Family outings with our son Brian and his bride to be, Carolina, are the best! Always game for scoping out a new winery, we headed in the direction of Kluge Winery to pick up more of the 2007 Albemarle Simply Red. The sun had just peeked out after a rather gloomy Sunday morning and we were ripe to enjoy a little fresh April breeze and warm sunshine. In a recent church sermon, ( it was Sunday after all!) we learned that direction not intention determines our destination! Cruising down 53 past historic Monticello, Jefferson Vineyards appeared ahead on our right and with that, our destination veered to the Jefferson Tasting Room! Side note, we did make it to Kluge eventually and a quick stop at Blenheim as well.
We were quite familiar with Jefferson wines but always held the notion that this particular winery was a bit more of a tourist trap then a local attraction. Nice to be proven wrong, it turned out to be a very pleasant experience and in retrospect are glad we hijacked ourselves off our original route. If you’ve read any other posts you’ll notice I’m a bit spontaneous when it comes to winery visits.
To the right side of the parking area are old wine barrels for sale to recycle rainwater, cool idea! Add that want to Honey! I want a Vineyard! Next to the rain barrels were even larger wine barrels. Brian, anticipating his upcoming wedding festivities was attracted to the super sized wine barrels and attempted a pre-tasting! Not really! He hammed it up for the camera!
A shaded deck is positioned just in front of the door to the tasting room. Lacks a little in curb appeal but a nice area to sit outside; I think the best views are from the meadow facing the mountains and that site could be capitalized on more. They have placed a few Adirondack chairs with small tables to rest your wine bottle and glasses. Nice touch! I would recommend tightening the bolts a little or sturdier furniture, they’re a bit light weight compared to other chairs of similar style. All it takes is a bigger budget! or maybe a smaller…! A lovely flagstone patio would be nice and visible from the scenic highway, beckoning to the multitude of tourists who visit Monticello and Ashlawn daily.
Invited inside by a couple of engaging tasting hosts, forgive me I can’t recall the gentemen’s names, we embarked on tasting award-winning wines envisioned long ago by Thomas Jefferson. Several visitors passed through during our tasting. They were given directions, information and local trivia by the hosts. We enjoyed their personal stories about the wines and their favorite food pairings. Such hospitality, Another nice touch!
Tastings are $10, slightly higher than most of the local wineries but includes a Riedel wine glass. Nicest touch of all!! I’ve been in wineries in the Willamette Valley that offer the same style of Riedel glassware, each engraved with their logo. A classic idea which enhances the overall experience of the quality, color and especially the bouquet of the vintage. Coincidentally, we were consulted about offering engraved glasses at Jefferson. Of course, we thought it an excellent idea as a keepsake. I use my souvenir glasses for sipping by the firepit, no tears if the glass doesn’t return to the cabinet! In this case, the glass stays indoors. We first tasted the whites, then reds and finished with the semi dry whites, the Vin Blanc was Carolina’s favorite ( as marked on the tasting notes)! Carolina draws hearts and stars (which fit her personality) on her tasting notes and Brian draws emotional faces and caricatures on his (fitting his personality!) .
Carolina Loved This-See the Heart!
Top of our list was the 2010 Pinot Gris crisp, bright and floral like the afternoon weather. Our favorite reds were the Petit Verdot 2009 tasting of spice and tobacco and definitely, the Meritage 2008 Gold Medal Winner of the 2010 San Diego International Wine Competition. The memorable and unique Malvaxian wine wasn’t available for tasting (I love that bottle design) which is an excellent addition to any wine collection! We selected the Pinot Gris, a Double Gold Medal winner, to toast our side trip. Taking our bottle to the meadow, we relaxed in the Adirondack chairs savouring excellent wine, picture postcard views and sharing it with a lovely young couple very much in love.
A Double Gold Day in The Monticello Trail Wine Country!
Cheers and a Clink to Carolina and Brian in 2011 and another Clink to Thomas Jefferson-Happy Belated Birthday!
Have you ever taken a vacation to a remote destination on a tropical island and returned wanting to tell all your friends, but really thinking it better to keep the secret to yourself? Our experience at Glass House Winery was just that, a treat to savor and enhanced only by the prospect of sharing it with others. Glass House Winery in Free Union, Virginia was only opened a few months ago and word is rapidly spreading.
