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!
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.”
RePost from Neil Williamson
Contact: Neil Williamson The Trellis Group 434-962-0847
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
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.
Stone Mountain masqueraded as “Snow Mountain” on October 29th & 30th for the 12th Annual Stone Mountain Vineyards Open House. “Bacon Holloween” at Stone Mountain Vineyards drew a nice crowd of leaf peepers, snow seekers and wine sippers. The winery is situated on the side of the mountain above Bacon Hollow, an area known long ago for moonshine and revenue agents. Last Saturday brought an unusual dusting of the white stuff adding a sugar-coating on pumpkin and scarlet colored leaves. Visitors enjoyed private tours of the wine cave and sampling directly from the barrel with winemaker Chris Breiner and tour guide, Brian Taylor. Vertical tastings were also available. We found Gabrielle Rausse pouring tastings of his own wines at a separate bar. Surprised to see Gabrielle, I inquired about the reason for his presence. Winking, he explained that he considers himself Chris Breiner’s life coach. In fact, he does coach Chris on winemaking and in return, periodically showcases some of his own signature labeled wines at Stone Mountain.
Wine on Tap
A new venture for the owners is serving wine on tap. Stone Mountain Vineyards wines are featured on tap, yes, on tap at Aida Bistro Wine Bar in Columbia, Maryland. Aida installed a new Wine on Tap System with 20 Wines on Tap. Based on customer acceptance and demand, they are increasing it to 30 Wines on Tap by Fall 2011. Their Wine on Tap System is the largest in Maryland and second largest in the U.S! They feature Stone Mountain 2010 Pinot Grigio, 2010 Chardonnay and 2008 Cabernet Franc and Aidatage. Aidatage is a special blend the staff created at the winery with
their 2009 Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvigon and Petit Verdot. According to Chris, the
staff had a lot of fun creating the Aidatage and in turn presenting it to
their customers. I wish I had tasted that one. My husband and I have brought friends to Stone Mountain Vineyards numerous times and after a little apprehension about the drive up, they conclude it is well worth the trip. With the vineyards sloping just below the back deck they have found the Autumn views unrivaled by any of the other wineries in our area. Sited at a 1700 foot elevation, the vantage point provides expansive views of Greene County and Northern Albemarle County.
On this particular visit we selected a bottle of Chardonnay rather than going through a complete tasting. It was an ideal afternoon for relaxing on the deck and taking in the scenery, albeit a bit chilly. Later, we joined a small group for the barrel tasting guided Brian Taylor. We sampled 3 Cabernet Francs, 2007, 2008, 2009 and one Chardonnay from the barrels. The 2008 was my favorite and given some more time, should be excellent!
The 2008 Chardonnay was delightful, with ripe green apple flavors aged in 100% stainless steel for a full but crisp mouth feel. I particularly liked the die-cut label with the Blue Ridge Mountains cresting the top. If you have friends who haven’t developed a taste for wine, the Maquillage (Make-up in French) has 3% residual sugar and is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Sangiovese, Cabernet Franc, and Chardonnay. Fruity, it pairs well with cheeses and lightly spiced dishes. Naming wines can be quite fun and a few give a humorous nod to the history of the “hollows” of Greene County, especially the Bacon Hollow Revenuers Select.
Stone Mountain’s log cabin style winery hugs the mountainside below a tumble of large rocks, hence the name. The natural heart pine wood tasting room is spacious, rustic and cozy. I had so many pictures that I’ll close with a mini gallery of scenes to entice you up the mountain. Part of the fun of Stone Mountain is the approach, passing streets like Mutton Hollow, Bacon Hollow, Brokenback Mountain and finally arriving at Wyatt Mountain Road. Another tidbit- the tasting glasses for collectors have the logo for Stone Mountain and on the back, the Chinese Year, this one being the year of the rabbit. Helpful hint: Drive slowly up the mountain and stay right, it is only one lane and after rains can be quite bumpy. Still, it’s worth the effort. Definitely have a DD for the ride back down!
