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Cville Wine Trail Guide


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Cville Wine Trail Guide


Finally Thomas Jefferson's vision of viticultural flourishes in the Blue Ridge Mountains that surround his still magnificent Monticello. 

Join Blue Ridge Wine Excursions' expert Wine Trail Guides as we take you on a personal tour of the Monticello AVA and Appellation Wine Trail that surround the idyllic Charlottesville, Virginia. Over two years in the making, this field guide and book is a must have for anyone interested in learning the fascinating backstory behind the amazing and daring winery and vineyard owners, and the wine producers of the region.  

Meet in depth the artisans who are exploding onto the regional wine industry and earning national and international fame and awards.  Learn of the unique challenges posed by Virginia's Piedmont. Catch a glimpse of the history and scenery that make the Virginia wine country an ideal destination to explore with an extended tour.

With our extensive background knowledge and research, Blue Ridge Wine Excursions perfectly captures the stories that will whet your appetite before you visit the Monticello Wine Trail and imbibe on the fruits of our neighbor's labor.


Table of contents 


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Barboursville Vineyards, Charlottesville Wine Tour


OWNERS: Gianni Silvana Zonin

WINEMAKER: Luca Pashcina, joined Barboursville Vineyards 1990

YEAR: 1976

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Barboursville Vineyards, Charlottesville Wine Tour


OWNERS: Gianni Silvana Zonin

WINEMAKER: Luca Pashcina, joined Barboursville Vineyards 1990

YEAR: 1976

"We are farmers because of our awe and gratitude for the character of this earth, and we are vintners because it is natural to desire to celebrate it, and to share it."   -- Gianni Zonin, 2006, Owner of Barboursville Vineyards.

 

Old World Traditions in the Land of Jefferson

By: Justin Stone

 

The story of Barboursville Vineyards is inseparable from the story of the land.  The estate was first cultivated by a prominent Virginia family in the late 1700s. It grew in wealth under the stewardship of James Barbour, the son of Thomas Barbour and Mary Pendleton Thomas, who would become the 19th Governor of Virginia and later Secretary of War under John Quincy Adams. Friendship and political allegiances with his colonial neighbors James Madison and Thomas Jefferson undoubtedly meant that James Barbour was a player in the formation of the new republic.  Thomas Jefferson designed the stately brick and columned main house, which was home to the Barbour family until fire destroyed the building on Christmas, 1884.  Though its sloping hills and rich soils are perfect for cultivating grapes, the land had to wait another century before its character and beauty was fully revealed in a glass of wine.

The American bicentennial marked the real beginning of central Virginia’s modern wine revolution. In the spring of 1976, Gianni Zonin, heir to his family’s extensive 150-year-old wine enterprise in Northern Italy’s Veneto region, acquired the Barboursville estate. Gianni and his wife Silvana decided on these 900 acres in the heart of the Virginia Piedmont because the natural beauty and kindness of the locals reminded them of their native Veneto. The Zonins brought on Gabrielle Rausse as Barboursville’s first viticulturist, a man who remains a leading figure in Virginia wines. Together they set about reintroducing the European grapes, vitis vinifera, to Virginia and bringing to fruition a dream rooted in the earliest history of the Commonwealth. In 1979, the first bottle of wine cultivated from the ground at Barboursville was released.

Barboursville has remained true to the Italian traditions of wine and the adage that “wine is made in the vineyard.” Through the 1980s the vineyard underwent many transformations, seeking varietals that made the most of the terroir. As the fields are not irrigated, the vines must also be allowed time to mature and grapes are not harvested from new vines for several years after planting.

In 1990, the current winemaker, Luca Paschina, came to Barboursville, and for the past 21 years he has been producing wines of exceptional character and style. His wines have received numerous national awards and international recognition. Barboursville Vineyards, a place rich in Virginia history and among the very first to awaken Jefferson’s dream, is now considered to be one of the greatest treasures of the Monticello AVA.

An informative free tour is offered at Barboursville, with an educational and entertaining movie inside the Octagon Room.  Guests are free to roam the ruins, the family cemetery and the picnic areas.  One of Virginia’s finest restaurants, Palladio, is also on site.  Their extraordinary offerings and attentive service create a memorable experience, and make it easy to spend the entire day at Barboursville, sampling, strolling, and dining.  

The Zonins and Luca are committed to the belief that the reason for opening a bottle of wine is to find the most beautiful thing that can be drawn from the earth and to share it with others. This is their hope for each bottle of Barboursville wine. 

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DelFosse Vineyards Charlottesville Wine Tour


Virginia has lost a pioneer: Claude DelFosse passed away on July 11, 2013, after a brief battle with cancer. Wine enthusiasts everywhere mourn his loss. Virginia was fortunate when he chose to make wine here, contributing his skill and significant expertise to fulfill Mr. Jefferson's vision

OWNERS: Claude and Genevieve DelFosse

WINEMAKER: Paul Mierzejewski

YEAR: 2000

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DelFosse Vineyards Charlottesville Wine Tour


Virginia has lost a pioneer: Claude DelFosse passed away on July 11, 2013, after a brief battle with cancer. Wine enthusiasts everywhere mourn his loss. Virginia was fortunate when he chose to make wine here, contributing his skill and significant expertise to fulfill Mr. Jefferson's vision

OWNERS: Claude and Genevieve DelFosse

WINEMAKER: Paul Mierzejewski

YEAR: 2000

Environmentally Sustainable Practices Make Great Wine

By: Matt Brown

 

For the active couple or family searching for a vineyard that offers more than just your standard day of wine tasting, look no further than thirty minutes south of Charlottesville in Faber, Virginia. Located in a rural community, DelFosse vineyards are terraced into the mountains. The site offers plenty of sun, good elevation, essential wind streaming and a picturesque setting. When owners Claude and Genevieve DelFosse first came upon these 330 acres in Nelson County, it was clear that they had found something special. 

The journey started in 2000 when Claude DelFosse, originally from Paris, left his career as an aeronautical engineer to start a new life as a wine maker and vineyard manager. Claude was joined in this endeavor by his wife, Genevieve DelFosse, a talented cook, local food advocate and educator with the Fairfax County School System.  Over a decade later, the DelFosse family now has 22 acres under vine with plantings that include the usual Merlot, Cabernet Franc, and Petit Verdot, as well as Chambourcin, Sauvignon Blanc, Malbec, Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Gris, and Petit Manseng. The DelFosses have a passion for wine and have become known for their personal commitment to adopting and perfecting sustainable environmental practices for the wine world.

In the tasting room at Delfosse, winemaker Paul Mierzejewski developed a strong reputation for quality over the years. Although trained in California, he has been working in Virginia wine country since the early 1980s and has become intimately familiar with the challenges Virginia winemakers face within the industry. Through his stewardship, the grapes are allowed to display the characteristics of their terroir with the goal of ultimately producing a quality wine that embodies the unique characteristics of the region.

The grapes of DelFosse could not be in better hands and thrive in one of the only terraced vineyards in the state. Vineyard consultant Chris Hill has over 30 years of experience planting, training and managing vineyards. A celebrity in the world of Virginia wine, Chris is known for his green thumb and valuable insights. Similarly, the full time vineyard manager, Grayson Poats, comes to DelFosse from Wintergreen Winery with a strong background in viticulture. Along with the owners, the staff clearly enjoys creating a memorable experience for their guests.

DelFosse Vineyards hosts many events throughout the year: there are classes, and options for weekend getaways, including a century-old log cabin for rent, perched at the top of the vineyard. A popular spot for weddings and romantic weekends, this quaint little rustic cabin was renovated in 2005 and has breathtaking views overlooking the wine tasting room, lake, and terraced vineyard. It is a lovely place for guests to relax, unwind and share a bottle of wine.  They also host a full events calendar of barbecues, food and wine pairing sessions, and holiday celebrations.