The winery is strategically sited, embraced by rows of grapevines overlooking a small, geese populated lake with a backdrop of Buck Mountain. The structure of the winery is striking, an eclectic juncture of a copper clad tasting room and a soaring tropical greenhouse, thus the name Glass House. Jeff and Michelle Sanders spent substantial time (five years) on the island of Roatan off the coast of Honduras and recreated some of that lush tropical atmosphere in their greenhouse. The greenhouse serves as a conservatory for Kumquats, Banana Trees producing ice cream flavored bananas, a highly prized Royal Hawaiian Pineapple and tables graced by tiny Sago Palms.
The floor is a Brazilian wood similar to teak and the climate is carefully controlled with a vented roof and mechanical sun screen. A perfectly delightful spot for a light picnic (self provided) complemented by a bottle of artisan wine. The greenhouse can accommodate 88 guests seated for weddings or events! Invite me, please!
Attention to detail begins in the mosaic studded retaining wall in the parking lot and proceeds to the doorway where, Vina, the wine goddess greets you, grapes in one hand and a glass of wine in the other. Several other clever whimsical touches including a giraffe create a fun and light hearted foyer.
Accents of pineapples adorn niches and shelves, carrying on the logo of Glass House and reinforcing the symbol of Virginia hospitality. The winery puppy, Dogbert, eagerly approached us with a wagging tail, and then stretched out for a nap in the warm sun by the patio door.
Michelle Sanders, owner and Chocolatier Extraordinaire, offered us glasses for tasting and a history of the young winery. We started with a 2009 Pinot Gris followed by a 2009 Viognier. The Pinot Gris was unremarkable and light, but the Viognier had more character and with a creamy texture and nice bouquet. The third wine was the Cvillian, a red blend of Chambourcin, Cabernet Franc and Merlot grapes grown on the property and on nearby vineyards. We purchased the next wine, the Twenty First, a Meritage blend of Cabernet Franc, Merlot and Petit Verdot grapes and named after the 21st amendment. Can you recall the significance of that amendment? It also had the most fruit and was quite good.
On our visit to DuCard Winery, in Madison, we were tipped off to the dessert wine. Marty Mitchell, the tasting room manager at DuCard was so delighted with it that she actually is credited with naming the wine, Meglio Del Sesso, her initial observation. In Italian it translates to “Better than …” use your imagination! We sipped this along with a sampling of Michelle’s own hand crafted chocolate Red Wine Cream – a ganache made from Norton wine and dark chocolate, hand enrobed in 72% dark chocolate. An exquisite combination! The chocolates are artistically packaged and sold only at the winery. The gourmet chocolates are Early Grey, Salted Caramel and Espresso and sold by the dozen. A perfect Valentines gift for your sweetheart!
Music is provided in the evening on Fridays. Look for special events at their website or Facebook page! The winery is open Fridays noon-8pm
and Sundays and holiday Mondays noon-5pm
On the 2nd day of Christmas my true love gave to me Two glasses clinking and a trip to a Virginia Winery!
On the 3rd day of Christmas my true love gave to me Three corks a popping, Two glasses clinking and a trip to a Virginia Winery!
On the 4th day of Christmas my true love gave to me Four vines a growing, Three corks a popping, Two glasses clinking and a trip to a Virginia Winery!
On the 5th day of Christmas my true love gave to me Five GOLDEN grapes, Four vines a growing, Three corks a popping, Two glasses clinking and a trip to a Virginia Winery!
On the 6th day of Christmas my true love gave to me Six Cab Francs Swirling, Five GOLDEN grapes, Four vines a growing, Three corks a popping, Two glasses clinking and a trip to a Virginia Winery!
On the 7th day of Christmas my true love gave to me SEVEN port wines snifting, Six Cab Francs swirling, Five GOLDEN grapes, Four vines a growing, Three corks a popping, Two glasses clinking and a trip to a Virginia Winery!
On the 8th day of Christmas my true love gave to me Eight OCTAGONS, SEVEN port wines snifting, Six Cab Francs Swirling, Five GOLDEN grapes, Four vines a growing, Three corks a popping, Two glasses clinking and a trip to a Virginia Winery!
On the 9th day of Christmas my true love gave to me Nine CHOCOLATE NORTONS, Eight OCTAGONS, SEVEN port wines snifting, Six Cab Francs swirling, Five GOLDEN grapes, Four vines a growing, Three corks a popping, Two glasses clinking and a trip to a Virginia Winery!
