Two weekends ago, I celebrated Virginia Wine Month by spending two days roaming around the Charlottesville, VA area touring the Monticello Wine Trail with friends and fellow bloggers Dezel Quillen of VineSpot, John Witherspoon of Anything Wine, and Megan Witherspoon of Wine Conscience (joined us for day one).
The Monticello Wine Trail is one of 12 wine trails in Virginia, and home to 20 wineries. Of Virginia’s 2,000 acres under vine, over half are located in the Monticello AVA (which includes the Monticello Wine Trail).
The Monticello AVA is in the central Piedmont area. The area is nestled along the eastern slopes of the Blue Ridge Mountains and encompasses the small ridge known as Southwest Mountain. It is historic in that it is home to Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello, where Jefferson spent years trying to grow European grape varieties.
For those afflicted with SASS (Short Attention-Span Syndrome) like me, I will summarize this lengthy post by shilling for the Virginia wine industry – get out and visit Virginia wineries! Virginia’s rolling hills and colorful Fall foliage coupled with Cab Franc, Petit Verdots and our hospitable wine industry makes for an unmatched Fall wine weekend! Each time I make the 3 hour drive west on interstate 64 to the heart of Virginia, I leave amazed at how the Virginia wine industry is growing (maturing), and am always more impressed with the graciousness and commitment of the wine makers that I meet and the great wines I taste.
Rather than filling this post with a bunch of benign, meaningless tasting notes (no smart ass comments about how all of my other posts are like that), I hope to communicate a story of each winery we visited and the winemakers we met. I hope the few words I share about each will serve as a catalyst for someone reading this to get out to Virginia wine country and visit a couple of these places.
During the two-day trip, we visited a handful of wineries, beginning with relative newcomer to the Virginia wine scene, Mountfair Vineyards. I first encountered Mountfair at the Virginia Wine Festival and was really impressed by their line up of wines I tasted that day.
Mountfair is located about 20 miles northwest of Charlottesville, VA in the cozy little town of Crozet. Mountfair is housed in an old horse barn that is currently undergoing renovation, situated on an idyllic gravel road with scenic views of vines and rolling hills. Upon arriving at Mountfair, we were greeted by one of Mountfair’s owners, Fritz Repich. Mountfair is a labor of love for Fritz – passion turned in to enterprise – an IT professional by day, all things wine on nights and weekends. The team at Mountfair focuses solely on producing small-lots of Bordeaux-style blends.
During our visit, Fritz walked us through his current line up:Wooloomooloo 2007 – Named after a mythical spirit that roams the Blue Ridge Mountains. This is a blend of 66% Petit Verdot, 18% Cab Franc, and 16% merlot. 107 cases produced. Unfortunately, this wine is sold out.
Inaugural 2006 – 60% Cab Franc, 25% Merlot, 15% Petit Verdot. This is Mountfair’s first release of the year. Only 104 cases produced. This wine is sold out.
Composition 2007 – My favorite Mountfair wine. Delicious. A blend of 60% Cab Sauv, 35% Merlot, and 5% Petit Verdot. Medium bodied. Mucho cherries, plum, cranberry, earth, with some lingering vanilla crème. Only 106 cases produced.
It is exciting to experience such great Bordeaux-style blends coming out of Virginia, especially from a relatively new winery. Mountfair’s wines are yet another testament to Virginia’s versatility and potential.
Mountfair is the perfect place to visit on a sunny Fall afternoon, to just veg out in a peaceful and quite environment. They are open for complimentary tastings on Saturday and Sundays from March through November, or by appointment.
Our next stop on Sunday afternoon – Pollak Vineyards – one of my favorite Virginia wineries. Since my first visit to Pollak back in November 2008, I have stopped by their tasting room on a couple of other occasions and have always been impressed by the knowledge level and friendliness of the tasting room staff. (You can read my previous Pollak here https://drinkwhatyoulike.wordpress.com/2008/11/12/pollak-vineyards-visit/ )
Pollak opened their tasting room opened in early 2008, and have quickly become one of my favorite stops in Virginia wine country. The tasting room is open, bright, and airy with an inviting deck that offers great views of the colorful Fall foliage on the surrounding hills. These are exciting times at Pollak, not only are they experiencing significant growth – 3,300 cases produced this year vice 2,200 last year (all from estate fruit) – they are producing some of Virginia’s best wines.
Soon after arriving, we were greeted by Pollak founder, David Pollak, and General Manager, Jake Busching. We started our tasting in Pollak’s private tasting room, where we tasted through their current releases. 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon showed great spice, mint and currant components. This wine will be even better in a few years. The 2007 Cabernet Franc was also showing exceptionally well – nose of cocoa and earth followed by flavors of blueberry crème and blackberries. I particularly liked the 2006 Meritage with nice raspberry, blueberry, and spice throughout.
After tasting through the entire line up of current releases along with a couple of wines not generally available, Dave and Jake showed us to the barrel room to sample through a handful of their wines in barrel/tank. All of the samples we tasted – Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Petit Verdot – were promising. In particular, the 2009 Viognier in tank was showing amazingly well – big, pure apricot and peach flavors. I can’t wait until they release this one. Overall, Jake noted that 2009 was an exceptional growing season and Pollak excepts several 2009 notable wines! (I will admit that such personalized service and barrel tasting is definitely one of the perks of blogging.)
Day 1 of our Monticello Wine Trail trip concluded with a visit to King Family Vineyards late Sunday afternoon.
King Family Vineyards is located just 15 minutes from Charlottesville, VA, nestled at the foot of the Blue Ridge Mountains. The winery was founded in 1998, and produced just 500 cases that first year. Today, the King Family team produces about 5,000 cases of Virginia wine each year.
Like many wineries on the Monticello Wine Trail, King Family Winery is surrounded by vineyards and blessed with amazing views of the surrounding hills (we sometimes call them the Blue Ridge Mountains). Adjacent to the tasting room are horse stables and a Polo field that provides a unique visitor experience – the chance to enjoy small food plates and King Family wines while watching a live Polo match. A great way to spend a relaxing Spring or Summer weekend afternoon.
King Family winemaker, Matthieu Finot, greeted us as we arrived in the tasting room, and graciously spent the next 90 minutes sharing his wines with us. After tasting through King Family’s current releases, we moved to the barrel room where we tasted well over a dozen of Matthieu’s wines in tank and barrel.
Born in Crozes Hermitage in the Rhone Valley, Matthieu studied viticulture in Burgundy, and honed his winemaking skills throughout the world – France (Bordeaux, Provence, Jura), Italy and South Africa. Matthieu brings a diverse background and much needed global perspective to Virginia wine – rounded out with a great deal of passion.
If you are unable to visit King Family during the Spring or Summer Polo season, the fireplace inside the tasting room is equally inviting during winter months – a great place to relax with wine and friends.
“The Monticello Wine Trail remains the wine world’s best kept secret, where boutique wineries produce small quantities of high-quality wines, shared with family, friends and visitors. One day our secret will be uncovered and the wine world will shine its brightest light on this region. Until then, it remains ours, yours, and Jefferson’s, The Sage of Monticello, and America’s First Wine Connoisseur.” ~ Monticello Wine Trail Guidebook
Day 2 Monticello Wine Trail recap coming soon…