Claude and Genevieve DelFosse have created an inviting space for outdoor enthusiasts as well: the vineyard is home to 5.5 miles of well-kept hiking and mountain biking trails, complete with massive rocks, distinctive flora and fauna, and breathtaking views. Of course, after the hike, visitors can enjoy a picnic or wine tasting at the vineyard. 

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Early Mountain Vineyards Wine Tour


Owners: Jean and Steve Case

Winemakes: Frantz Ventre and Michael Shaps

Year Established: 2004 (Sweely Family) and 2011 (Steve and Jean Case)

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Early Mountain Vineyards Wine Tour


Owners: Jean and Steve Case

Winemakes: Frantz Ventre and Michael Shaps

Year Established: 2004 (Sweely Family) and 2011 (Steve and Jean Case)

Doing Well By Doing Good

By: Boo Barnett

History, beauty, and terroir meet here in Madison, Virginia, a short drive north of Charlottesville.  Named for local Revolutionary War veteran Lt. Joseph Early, whose home served as a makeshift bed and breakfast for Revolutionary notables, this bucolic farm was made into a vineyard by the Sweely family in 2004.  In 2011, Steve and Jean Case took over, planning to shake up not only a specific winery but an entire industry with their grand experiment.  Their international wine tasting trips exposed them to the finest vineyards and winemakers the world over, and when they decided to create their own, they chose Virginia as a place with great potential. 

Mr. Case, a co-founder and former CEO and Chairman of AOL, and Mrs. Case, the company’s former Vice President for Corporate Communications, started the Case Foundation in 1997 to “encourage collaboration, support successful leaders and foster entrepreneurship,” especially in underserved communities. Knowing that success can be measured in many ways other than amassing dollars, the Cases signed the Giving Pledge, the Buffet/Gates movement through which the super wealthy donate the majority of their wealth to social causes.  The Cases practice their doing well by doing good philosophy in an area they love, and their push to create real stewardship for the land made for a natural interest in the former Sweely Estate Vineyard.  An emphasis on good works with a superior product rather than on the owners’ celebrity status keep the staff focused on creating a stellar experience for visitors.

“Early Mountain is a social enterprise—as such, all profits will go toward strengthening Virginia communities and encouraging growth, innovation…[and] learning in the Virginia wine industry.  Our goal is not to make money but instead to make a difference,” states Jean Case, enthusiastically. 

Early Mountain Vineyards Wine Tour Steve Case Jean Case Pencil Drawing by Elizabeth Flood

Part of that social enterprise includes providing a showcase for all promising Virginia wines, not just their own.  To that end, a visitor can sample flights that highlight themed offerings (Berries!  Bright Lights and Bubbles! Red, White and You!) from Breaux, Barboursville, Linden, King Family, Thibaut-Janisson and others. Wine (again, their own and others) is offered also by the glass or bottle, though anyone wanting a case from a “partner winery” will need to visit that vineyard’s website. Right now, their Pinot Gris and 2008 Merlot are the Early Mountain signature offerings. Selections and flight themes will change as new items are introduced.  The current list, in addition to the two Early Mountain wines above, has these superior offerings:  Thibaut Jannison’s Blanc de Chardonnays “Monticello” and “Cuvee d’Etat,” Linden’s Rose, Barboursville’s Nebbiolo and “Malvaxia” and King’s and Breaux’ Meritages.

 

Of the more than 300 acres on the farm, about 38 have the slope and terroir most suitable for fine production.  As the Cases plan to concentrate on the Bordeaux style reds, they have retained Sweely’s Frantz Ventre (the noted vintner from Bordeaux’s Saint-Emilion) and also engaged Michael Shaps (Virginia Wineworks) and Lucie Morton (noted ampelographer and viticulturist).  Sweely Vineyard, despite their careful plantings and conscientious winemaking, had flirted with foreclosure for several years before the Cases bought them out. Now, several acres of vines have been replaced and a plan to upgrade quality by a more limited cluster harvest is in force.  The 2004 vines, unusually densely planted, are in their prime.

The tasting room (referred to as the Celebration Hall) is airy, open and on a grand scale, with cool, chic décor.  Taupe, greys and Virginia clay are the predominant colors, with heavy ceiling beams spanning the cavernous hall.  Polished concrete tasting bars continue the cool feel; the entire visual experience is elegantly designed and finely coordinated.  Several oversized fireplaces (indoor and out), numerous comfortable seating areas, and a variety of fire pits adorn the grounds…make sure your party knows where you are, as it would be easy to be in the same winery and never see one another!  The baronial downstairs hall was made for weddings and has a patio so your party can spill out into the night.

The Market, a small food boutique in the main hall, features local cheeses, cured meats, fruits in season and assorted prepared items, heavily playing up the eat-local, drink-local theme.  Picnic blankets are available for borrowing, and spending the afternoon is highly encouraged (mobile charging stations make it easy).  Exceptionally family friendly, Early Mountain and its enthusiastic staff stock crayons, bubbles, board games and s’mores kits for roasting over one of their fire pits.  Leashed pets are welcomed as well, with water bowls and doggie treats available.  Staff members are remarkably friendly, voluble, knowledgeable and cheerful.  Although this might be considered a requirement in a fledgling industry, the Early Mountain enthusiasm is a cut above. And Michelle Gueydan, with a very impressive CV despite her young age, is a marvel of charm, efficiency and effectiveness: turn her loose on your event and consider it done. 

A stand-alone cottage serves as a dressing suite for brides, and at least one other outbuilding is scheduled for upgrading to the current Early Mountain standards.  Though just a few minutes drive off Route 29, the views and vibe are that of a country valley.

All in all, Early Mountain is a great place to spend an afternoon with family or friends.  It does not produce, by itself, a full gamut of Virginia wine, but by cleverly linking with others, it presents an upscale, relaxed and approachable introduction to Virginia’s finest.  With their many holiday or theme specials, Early Mountain is a great way to travel the state while seated in a most comfortable chair, enjoying a breathtaking view.

And, yes: George Washington did sleep here.

Grace Estate Winery Virginia Wine Tour


OWNER: John Grace

WINEMAKER: Jake Busching

YEAR: 2013

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Grace Estate Winery Virginia Wine Tour


OWNER: John Grace

WINEMAKER: Jake Busching

YEAR: 2013

Old Vines Create Graceful Traditions

By: Boo Barnett

 

John Grace fell in love, and he fell hard. Impossible to blame him- everyone who visits Ireland and is lucky enough to visit the Mount Juliet resort feels the same. Add to that the discovery that some of his ancestors had once owned part of that venerable estate, and it was an unquenchable passion. Small wonder, then, that when he stumbled across the lovely Mount Juliet estate in bucolic Crozet, its purchase was a foregone conclusion. The magnificent house was based on the Irish original, and its rolling green hills were possibly even more verdant, more alluring than those on the Emerald Isle. And, there were the grapes…

Mount Juliet had been selling its high quality grapes to other vintners since 1999. When the Grace family made the decision to establish its own winery, it was imperative that they find someone whose vision and taste would match their own. As they reside in Switzerland most of the year, the Graces needed a trusted resident expert whose experience with all aspects of the business could be relied upon to carry it forward independently.

Fortunately for the wine lovers of the Monticello AVA, the Grace Estate at Mount Juliet Farm went long for talent and secured the renowned Jake Busching (the wunderkind formerly of Pollak, Jefferson and Keswick vineyards). This self styled “winegrower” takes the Old World holistic approach of being both the farmer and the vintner: after all, who knows the grape and its potential better than the ones who nurture it?