On the 10th day of Christmas my true love gave to me Ten Magnums sparkling, Nine CHOCOLATE NORTONS, Eight OCTAGONS, SEVEN port wines snifting, Six Cab Francs Swirling, Five GOLDEN grapes, Four vines a growing, Three corks a popping, Two glasses clinking and a trip to a Virginia Winery!
On the 11th day of Christmas my true love gave to me Eleven Viogniers sampling, Ten Magnums sparkling, Nine CHOCOLATE NORTONS, Eight OCTAGONS, SEVEN port wines snifting, Six Cab Francs swirling, Five GOLDEN grapes, Four vines a growing, Three corks a popping, Two glasses drinking and a trip to a Virginia Winery!
On the 12th day of Christmas my true love gave to me Twelve vintners vinting, Eleven Viogniers sampling, Ten Magnums sparkling, Nine CHOCOLATE NORTONS, Eight OCTAGONS, SEVEN port wines snifting, Six Cab Francs swirling, Five GOLDEN grapes, Four vines a growing, Three corks a popping, Two glasses clinking and a trip to a Virginia Winery!
Inspiration for this song comes from my daughter, Jillian who encouraged me to post something , anything, prior to Christmas. The original idea was something about twelve wineries relating to the Twelve Days of Christmas. Maybe next year!
King Family Vineyard – Seven, a Port -this port wine is made with 100% Merlot and is fortified with brandy, and was aged in Kentucky bourbon barrels for 2 years. The 2009 Viognier ( I love this one!) self described by the owners as 70% of the volume fermented and aged in stainless steel tanks to highlight the freshness of the wine, and 30% in neutral oak barrels, giving the wine fullness without adding oak flavor. There are cantaloupe, honeysuckle and orange zest on the nose and mouth.
Keswick Vineyards Chocolate Norton sauce is a gourmet chocolate sauce made with Keswick Vineyards Norton wine.
Octagon Barboursville Vineyards is described by the vintner as a proprietary blend driven by Merlot, with elements of Reserve Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon and Petit Verdot. Aged 12 to 14 months in new Gamba barriques of the most select French oak, air-dried a minimum of 3 years before coopering, laid down in bottle for an additional six months before release.
The Magnums would be from Kluge, of course!
Can it possibly be any prettier than it was this weekend in Charlottesville?
Everyone has been commenting on the recent surge of red, orange and gold leaves so late in the season. Usually by this time in November the majority of leaves have fallen, backpack blowers are roaring and the wind is blowing. Not this year! Only a hint of a breeze and blue sky made ideal conditions for a perfect hot air balloon flight over the Rivanna Reservoir and rolling acres of spent vineyards.
Chores finished, Saturday afternoon we set off for a country drive to two more wineries (and a promise of homemade chili and live music). Mountfair Winery hosted a special event to announce the release of their 2008 Belated – a velvety smooth blend of 60% Merlot, 30% Cab Franc,and 10% Petit Verdot. They also just completed the tasting room after a few years under construction. The Barrel Room is a rustic 1400 square foot multi purpose event space with a raised stage for live music supported by soaring pine timbers and accented by 100 stacked wine barrels.
The view from the patio overlooks a gravel road, but just beyond it, rows of grapevines underscore a beautiful view of the Blue Ridge Mountains. I was sadly disappointed to find out that my quest for the 2008 Wooloomooloo made with 60% Petit Verdot was for naught! Only 150 cases were produced and between wine club members and a live wine tasting via Twitter it was gone! I’ll know next time. The 2008 Belated was very good with a true jammy taste and only I wish we could have stayed until the chili was ready and the music began. For those who have never ventured further north on Browns Gap Turnpike (810) , it is a scenic drive but turning right on Fox Mountain Road lacks curb appeal and one wonders if they might have made a wrong turn. You haven’t, just keep driving up the road and you’ll find the new tasting room on your right. This is definitely a winery and vintner to keep in mind for the future!
Returning toward Free Union, we took a hard right onto Breakheart Road and encountered a picturesque landscape of vineyards and horse farms. When we first moved to Virginia, White Hall had a fantastic Chardonnay and was soon our favorite winery. One of my fondest memories was a picnic that we shared with my Mom and Dad, my Dad loved Soliterre! Charlottesville.
The White Hall Winery tasting bar was completely surrounded with visitors, and considering how gorgeous the day was, we decided to head home to our firepit in the backyard and have a private wine tasting! White Hall will be there for us to return to another weekend, that’s one of the great advantages to living here in Charlottesville!