Remember when I first started this blog I “fessed up” and let everyone know that I’m not a wine snob, not even close! I love wine and learn something new about it daily. One evening we decided to open up a bottle of the 2007 Estate Reserve Heritage, a wine club selection which had not yet been released to the public. It is 80% Cabernet Sauvignon and 20% Merlot. We had stored it in a rack and poured it directly into glasses. The nose on it was fragrant and it was a beautiful rich garnet red, but it had sediment swirling through it. Novice that I am, I complained on Twitter about the sandiness of this wine. The glory of social media is split second responses and I was impressed that Keswick acknowledged my concern. Kat Schornberg quickly explained the necessity of decanting unfiltered wines and let me know they would be happy (probably not real happy since this really is a very good bottle, and possibly a future medal winner) to replace it. Yesterday I made my way out to Keswick with a friend and we enjoyed a tasting with Carrie Brown pouring. Carrie is always cheerful and fun and makes it a point to remember repeat visitors and wine club members. We especially liked the Norton Chocolate sauce drizzled on Nabisco wafers.
Stephen Barnard , Keswick’s winemaker, came out and brought the notorious ( in a good way) bottle of Heritage. I think he really wanted to see how dumb I was in person! So, now I can’t wait to try this bottle again. I did have to laugh when I read HIS blog post To Filter or No to Filter by Stephen the Sediment Slayer in which he relays my story from a vintner”s perspective!
Anyway, my new motto is “I Shall Decant my Unfiltered Wine!”
Personally, I think everyone at Keswick is great and very much so customer oriented! Thank You!
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
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!
On our return trips to Charlottesville from Northern Virginia and D.C. we occasionally pause to enjoy just one of the many pleasures of living in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains. A brief stop at Prince Michel Vineyard and Winery for a glass of Symbius, a deep ruby colored Meritage of Bordeaux varietals, is my personal favorite. As you approach the northern edge of the Monticello Wine Trail you can’t miss the three steel wine goblet wind sculptures. Very contemporary in contrast to the Jeffersonian architectural details of the winery itself. The tasting room entrance is flanked by pergolas and white columns surrounding brick courtyards.
The expanse of the tasting room is a little cold and impersonal but this time we were greeted by the friendly smile of Patty Sevre. Intrigued by her display of cut decanters and stemware we hovered over her as she cut custom designs for visitors while they toured the winery. Patty’s family has been in the glass cutting business for fourteen generations. Her family hails from the Alsace-Lorraine region of France (incidentally, where I first tasted wine as a child!) and is very proud of their incredible legacy in the art of glass works. She had a career for forty years cutting glass for Tiffany & Co.
Presently, she and her husband Kenneth Sevre work together blowing glass and are on site at Prince Michel on Thursdays! Seizing the opportunity, we selected a small glass to be cut personally for a Christmas gift for my Mom! It is beautiful and I look forward to giving her such a special gift this Christmas! Check out her website for more in-depth historical background and contact information.
Finishing our wine, we marvelled at the wine and dining accessories on display in the tasting room gift shop. It is a great place to purchase personalized gifts for any wine lover in your family and we highly recommend it for a Black Friday shopping stop where everything will be 20% off that day only!
I had recently heard about the luxury suites available for rent at the vineyard. Driving to the rear of the winery and up a curved drive you will find two homes each including two one-bedroom suites decorated in the French provincial style featuring a luxurious bath, romantic fireplace and galley kitchen. The Suites at Prince Michel are elegant and have private secluded garden patios with views of the mountains and vineyard. According to the website, you can select one of four themes from the blue and beige of the La Concorde, the green and gold of the Les Champs Elysees, the tailored elegance of La Tour Eiffel or the provincial charm of La Paris. They are very affordably priced at 175.00 per night or 300 for two nights. Weddings and events are welcome at Prince Michel and the location situated centrally between Charlottesville and Washington D.C., wonderful for a midway spot close to historic sites and the Blue Ridge Mountains.