Jake Busching is all about the soil- as any farmer knows (and he grew up farming in Minnesota), the terroir is what makes each fruit or wine or bacon slice really sing in the local vernacular. Keeping that flavor real, and local, is why their wines are all made with their own grapes, which include Viognier, Chardonnay, Petit Manseng, Petit Verdot, Merlot, Cab Franc, Cab Sauvignon, Malbec and Tannat. With 65 acres now under vine, and a 550 acre estate to expand, maintain and perfect, Busching keeps enough fruit to make several thousand cases of the Grace Estate’s own wines, reserving the remainder for other Monticello Appellation wineries. As an active member of several local wine associations, Busching is committed to [Text Box:] expanding the possibilities of our local agribusiness and agritourism.

Having a string of awards to his own credit might satisfy many, but Busching’s pet collaborative wine project “3” brings in Veritas’ Emily Pelton and King Family’s Matthieu Finot, each of whom contributes a select variety to mix with the others. This spirit of friends and peers joining in with the best of a year’s harvest in such a collegial manner exemplifies the state of Virginia’s wine industry: purposeful but interdependent. Every vintner interviewed remarked that the industry was only as good as the last glass any visitor tried, and that the best competition was based on knowledge, cooperation and collaboration.

The approach to the tasting room at Grace is a long, quiet hum through fields and fields of vines. Brief glimpses of the house, long panoramic views of the Blue Ridge and those rolling acres of vine make the ride a perfect component of the experience: Slow down. Enjoy. Appreciate.

The cheerful staff, though few in number, enthusiastically welcome visitors to “Our Barnery,” a nickname that seems to sum up their serious but unpretentious approach to wine. Tasting room hostess Caitlin Andrus noted that their small converted hay barn reflects an understated approach, but it is understated in the same way Old World monastery is: clean, well edited and simply made from the purest ingredients. Even the barrel room was a model of thoughtfully arranged, beautifully placed items with not one extraneous thing. Andrus also pointed out the unexpected, very Zen silo off the tasting room. There, three plain benches provide seating in the still, unadorned, circular room open to the sky. After seeing it, any winery without one seems, well… incomplete. Another silo on the property will be used in a similar fashion, and Andrus hinted of a future Silo Society Wine Club.

A day at Grace is a visit with a gracious, self-confident, stunningly beautiful and worldly friend, a friend who is still young at heart and who knows the value of the quiet moment of contemplation. Who could blame John Grace for falling in love? We fell, too.

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Jefferson Vineyards, Charlottesville Wine Tour


OWNERS: Stanley & Svaha Woodward

WINEMAKER: Chris Ritzcovan

YEAR: 1981

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Jefferson Vineyards, Charlottesville Wine Tour


OWNERS: Stanley & Svaha Woodward

WINEMAKER: Chris Ritzcovan

YEAR: 1981

Fulfilling Jefferson's Dream

It has been over two hundred and fifty years since Jefferson walked the property that is home to Jefferson Vineyards today. The winery bears his name and produces wines from vines planted on his former land.  Even though Jefferson Vineyards has no current official link to the Sage of Monticello, the winery’s history is intertwined with his legacy as America’s first distinguished wine enthusiast.

The vineyard is located on six hundred acres of beautiful, rolling hills beneath the ridges that rise to the doorsteps of Monticello and Ash Lawn. The land was surveyed by the early settlers of Colonial America, and the winery continues to respect and embrace their place in this heritage.

In 1773, Philip Mazzei sailed to Virginia from London, where he had been a distinguished wine seller.  He was a Florentine Renaissance Man, experienced as a merchant, surgeon, and horticulturist who, through business dealing (likely wine sales) had befriended the American polymath Thomas Jefferson. Jefferson, eager to have a kindred intellectual and wine enthusiast nearby, deeded one hundred ninety three acres just south east of Monticello to Mazzei.  Among Mazzei’s first acts as a Virginia landowner was naming the property Colle, French for “hill,” and planting vinifera grape vines. Like Jefferson, he never saw his dream of producing a Virginia wine come to fruition. Soon after he established the Colle vineyard, Jefferson and Madison persuaded Mazzei to aid the American Revolution, and he left his young estate in 1778 to seek foreign investments for his adopted country. Upon his return in 1783 he found the grounds and vines ruined by the war. Dejected by the failure of his vineyard and dissatisfied with the post-Revolutionary political climate, Mazzei left Virginia in 1785.  Although the Colle estate later expanded to over eight hundred acres of sprawling hills and stayed in the family through the turn of the century, Mazzei never returned.

The estate passed through various hands and uses over the next 150 years, at times supporting herds of livestock or rows of fruit trees.  In 1939 Stanley Woodward purchased the property, and it has stayed with his family since. As the Virginia wine industry began to blossom the Woodwards hoped to re-establish grapes on the land and accomplish what its previous owners had not—making fine Virginia wine. In the late 1970s Gabriele Rausse helped plant the vines in one of his first post- Barboursville ventures. Often called the “father of the Virginia wine industry,” Rausse went on to establish many of the wineries located in the Monticello AVA. Within a few years Jefferson Vineyard had their first vintage and a thriving business.

Jefferson Vineyards, Charlottesville Wine Tour

Jefferson Vineyards, Charlottesville Wine Tour

Two hundred years prior, Philip Mazzei had believed that Virginia's soil and climate were better suited than any other for the production of wine. Jefferson Vineyards was among the first group of wineries to prove that, despite earlier failings, Virginia could produce outstanding wines from native and European vines. Today, Jefferson is known for its Reserve Chardonnay, Cabernet Franc, and Meritage. As fitting tributes to their heritage, their prized wines bear the signature of the estate’s first owner.

When visiting Jefferson Vineyards, the unassuming connection to history surrounds you. A Virginia historical marker about Colle stands at the vineyard’s entrance and visitors are offered a historical tour by one of the seasoned staff. An old, faded green farmhouse with a wrap-around porch functions as the office, giving a sense of old-fashioned country hospitality to the vineyard.

The tasting room has the appearance of a converted row barn, which fits in with the other grange buildings and history of farming on the estate. Owner Stanley Woodward’s painting of Don Juan, the patron rooster of the property, adorns a wall in the tasting room along with the bottles of Vin Rouge. Don Juan III or perhaps even Don Juan IV now presides over the vineyard.

Jefferson is a beautiful and historically significant spot in the heart of the Monticello AVA, and was among the early wineries to re-establish Virginia as a premier wine-producing region. Through their vineyard and wines they remind us of Virginia’s history as the first grape-growing state in America, one of Thomas Jefferson’s dearest desires.


King Family Vineyards, Cville Wine Tour


OWNERS: David & Ellen King, Carrington King, Stuart King, and James King

WINEMAKER: Matthieu Finot

YEAR: 1998

 

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King Family Vineyards, Cville Wine Tour


OWNERS: David & Ellen King, Carrington King, Stuart King, and James King

WINEMAKER: Matthieu Finot

YEAR: 1998

 

Fate Leads To Virginia Wine Royalty

When David and Ellen King moved with their three sons to Crozet from Texas in 1996, starting a vineyard was the last thing on their minds. They envisioned raising their family on the farm with their horses, an occasional polo game, and a crop of alfalfa to tend. However, after an unknown stranger put the bug in their ear, they planted a few vines beginning in 1998. Their first vintage, in the year 2000, yielded five hundred cases of wine with winemaker/consultant Michael Shapps. Mr. and Mrs. King quickly succumbed the allure of winegrowing and have never looked back. Today, King Family Vineyards produces over seven thousand cases of wine and has twenty-five acres under vine. Their plantings are distributed between Chardonnay, Merlot, and the Virginia favorites of Viognier, Cabernet Franc, and Petit Verdot. The farm is also home to a protected waterfowl preserve and the King's are very involved in wildlife preservation and environmental stewardship.

