ELEGANT ARCHITECTURE, STUNNING VIEWS, AND STELLAR WINE
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.