Climb the Mountain, see how a positive change in altitude,
brings a positive change in attitude..
Winery Hours: Open March 9 thru December 18, 2011 – Fridays, Saturdays & Sundays and Federal Holiday Mondays 11:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. (Closed Easter Sunday).
From Charlottesville area (approx. 30 minutes)
Take 29 North to Ruckersville, VA.
Take Route 33 West to Stanardsville
Turn left onto Route 810 (Dyke Road) to Dyke, VA. (Intersection Route 810 & 627 – Bacon Hollow Rd.) Turn right onto Route 627 (Bacon Hollow Rd.) and proceed 3.6 miles
Yesterday, while compiling listing data for a real estate client I quite unexpectedly found myself on the flip side of the realtor/client relationship. I stumbled upon a unique listing in our Charlottesville Area Association of Realtors multiple listing service. It suddenly became a high priority to see it and Bob (my indulgent husband) reluctantly got the car keys. Seriously, he was emptying out the dishwasher rather than have to visit a random house that tempted my curiosity. The more often I spend time at wineries and vineyards, the more captivated I become about possibly tending vines myself. Obviously, the easy route would be to volunteer at a local vineyard. But no, that would be way too simple!
The House-Wakefield circa 1760
The original log cabin was built around 1760 on a hill overlooking a spring fed pond with the Blue Ridge Mountains as a backdrop. The house lies in the southwestern part of Greene County just north of the Albemarle County line, and not too far from Stone Mountain Vineyards. Charming, rustic features include four fireplaces, brick floors in the kitchen, an interior stone wall and an outdoor kitchen with fireplace and huge hearth. It was later, in the early 1800’s, that an addition extended the square footage to its present day size of 1900 plus square feet. Now you understand why Bob was dragging his feet, it wasn’t the size of the house, it was the age! For me, the piece de resistance was a quaint fenced garden with grapevines, yes, Grapevines! growing over an arched gate to the side of the house! Inside the garden was a large asparagus patch . That may not mean much to others, but my great-grandfather was an asparagus farmer. Does this property have my name written all over it or what?
The second story has a large deck with serene vistas that take you back to a quieter period of time. The outdoor kitchen is flanked by an enormous blue spruce and a Savannah Holly just begging to be restored. Below the house, a hay-field slopes towards the mountains and drops down to a pond. It was a sunny warm day with clouds rolling across the horizon and I giddily walked the property like a child in my flip-flops. At this point I had already visualized my boutique vineyard and was mentally naming it! Unfortunately, I was prompted out of my dream state by my practical husband (darn it) who wasn’t quite as captivated by the tiny narrow staircase in the house and the lack of central air conditioning. Where did my pioneer man go? Back to the conveniences of 2011, I imagine!
The Virginia Cooperative Extension has a very useful website for selecting property suitable for cultivating grapes in Virginia. It is a wonderful in-depth source of data but I highly recommend having an expert assess the site. Dr. Tony K. Wolf, Viticulture Extension Specialist and Dr. John Boyer, Professor of Viticulture at Virginia Tech are experts in this subject. In the publication Vineyard Site Selection, they explain that topography, including the absolute and relative elevations of a particular site, will greatly affect the suitability of a proposed site, particularly in the western Piedmont and mountain regions of the state. Further, a slight to moderate slope is desirable because it accelerates the drainage of cold air from the vineyard. After reading this, I felt the hay-field could prove a possible site for growing grapes. Clearly an expert needs to be involved if this were a land use someone would be contemplating. I look forward to taking classes on site selection later this year to understand all the factors involved in qualifying a property for use as a vineyard.
Oh, well…sigh…if anyone is intrigued by this post enough to want to see this property, please contact me for a showing. I’d love to take a stroll back in time with you and consider the potential of this delightful listing in Greene County, Virginia.