The vineyard is truly a family affair. The King's eldest son, Carrington, studied Horticulture at the University of Maryland. Along with local vineyard consultant Chris Hill, he fulfills his role as vineyard manager. Carrington can often be found out in the vineyard with his younger brother Stuart, tending to the vines or other matters on Roseland Farm (the site of King Family Vineyards). The King's youngest son is a proud veteran of the United States Marine Corps and recently rejoined the family business in July 2012 as the Tasting Room Manager.

The current winemaker, Matthieu Finot, has been working with the King Family since 2006 and has truly made his mark. Hailing from Crozes Hermitage in France's famous Rhône Valley, Matthieu was born to be a winemaker. He studied all over France with a particular focus on the areas of Bordeaux, Burgundy, the Rhône, and Provence. Additionally, he spent some time working in Italy and South Africa. Matthieu's wide range of expertise blends a strong respect for the old world style with the innovative cutting edge of the new world.

Among other things, the winery is known for its Meritage blend (a vintage-dependent blend of Merlot, Petit Verdot, Cabernet Franc, and Malbec), its Rosé (the aptly named Crosé, made from Merlot), and the Seven (a distinctly Virginian port style wine crafted from Merlot and aged in Woodford Reserve Kentucky Bourbon barrels). In addition, the winery also produces a Chardonnay-Viognier blend (named Roseland, after the name of the farm), a single varietal Chardonnay and Viognier, as well as a Cabernet Franc and a wonderful Petit Verdot.

The 2007 vintage of Meritage is known for having won the 2010 Virginia Governor's Cup, and their 2008 Petit Verdot took top place in the 2011 Monticello Cup. This year, the 2008 Meritage placed into the 2012 Governor's Cup along with eleven of Virginia's other top wines.

Although produced exclusively for events at the winery, the King Family also works with local sparkling wine expert Claude Thibaut, to produce a sparkling blanc-de-blanc brut (a dry sparkling white wine made entirely from Chardonnay grapes). Mr. Thibaut's origin in the Champagne region of France, has given him incredible skill in the production of sparkling wines in the traditional “méthode champenoise”.

As a way to showcase their love of the sport, and to attract visitors to the winery, the Kings host weekly polo games at 1:30pm every Sunday during the summer (Memorial Day through early October). The games are free and open to the public and are a great chance to see Mr. King in action when he plays on the KFV team. Many people enjoy their favorite King Family wines along with their picnic and tailgate fare during the match. On the first Wednesday of each summer month, the tasting room hours are extended until 8:00pm for glass and bottle sales and guests can enjoy the beautiful vistas from the patio next to a warm fire pit.

The grounds of the Vineyard are also home to the Carriage House: an event space reserved for weddings, rehearsal dinners, birthday celebrations, and more. The North Gallery of the Carriage House also provides the winery with space to showcase local artists and host occasional art shows. While the facilities are beautifully designed, most people find themselves too distracted by the stunning views of the surrounding mountains to notice much else.

The King Family has worked hard to build a reputation for having top-notch staff, breathtaking views, and fantastic wines. Any trip to the area is incomplete without a visit to the King Family Vineyards. 

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Moss Vineyards, Charlottesville Wine Tour


OWNERS: Barry & Ellen Moss

YEAR: 2012

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Moss Vineyards, Charlottesville Wine Tour


OWNERS: Barry & Ellen Moss

YEAR: 2012

ELEGANT ARCHITECTURE, STUNNING VIEWS, AND STELLAR WINE

Moss Vineyards, Virginia Wine Tours

Even in an area known for its breathtaking views, Moss Winery is notable for its spectacular location. 1000 feet up and swept by rising thermals and plunging downdrafts, the circular and katabatic wind patterns make the surrounding forests roar. That, and granite rich soil, ensure the vines that survive have the toughness required to create the best wines. And survive they do, for which fans of the cabernet sauvignon, petit verdot, viognier, varmentino and merlot grapes can be very grateful.

When you sit on the terrace overlooking the rumpled Blue Ridge, it all seems inevitable: the unforgettable scenery, the delectable wine, the crisply modern tasting room and headquarters. Twin freestanding chimneys flank the glass walled winery, paying tribute to that most heart tugging of Appalachian totems: the abandoned stone fireplace, lonesome and crumbling in the woods. But before the first vines were planted in 2007, this was a heavily wooded, uninhabited mountain, so rugged that real estate agents were reluctant to show it. When Barry and Ellen Moss made it to the current tasting room site, a friend climbed one of the tallest pines and snapped a cell photo of the valley below, as they could only guess what vistas would be revealed by clearing. Now, it seems, their intuition has paid off.

It had been during a family vacation in Italy, enjoying the rich leisure that comes from long dinners of regional specialties and local wines savored on a Mediterranean patio, that the Mosses looked at one another and thought, “We want this, at home.” Though a Californian by birth, Ellen agreed with her Virginian husband that staying close to his family was paramount. Then, focused tastings of what was currently produced convinced them that “Virginia wine” was not an oxymoron. Teaming up with some of the finest and most knowledgeable tastemakers, vintners and wine experts, the Mosses searched for the right place, knowing that the specific microclimates and soil composition would tell them which grapes to cultivate. Then they spotted a rutted road that hair pinned off a rural lane in tiny, forgotten Nortonsville and began their labor of love.

When that phrase is used about vineyards, it often means more love than labor. Not so at Moss. Barry, a noted architect, and Ellen, an urban planning and IT professional, decided to “keep our day jobs” and commute every weekend to this remote corner of Albemarle County. After a long predawn trek from Norfolk on Saturday mornings, they would roll out of the car and toil until dark. A brief overnight stay, another long day of boulders and digging and planting, and then back through the night to Norfolk and the clean, quiet professional offices where they could dream of vines and vintages during the week.

They worked hard, and they worked smart. By getting the most experienced and well-regarded names in the business, they avoided costly missteps. Two of the go-to experts whose influences are so evident in the Moss wines are Gabriele Rausse, whose work laid the foundations for all fine Virginia vineyards, and Luca Paschina, the Zonin’s excellent vintner at Barboursville. Their Old World Italian approach married seamlessly with the elegant simplicity of the Moss family aesthetic.

The 5000 vines on site are supplemented by Cab Franc and Barbera grapes, which are purchased off vineyard (a common local practice). New vines are going in, all arranged with the perfect orientation for their site, and established vines are rigorously tended. Consultations with those same experts, who are now dear friends as well as collaborators, continue as they all search for the perfect blends to make the most of what each wildly individual harvest throws at them.

The Mosses seem genuinely interested in a visitor’s impressions of a given wine. When asked for their own in-house favorites, well, the answer may change by the day or the hour. Their Arquitectonica, for example, has already been heralded for its unusually fine aging potential- good now, yes, but it’s going to be something quite memorable if only you can keep your hands off it for a few years. The Vino Rosso, however, is a toothsome blend for drinking now, and the dry rose has already been dubbed the perfect summer pool wine. Oh, and then there’s…

“And that’s one of the many marvelous things about a small, boutique winery,” Ellen enthused. “You get to taste it all!” Keeping in mind Galileo’s summation that “wine is sunlight, held together by water,” Moss Vineyards has captured all sorts of days for its visitors to enjoy, sip by sip. The dramatic scenery (just look at the website photos!), the beautifully crafted architecture, the tastefully balanced wines, the amiable hosts- all combine to create a special moment in time, above a hidden valley, on the side of a sun drenched mountain. Moss Vineyards rewards anyone who takes the path less traveled.

