new label is attractive and minimalistic much like the winery itself. A commitment to sustainability is exhibited in the reclaimed barn wood used in the flooring and wine tasting bar, solar panels for electricity and using wine bottles that are about 20% lighter than average, requiring less fuel for shipping.
An excellent blog post was done this summer by Frank Morgan, Drink What You Like. His interview with Scott was so well done that I would like to include it and won’t attempt to duplicate it.
We tasted the Signature Viognier 2009, the Gibson Hollow Viognier 2009, Popham Run Bordeaux Blend 2008 and the Virginia Native Norton 2008. All were good but the Gibson Hollow Viognier was my favorite of the whites with peach and honeysuckle on the nose. The Bordeaux would be excellent with grilled meats and my husband really liked the Norton which we tasted with local chocolates.
Future events are planned including a Spring festival and cooking classes with Cindy Shepard!
Definitely place this winery/vineyard on your list as a place to visit and one to watch for expansion in the future! We will definitely return and recommend it especially when you’re in the area of Graves Mountain Lodge or Rappahannock Cellars!