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.