Barry Moss, Moss Vineyards

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Pippin Hill Farm & Vineyards, Cville Wine Tour


OWNERS: Dean & Lynn Easton Andrews

WINEMAKER: Michael Shaps

YEAR: 2010

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Pippin Hill Farm & Vineyards, Cville Wine Tour


OWNERS: Dean & Lynn Easton Andrews

WINEMAKER: Michael Shaps

YEAR: 2010

Elegance and Simplicity

Imagine sitting under a veranda overlooking pristine foothills back-dropped by the Blue Ridge Mountains.  There’s a glass of Virginia wine and fire-baked artisanal pizza on the table before you, banks of native flora edging the landscaped grounds and local musicians lending their sounds to the tone of the afternoon. This is just one of the idyllic experiences waiting for you at Pippin Hill Farm and Winery. It may be the youngest winery in the Monticello region, but its owners, Dean and Lynn Easton Andrews, are applying lessons learned through their years at the top of the hospitality industry.  At Pippin Hill, they have merged their talents to create a boutique winery that provides its visitors with a true Virginia experience.

Every aspect of Pippin Hill is meant to enhance the experience of its visitors while taking advantage of the natural surroundings. Dean and Lynn ensure that the philosophy and practices of their farm-winery adhere to the principles of sustainability. The farm’s gardens provide the kitchen and winery with an array of seasonal herbs, vegetables, and flowers and all production waste is turned back into the farm’s ecosystem. The full-scale vineyard-to-table kitchen provides guests with exquisite local cuisine for a quick afternoon snack or a fine, multi-course dinner. Eighty percent of the food is sourced locally from Pippin Hill Farm or other area farms. 

Pippin Hill Wine Tour

Every aspect of Pippin Hill is meant to enhance the experience of its visitors while taking advantage of the natural surroundings. Dean and Lynn ensure that the philosophy and practices of their farm-winery adhere to the principles of sustainability. The farm’s gardens provide the kitchen and winery with an array of seasonal herbs, vegetables, and flowers and all production waste is turned back into the farm’s ecosystem. The full-scale vineyard-to-table kitchen provides guests with exquisite local cuisine for a quick afternoon snack or a fine, multi-course dinner. Eighty percent of the food is sourced locally from Pippin Hill Farm or other area farms.

Native grasses, plants, trees and the carefully thought-out buildings blend together in the natural landscape to create a picturesque location for events. The interior settings provide a range of possibilities for guests, from intimate gatherings in the Cellar to extravagant celebrations in the Granary. Despite having only recently opened its doors in the spring of 2011, Pippin Hill is already a premier destination and event space, not surprising when considering the collaborative talents of its owners. 

Dean spent over thirty years at the top of the hospitality industry. While vice-president of the prestigious Orient-Express Hotels, he oversaw operations of internationally renowned resorts and restaurants. He directed the acquisition and renovation of the famed 21 Club in New York along with the purchase of Keswick Hall and Club in 1999.  It was the Keswick venture that ultimately led him to settle in the Charlottesville area. Lynn began her professional career in the television industry as an associate producer and producer for NBC, ABC, and CNN News. She relocated to Charlottesville in 1989 and transitioned naturally to the production of events. As founder and president of Charlottesville-based Easton Events, she has built a premier event planning company that now spans the mid-Atlantic region. 

Chris Hill and Michael Shaps were two of the Virginia wine experts called upon by the Andrews to begin the vineyard. With guidance from these experts’ decades of experience in the industry, the Andrews chose to plant three signature varietals at Pippin Hill. These young vines of Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, and Petit Verdot line the southern hillsides below the winery. The Andrews intentionally keep their vineyard small while partnering with local growers to supply them with grapes from the greater Piedmont region. This will give them greater versatility and security in a region known for its inconsistent seasons. Chris Hill, a consultant for dozens of vineyards in the Albemarle region, oversees the management of the six acres of vines at Pippin Hill. The Andrews rely on the skill and resources of Michael Shaps and his Virginia Wineworks facility to produce, bottle, and label their wines. Dean, Michael, and Chris consult routinely on the status of the grapes and development of the wines. The result of this collaboration is a first vintage of Pippin Hill wines that are approachable and enjoyable while reflecting the local flavor. 

It is the Andrews’ intention for Pippin Hill to maintain a perfect balance between sought-after event site and well-respected producer of Virginia wines. With the fresh exuberance that stems from the seasoned staff and their own zeal for this new venture, Dean and Lynn are confident that Pippin Hill will take its place among Virginia’s storied wineries. As an indication of their promising future, they were asked to join the Monticello Wine Trail in their first year, and their event spaces have been routinely booked since opening.

The Andrews have also initiated a new tourism trail for the Southern region. The Jefferson Heritage Trail will span between Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello home and his Poplar Forest home in Lynchburg. Along the trail, wineries, microbreweries, restaurants, and inns of the region will welcome visitors and delight them with the bounty and beauty of Virginia. Youth is not often seen as a virtue in the wine industry but, in the case of the Andrews and their Pippin Hill Farm and Winery, the excitement of a new venture has been paired with the wisdom of age and experience.

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Stinson Vineyards, Charlottesville Wine Tour


OWNER: Scott Stinson

WINEMAKERS: Scott and Rachel Stinson

YEAR: 2009

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Stinson Vineyards, Charlottesville Wine Tour


OWNER: Scott Stinson

WINEMAKERS: Scott and Rachel Stinson

YEAR: 2009

A Family Affair

Drawn to the property primarily because of interest in the residence, the Stinsons came into being vintners accidentally.  Scott Stinson, an architect from Northern Virginia/D.C., focused much of his work on historic architecture and restoration.  With a personal preference for historic homes and his wife Martha’s desire to locate in Albemarle County, they spent four years scouring the area for the perfect restoration-worthy house.  In 2009, they found and purchased the Piedmont House located at the base of Sugar Hollow in the tiny town of White Hall, which is nestled in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains.  

Built in 1796, with an addition in 1850, the house looks much as it did to General Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson and his six thousand troops when, according to local lore, they slept in a nearby field during the Valley Campaign of 1862.  Fate intervened shortly after Scott and Martha moved into the historic old house when they noticed a vineyard in those same fields where General Jackson’s army probably camped. They began to ponder the possibilities.  Originally, there were no plans to start a winery before purchasing the property, but looking out over those vineyards they began to think, “Well, why not?”  Scott and Martha’s romantic notions of having an interesting family business took shape. The family’s combination of talents and interests proved well suited for creating such a family business in the form of a boutique winery. Scott and Martha enlisted the help of their two talented daughters, Rachel and Rebecca. Rachel had been living in New York for five years as a professional photographer.  When approached with the idea, Rachel thought long and hard about leaving her close-knit community and cosmopolitan life.  In the end, she decided that it was best to work towards growing a family business rather than building one for someone else, so she moved here in December of 2009 to begin her role as winemaker.  As an artist, the project held real appeal.  

Other food-related passions, particularly the burgeoning locavore movement, offered additional incentive.  Now as a result of her vision, you can purchase quality local meats from Stinson in addition to wine.The second daughter, Rebecca, also had a strong interest in growing food and cooking, so naturally she followed her sister into the family business a year later. Rebecca manages the tasting room at the winery, and the family benefits greatly from her efforts. The hard work and enthusiasm that she brings to the family business is apparent throughout the year as Rebecca plans and hosts the many fun events at Stinson Vineyards.

Martha Stinson is an avid gardener. You could say she is a born expert. Her flowers beautify the grounds around the historic house as well as the tasting room and her expertise with growing tomatoes and other vegetables made for a nice transition to tending vines.  It is not surprising to see how she contributes to the family business. She is devoted to the vineyards and finds her duties expanding as her experience, the vines, and their acreage grow.

