Virginia Wine Tours | Early Mountain Vineyards Early Mountain Vineyards leaps onto the Virginia Wine Tours scene with great enthusiasm and fervor!

History, beauty and wine terroir meet here in Madison, Virginia, a short drive north from 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, AOL’s 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 having the most potential.

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Mr. Case, a co-founder of AOL, and Mrs. Case, the branding and marketing star there, started the Case Foundation in 1997 to “encourage collaboration, support successful leaders and foster entrepreneurship,” especially in underserved communities. Their push to create real stewardship for the land made their interest in the former Sweely Vineyard a natural. Also, knowing that success can be measured in many ways other than amassing dollars (they 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.

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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 Vineyards 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 the enthusiastic Jean Case.

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The wine tasting room (referred to as the Celebration Hall) is airy, open and on a grand scale, with cool, chic décor. Taupe, grays 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 was well planned and finely coordinated. Several oversized fireplaces (indoors and out), numerous comfortable seating areas, a variety of fire pits on the grounds…make sure your party knows where you are because 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. There is an elevator and all seems handicap accessible.

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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 Vineyards 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. Also, staff members are remarkably friendly, voluble, knowledgeable and cheerful. Although this might be considered a requirement in a fledgling industry, the Early Mountain Vineyards enthusiasm is a cut above.

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

All in all, Early Mountain Vineyards is a great place to spend an afternoon with family or friends.

And, yes- George Washington DID sleep here.

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Wedding Transit Info:

Steve Case, Early Mountain Vineyards