A WINERY WITH A SPECIAL VIBE
Every season brings something special when you live near the Blue Ridge Mountains. In the spring, I never need much of an excuse to take a weekend drive in the country. Sometimes my route takes me up 810, where, a few miles past the crossroads of White Hall and a bit off of the beaten path, it just so happens Mountfair Vineyards is located. A proud member of the Monticello Wine Trail, Mountfair is a hidden treasure with excellent wine and all the excuse you need to take a drive in the country. A small winery with about 5 acres of grapes, Mountfair specializes in producing a variety of blends based of the traditional Bordeaux grapes: merlot, cabernet sauvignon, cabernet franc, petit verdot, and malbec. Such descriptions, however, do not begin to define the essence of the place.
One recent early spring evening, as friends and family of Mountfair sat around a communal dinner table in the winery's barrel room, enjoying potluck dishes amidst the ambiance of candlelight and aging wine, the conversation landed on that very topic. Inevitably, the "who are we?" question was posed. Adjectives flew but no concurring opinion settled the matter entirely. One thing is for sure: everyone agreed Mountfair is not your typical winery.
Warm, unpretentious, eclectic, familial, all fitting words used to describe the “Mountfair vibe,” that feeling you get with this winery that comes when you first see it and get to know the people who run it and, most especially, when you partake of the fruits of their labor. A feeling which seems to envelope you like spring sun on your face after a particularly long and dreary winter. From the moment you walk into the tasting room, you are greeted as an old friend and regaled with stories behind the quirky wine names – Wooloomooloo (named after a mythical spirit said to roam the Blue Ridge mountains), Jilted (you’ll have to hear that story from the source) and Blended Family (describing the blending of grapes or, better still, the blending of two families as a result of a certain upcoming nuptial). Each wine reflects the unique nature and complexity their respective name implies. Each receive a healthy dose of oak aging resulting in an interestingly complex, age-worthy wine sure to only improve with time. And each is a real treat for lovers of Bordeaux grape varietals and blends. Mountfair Vineyards is a small artisanal winery specializing in red Bordeaux-style blends only, but they try to offer something for all tastes. Several friends of the winery - local wine and cider makers who don’t have tasting rooms - are featured as well. As such, a tasting could include ciders, sparklers and white wines, in addition to fabulous reds!
Located on the eastern slope of the Blue Ridge Mountains northwest of Charlottesville, Mountfair emphasizes small lot viticulture and small batch fermentation methods in the making of wine. An organic endeavor from the beginning, Mountfair started years ago as a horse farm. Chris Yordy bought 30 acres on Fox Mountain in 1991, building a farmhouse on the top of the property and a horse barn next to the road. In 1998, while working for Cisco Systems, he met Fritz Repich. The two IT guys became fast friends, sharing many a bottle of wine and, eventually, an interest in winemaking. As luck would have it, Chris’ land happened to be in the middle of a burgeoning Virginia wine industry. Moreover, further inspection confirmed that soil conditions were just right: grapes - good wine grapes – would grow on the land. So Chris and Fritz started experimenting with planting grape vines; their first was in 2004. Chris will tell you that none of the initial vines survived, but half of the next year’s plantings took, making it “a success story.” From there he never looked back as his horse farm transformed into a vineyard.
The horse barn was a perfect spot for a tasting room. Its conversion began in 2007 and was completed a year later. Chris, trained in the timber framing method of construction, harvested trees from the property to create the distinctive frame; carefully fitted and joined timbers with joints secured by large wooden pegs. Oak slats from the horse stalls were cleaned and reused as the ceiling of the tasting room. The tasting room bar is made from used oak barrels topped with a wood counter made from the same indigenous white pine used in the rest of the building.
Walk past the tasting room, into the barrel room and you’ll see oak barrels stacked, containing two years worth of single varietals. Each wine at Mountfair (remember, they only make reds) is aged in oak barrels for up to two years. The barrel room does double duty as an event space, with a small stage for singer/songwriter acoustic performers. Tables topped with flickering candles make the space welcoming and intimate. Since the barrel room also serves as the primary winemaking room (and bottling room four times a year), you might see Fritz, who now carries the title of winemaker as well as part owner, creating fantastic Bordeaux blends, checking on the wine or using the barrel thief to do a sampling for some lucky customer.
A patio with spectacular views of the Blue Ridge Mountains is located just off the tasting room and the perfect place to enjoy a glass of wine. Since you are in the country, it is no surprise that wildlife abounds; you may spot the local blue heron (or the visiting osprey or king fisher) looking for dinner at the nearby pond. Or catch the song of the red-winged black bird as he calls his mate. Or watch a wine club member snag a large mouthed bass (fishing privileges are among the perks of membership). Bring a picnic and enjoy the beauty and serenity of the land that supports the winery and become a part of the Mountfair vibe.
The people, the architecture and artisanship of the tasting room, and the beauty of the surrounding countryside, all combine to create an inviting and memorable ambiance, but, in the end, it is the wine that leaves an indelible impression on visitors. Mountfair focuses on high quality, low quantity boutique Bordeaux style red blends using a variety of classic grapes and they do it right. Some of Virginia’s finest red wines are made at this little winery. As one customer remarked, “this could be Napa, thirty years ago.” Their blends reflect a distinctive wine making style; smooth, balanced, low tannins with a lingering finish that experienced patrons know will quickly sell out. So do yourself a favor and take a ride in the country to find your way to a little winery with a very special vibe.