Lucky visitors might even get the opportunity to meet the gentle, soft-spoken matriarch and purchase her beautiful produce when in season.Naturally, Scott’s career in architecture was a real benefit in creating an appealing look for their facilities.  Playing on the vins du garages movement out of Bordeaux, France, Scott redesigned the existing garage to create a contemporary, stylish tasting room and winery building. It is quite an intimate and welcoming space.

Similarly, Rachel’s artistic training gave vision to the distinct graphics used on their labels, signs and other materials. While the look is modern, the winemaking techniques used at Stinson are very traditional and the results impressive.  Rather than going the custom crush route like many start-up wineries, the Stinsons bought state-of-the-art-equipment right at the beginning.  This father-daughter wine team knew that to become experts in any field requires consultation and interaction with other experts. To that end, they asked Mathieu Finot, the well-known head winemaker for King Family Vineyards, to assist Rachel in her process of learning to make quality Virginia wines.  Matthieu’s traditional French background influenced the style of wines made at Stinson, as seen in the winery and vineyard operations generally, right down to the decision to use all-French tanks and barrels. Virginia wine making is a family enterprise in more ways than one.  It is common to see local winery owners and wine makers helping each other in their work because all efforts build the quality and reputation of this region. In addition to Mattheiu’s mentoring, Rachel immersed herself in viticulture and enology by taking courses with Greg Rosko at Piedmont Community College.  This coursework proved useful when the Stinsons had to replant ailing vines.  They are not discouraged, however, because they know setbacks are to be expected in an industry comprised of a unique combination of science, art and, frankly, luck. So, while waiting for the newly planted vines to mature, their fruit is currently purchased from other local vineyards (also not uncommon in the industry).  They are currently making Sauvignon Blanc, Rose, Chardonnay, Sugar Hollow White, Petit Manseng, Cabernet Franc and Meritage. Stinson is located in Sugar Hollow, one of the most beautiful places on earth. This wonderful and historic spot, with sweeping views of the mountains in the Shenandoah Park (and Buck’s Elbow to the south), provides the perfect setting to enjoy the wines at Stinson Vineyards, ideally with great friends and a picnic basket.  Stop by and become a part of their family business.

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Veritas Vineyard & Winery, Virginia Wine Tour


Veritas Vineyard & Winery

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Veritas Vineyard & Winery, Virginia Wine Tour


Veritas Vineyard & Winery

Andrew Hodson is the patriarch of Veritas Vineyard & Winery. As a young man he dedicated his life to medicine, working in Pennsylvania, North Carolina, and Florida. A talented neurologist, his hands became an expression of his intellect, compassion, and skill. Medicine was his passion, shared with his wife, Patricia, who owned a medical billing service, but in the 1990s, the couple decided to leave the profession. They were looking for something new, something to bring change to each year and each season. They didn’t know then, but their choice brought a great change in which the seasons are celebrated by “each vintage.” 

Andrew describes his transition to vintner as a perfect segue.  A casual visit to Virginia’s wine country led to the purchase of Saddleback farm. Soon after, the family sold their homes in the South and arranged the move North. “There was just no doubt about it,” said Andrew about the decision. While practicing medicine in Philadelphia, the Hodsons often went camping in Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains.  Looking back, Andrew believes something in those family memories encouraged the decision that changed their lives.  

Daughters Emily and Chloe held down the farm the first year. Andrew and Patricia spent most of that year in Florida closing down their careers in medicine. The girls, who are twelve years apart, fondly recall learning how to run a farm together as the beginning of the close bond they now share. Whether trapped on the front porch by an overbearing horse or almost taking out the house with a tractor’s front end, it was a humorously formidable year for them both. Andrew and Patricia joined their daughters in 1999, in time to see the first vines of cabernet franc, merlot, traminette, tanat, and petite verdot planted, adding viognier, sauvignon blanc, and manseng the following year. With vines firmly rooted, Veritas Vineyard & Winery, started as the family’s labor of love, began to take shape. The name seemed right. Derived from the Roman historian Pliny the Elder’s observation: “In Vino Veritas,” meaning “In Wine There is Truth,” it is a fitting name since Andrew discovered truth can indeed be found in a leap of faith. 

In 2002, Veritas opened to the public. Andrew crafted the first vintages with Emily assisting. The process was one of opportunity, taking advantage of lessons learned from the soil, vines, and grapes while relying on judgment to drive the winery’s evolution. Emily took over as lead winemaker after the first few years, using her technical understanding of winemaking and Masters of Enology from Virginia Tech that proved instrumental in creating wines that are among the best in Virginia. Her skill and dedication to winemaking were recognized in 2007 when she was awarded the title of Overall Winner in the Women Winemakers Challenge at the National Women’s Wine Competition. Her Viognier – made from a grape quickly becoming the signature grape of Virginia - is one of the finest examples coming from the Monticello AVA. Although Andrew’s presence in the winery continues to be influential to the wine’s development, he and Patricia are semiretired. Undoubtedly, they rest comfortably in the knowledge that the family winery is in good hands.

Veritas was not originally intended to be an event destination.  Initially, wine tastings occurred on picnic tables out on the lawn, but Patricia saw how much people enjoyed the setting and went to work designing the tasting room and grounds.  Her design is open and versatile, allowing guests to experience Veritas wines in an extraordinary place with elegant décor and artwork, giving the space an Elizabethan feel. Visitors enjoy wine outside, from the porch or picnic tables and Adirondack chairs on the lawn featuring breathtaking views.  Guests also relax inside on hearthside couches and chairs across from a warm fire softly glowing. No wonder people from all over flock to this special place for weddings, parties and concerts, or to relax in such a pristine setting.  Because of the popularity of their wines and a reputation for being one of the best event destinations in the region, Veritas currently produces 12,000 cases of wine per year and hosts thousands of people each season for weddings and other events. 

Since Andrew and Patricia are retiring, stewardship of Veritas will pass to their children. Emily hopes to continue the evolution of the varietals and wines produced. Given her track record, success seems inevitable. Their son, George, joined the family business as General Manager, helping Patricia with the finances and managing the tasting room. Chloe insisted she would leave when she grew up, but did give in to the enticement of the family vines for a time.  Graduating from the University of Virginia, she worked in the field for a year before taking over event management for the winery. Determined to make good on her promise to see the world outside of Afton, she eventually moved to New York to train as a yoga instructor. Perhaps she will return to take her place in the family business, but whatever the fates have in store for Chloe, the hard work and dedication she brought during her tenure live on in many of the events and traditions she established, such as the wildly popular Starry Nights outdoor concert series. 

Veritas is expanding, with a Bed and Breakfast in the Farmhouse and an additional twenty-five acres of vines planted.  The family and staff happily measure their lives by “each vintage” produced and enthusiastically enjoy sharing their life’s work.  Like the name denotes, there is truth to be found in the wine at Veritas, It’s an elusive yet palpable truth, the kind that can only be found in a leap of faith.

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White Hall Vineyards, Crozet Winery Tour


OWNERS:  Tony and Edie Champ

WINEMAKER: Mike Panczak

YEAR: 1992

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White Hall Vineyards, Crozet Winery Tour


OWNERS:  Tony and Edie Champ

WINEMAKER: Mike Panczak

YEAR: 1992

New Pioneers in the Blue Ridge Reinvigorate VA Wine

White Hall Vineyards, Crozet Wine Tour

In Mr. Jefferson’s day western Albemarle County was considered part of the western frontier, where pioneers looking to make their home in the Blue Ridge came and settled. The rugged mountains gave the promise of a new life and the excitement of finding opportunity in a bountiful if often dangerous place. Tony and Edie Champ undoubtedly felt such excitement when they moved to Virginia in 1992. Tony and his wife, Edie, developed a love of wine while touring the Napa Valley. They soon became enamored with the idea of starting their own winery and set about looking for the perfect spot to plant vines and build a dream, much as the colonial pioneers who came before them had done. They found paradise: the perfect piece of land located in the crossroads community of White Hall. The area is known for the Moormans River, which flows through Sugar Hollow, and is home to the legendary swimming hole locals affectionately call the “Blue Hole” as well as to the North and South Fork hiking trails. In this idyllic setting, in the shadow of Buck’s Elbow Mountain Range (at the base of the Shenandoah Park), Tony and Edie established White Hall Vineyards.

They came at the perfect time. Virginia wine was really in its infancy. Although Thomas Jefferson attempted to create wine in Virginia throughout his life, he never enjoyed much success. In fact, some of the oldest grape vineyards in Virginia, started as a commercial enterprise, only date back to the mid 1970s, when a few brave souls renewed Jefferson’s quest to make great wine in Virginia. These new pioneers who came in the ‘70s and ‘80s and into the early ‘90s, experimented with varietals and, through trial and error, learned how they interacted with the climate and soil conditions in an unforgiving region.  Tony and Edie are among those early new pioneers who blazed the trail for others to follow such that there are over 220 wineries and vineyards in Virginia today. When the history of Virginia wine is written, Tony and Edie Champ will be recognized for their early contribution to creating such a successful wine industry in the east.

Tony and Edie Champ, White Hall Vineyards, Elizabeth Flood Pencil Drawing
Tony and Edie Champ, Elizabeth Flood Pencil Drawing

White Hall vineyard is located at approximately 800 feet of elevation on the eastern slope of the Blue Ridge Mountains and is ideal for viticulture. The grounds around the winery are lovely, with grand old oak trees that shade several picnic tables and offer the visitor a pleasant place to linger over a glass of wine or a bit of lunch. The first six acres of vines were planted in 1992 and White Hall produced the first vintage as far back as 1994. The vineyard eventually grew to 45 acres but still operates in that same adventurous pioneer spirit that characterized its founding. The Winemaker, Mike Panczak, the driving force behind the quality wines produced at White Hall, often boasts that he likes to try something new every year, whether experimenting with the fermentation process, new yeast or trying a new varietal. He is constantly changing the face of the vineyard, planting new varietals that may stand alone or compliment others in a blend, or, occasionally, removing varietals that don’t thrive or meet his high standards of excellence. His knowledge comes from experience. To make better wine requires experimentation to discover which grapes grow best in a particular vineyard. The only way to truly know is to plant them and see. Although Viognier, the signature grape of Virginia, is his favorite wine to make, White Hall makes over a dozen wines including Chardonnay, Petit Verdot and Cabernet Franc. White Hall also features unique varietals such as Petit Manseng, Touriga Nacional and Gewurztraminer. Visitors may even see Muscat as part of a blend.

White Hall is all about the wine. Although they have an event space on the second floor that is ideal for wine dinners or small weddings, they do not want to be regarded as an event destination and so do not foresee a lot of growth in weddings in the years to come. Rather the family, staff and winemaker at White Hall devote themselves to producing quality wine which has balance and complexity and then striving to sell their wines at a reasonable price, thereby making Virginia wine available to more people. As such, their wines are enjoyed throughout the state and nation as well as internationally as far away as London England, where they received high praise at the London International Wine Fair.

The pioneer spirit that brought Tony and Edie Champ to Virginia to be a part of the fledgling Virginia wine industry has definitely paid off.  They are considered among the founders of Virginia wine and rightly so, for with each vintage Tony and Edie cement their place in the rich history of Virginia Wine. Indeed, for the last 20 vintages, White Hall Vineyards has shown all those who seek to follow in the path of Tony and Edie Champ how to make great wine.  So the next time you are on the Monticello Wine Trail, raise your glass and toast Virginia’s new pioneers.

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Trump Winery, Charlottesville Wine Tour


OWNER: Eric Trump Wine Manufacturing LLC

WINEMAKER Reds Program: Katel Griaud

WINEMAKER Sparkling Program: Jonathan Wheeler

YEAR: 1999 as Kluge Winery & Vineyard, 2011 as Trump Winery

 

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Trump Winery, Charlottesville Wine Tour


OWNER: Eric Trump Wine Manufacturing LLC

WINEMAKER Reds Program: Katel Griaud

WINEMAKER Sparkling Program: Jonathan Wheeler

YEAR: 1999 as Kluge Winery & Vineyard, 2011 as Trump Winery

 

Sprawling across one of the most picturesque landscapes in the Albemarle region is the revitalized Trump Winery. In the short thirteen years since the first vines were planted on the estate, then founded as Kluge Estate Winery & Vineyard, a storied history flush with color and headlines has been written. It is perhaps, the Virginia winery most written about in bold due to its ambitious and eccentric founder Patricia Kluge, highly publicized failings and foreclosure, and its unceremonious resale to corporate real estate and entertainment mogul Donald Trump. However, lost in these bylines is the story of the wines and the individuals that have been making them. In 2010, as the presses rolled on about the foreclosure of Patricia Kluge’s winery and the ensuing fire sale of her wines by the bank, there continued to stand over 220 acres of pristine vines and over 1500 barrels of fine wines on the repossessed property. They sat untouched for nearly a year until the winemakers returned in late 2011.

Donald Trump and Patricia Kluge have known each other for over forty years. Patricia, a British native raised in Iraq, rose to fame as a British socialite through in the entertainment industry. On a trip to New York in the late seventies she met John Kluge, founder of the entertainment conglomerate Metromedia. They married in 1981. The couple often spent time in the same social strata as Donald and then wife Ivana. Their youngest son’s John Jr. and Eric Trump, who now runs the winery business, were young acquaintances. In 1990 both couples divorced. Their celebrity statuses resulted in the personal and financial fallout of the separations being exposed in the media. Patricia’s settlement was reportedly $80 million a year and ownership of the 23, 500 sq. ft. Albemarle House estate in southern Albemarle, Virginia. It was with this and investments from her current husband Bill Moses that she began lavishly investing in the vineyard estate.

In the late 1990’s Patricia asked Kirsty Harmon, now general manager and winemaker at Blenheim Vineyards, to help establish a winery on her property. The first vines were planted in 1999. To assist in the cultivation of her winery Patricia hired prominent Virginia wine consultants, Michael Shaps and Gabriele Rausse, to assist in the development of the first 190 acres of vineyards. Then in 2001, just before the first vintage, she did something unprecedented in the Virginia wine industry. She hired world famous wine consultant Michel Rolland whose annual fees are often unreleased. Although Patricia was widely criticized for paying for his consultation, it proved she was committed to her notion that Kluge Winery & Vineyards would be the catalyst needed to show the world what the Virginia wine industry was capable of. Through 2006 Patricia invested extraordinarily in the winery’s expansion and the personnel responsible for building Kluge’s wines.

For a wine insider her rotation of winemakers, assistant winemakers, and consultants read like a fantasy lineup with veteran experience and young talent. Along with Rolland, the famed Champagne producer Laurent Champs of the Vilmart house consulted on the sparkling wines. Over the course of eight years her winemakers included Charles Gendrot, the son of a Bordeaux wine consultant who had spent over fifteen years working with wineries in the same cradle of red wine as his father along with stints in California. In 2002 Claude Thibault accepted the offer to come to Virginia to initiate the production of sparkling wines at Kluge. At the time he’d spent over fifteen years bringing bubbles to wineries in Australia and California. In 2009 two young talents were appointed as lead winemakers for Kluge’s reds and sparkling programs. Katel Griaud, a study of Michel Rolland and whose family owns Chateau Kalian on the Monbazillac appellation in France, took over the Bordeaux style production of Kluge’s reds. That same year, long time assistant winemaker Jonathan Wheeler began leading the sparkling program. He is a New York native who had previously worked in Sonoma, Monterey, Marlborough, and the Finger Lakes region before coming to Kluge in 2006. Both Griaud and Wheeler blended their knowledge of old world techniques with modern winemaking expertise. By 2009, the winery had expanded to over 200 acres of vines and 30,000 cases per year. The flagship New World Red and signature sparkling wines were receiving numerous awards and praise due to the talents of the winemakers and consultants Patricia had brought in.

However, the bubbles did not last. At the time of the market crisis and burst of the housing bubble the Kluge’s had invested significant portions of their personal wealth in the winery but had also begun developing a luxurious community of estates across the street and owned a struggling restaurant in Downtown Charlottesville. By 2010 the restaurant had closed, work on the properties had eased, and Patricia was auctioning off personal items to finance the winery. For the eccentric women whose colorful history had been laid bared by the media for most of her life the very public repossession and fire sale of her winery and beloved Albemarle House was a heartbreaking experience. She would not attend the auctions during which cases of her wines fell to $2 per case before the bank imposed a $35 minimum.

 In April of 2011 the foreclosed upon winery and vineyards were purchased by Donald Trump for a meager $6.2 million. The auction winnings included a 131-acre tract with the estate’s original vineyard and tasting room, production building, and wine cave. Trump’s organization also won a 647-acre swath of land that included established vineyards, land suitable for future plantings, a former carriage museum, an event pavilion, and a barn converted into the winery’s central office. Given the long relationship between Patricia and Donald, the sale was written off by many in the media as a sale between friends, furthered by Trump’s decision to keep Patricia and Bill Moses on as winery staff.  However, upon visiting the Trump Winery it is apparent that it was not a bailout for a friend. Donald immediately passed the operations of the winery to his son Eric who, with the extensive corporate resources of the Trump enterprises, has developed his own notion that Trump will be the first winery to showcase to the world Virginia’s potential. Perhaps, the most surprising but smartest acts of the new ownership was hiring back Katel Griaud and Jonathan Wheeler as lead winemakers.

With these two back at the helm the sparkle seems to have been returned to the winery; aided by a large golden “T”. Currently, Trump is continuing to label under the well-known Kluge line of wines. The latest releases of 2009 reds, 2010 whites, and sparkling wines retain the same style and character as the early vintages but since many of them sat untouched in their bottles, barrels, and tanks for months they have taken on a life of their own. Griaud and Wheeler walked back into a dark cellar but that hadn’t kept the wines from pressing on. Look for the headlines about Trump Winery to read less like tabloids and more like a come back success story in the years to come.

  • Size of Property: over 900 acres
  • Acres until Vine: over 220
  • Annual Production: over 40,000 case per year

Best Known Wines:

  • New World Red
  • Blanc de Blanc Brut
  • Cru   

History of Virginia Wine


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History of Virginia Wine


The history of wine in Virginia dates back to 1607 with the successful establishment of a colony at Jamestown by the Virginia Company. Early accounts of the abundance of native grape varietals sent back by Captain John Smith created a fervent desire to make wine in the New World. In 1619 the Virginia House of Burgesses passed Act 12, requiring each head of a household to plant ten vines and, “attain to the arte and experience of dressing a Vineyard.” By most historical accounts, however, such attempts to make palatable wines failed. By 1768 the American colonies were exporting less than 13 tons of wine that, by most standards, on either side of the Atlantic, was undrinkable, due to the persistent foxiness, or musty aroma and taste associated with American grape varietals. Thomas Jefferson is famous for meticulously documenting his life-long failures of producing wine on his Monticello estate. Even Philip Mazzei, the Florentine noble and vintner who Jefferson called a close friend and neighbor, was so frustrated by the ground (and the Revolutionary War,) that he eventually gave up all hope of seeing a successful vintage. Jefferson’s vision of an American wine industry on par with that of Europe’s would have to wait.

The 1800s proved to be a more fruitful era for Virginia wine. It was a controversial and misunderstood grape varietal known as a norton, widely considered a hybrid of V. vinifera (European species) and V. aestivalis or V. labrusca (American species) that brought Virginia wine its first taste of prominence. The true genealogical origin and individual who discovered the grape remains shrouded by history but no one can dispute the role it played in introducing Virginian and American wine to the world market. By the mid 1850s the norton was the premier grape of Virginia, Missouri, and the Ohio River Valley, the three largest producers of wine prior to Prohibition. It surpassed other popular native grapes such as the Concord, Catawba, and Scuppernong in heartiness, complexity, and age-worthiness. At the extravagant 1873 Universal Exhibition in Vienna a bottle of norton from a vineyard in Hermann, Missouri claimed a gold medal among a field of twenty thousand bottles. Five years later at the Universal Exhibition in Paris a bottle of norton carried by the Monticello Wine Company, founded in 1873, earned a silver medal. Further successes of the company through the turn of the 20th century bolstered the city of Charlottesville, Virginia to declare itself the “the Capital of the Wine Belt in Virginia.” However, these long awaited successes were rendered almost historically obsolete with the passage of the 18th Amendment in 1919 that began Prohibition.

Over the course of a decade and a half the memory of the wines and winemaking that had been so laboriously sought after for three hundred years was forgotten, the American palate for great wines thoroughly cleansed, and the established varietals nearly uprooted to extinction. After the production and sale of wine was made legal again in 1933 it would take over twenty years for vintners to create a market for themselves. By the 1950s California had established itself as the premier wine-growing region in America. It would be another decade and a half before the potential of the Monticello region was tapped again.

When Gionni Zonin, head of an Italian wine enterprise dating back to 1820, decided that Virginia would be home to his New World vineyard there were less than a dozen vineyards in the state. Most were private low yield operation but few were having success growing vinifera vines. Gionni along with Gabriele Rausse, a talented young viticulturist, spent the early 1970s searching the Virginia countryside for the ideal setting for the winery before settling in 1976 on a nine hundred acre tract of land in Barboursville, Virginia. There, in the center of the Commonwealth’s piedmont region, these two men set to work planting and cultivating a wine enterprise that today produces wines of exceptional character.  As a result of their innovation and pioneering, Barboursville is considered the birthplace of the modern wine industry in Virginia.

Over the course of the next twenty years other passionate and talented individuals joined in the cultivation of the bourgeoning industry with their erudite innovation, keen dedication, and willing acceptance of risk. These early pioneers of viticulture were faced with a geographical location known for its variant seasonal climate and little experience of successful grape growing. Dennis Horton of Horton Vineyards became a leading figure in varietal selection for the state after the mid-1980s when he became the first to commercially plant viognier.  The varietal is now grown by over seventy vineyards and considered a signature wine of Virginia. Today his tasting menu reads like a world’s wine atlas, distinct for the presence of the ancient rkatsiteli and the reclusive norton. Jennifer McCloud, the resolute visionary behind Chrysalis Vineyards, has been spurring on her own revival of norton since 1997 along with producing a stellar lineage of white wines. There is also Jim Law of Linden Vineyards whose tireless study and focus on the land matches that of the staunchest terroir-ist of Europe. He first began toiling in the Virginia soil in the early 1980s and now is among the top winemakers in the state.

The wines and recognition produced from the patient and dedicated efforts of these individuals became the catalyst for the eruption of Virginia wine. By 2000 over seventy wineries had planted grapes, pulled in a harvest, and released a first vintage. This number almost tripled in the decade that followed. According to the Virginia Wine Board well over two hundred wineries will be releasing a 2014 vintage. With over four decades of experience and experimentation, there is a tangible excitement in the industry that Virginia wine is prepared to rise to an even higher level of quality.

International attention has already been garnered. Virginia wine is more readily available in the wine shops of London than