Many of you have already heard the accolades about Ankida Ridge’s Pinot Noir, but for those who aren’t familiar with this East Coast Pinot, today is the day. Recently opened, Madison’s Early Mountain Vineyards (heretofore, EMV) features (in addition to their own wines) select estate wines from around Virginia. From the onset, EMV is committed to excellence and selling Ankida Ridge’s Pinot enhances their wine list. Due to the small scale production at Ankida Ridge, this wine will be sold at EMV, but not available for tastings…except this afternoon. 2-5pm… Christine and Nathan Vrooman will be there to visit with old friends and new as they pour their 2010 Pinot Noir and 2011 Chardonnay (its first public appearance!) It should be a fabulous afternoon!
The Vroomans, owners of Ankida Ridge, planted tightly spaced vines of Burgundian grapes, Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, at an elevation of 1800 ft, amongst the rocks and steep narrow rows of vines. The result according to Dave McIntyre of The Washington Post picks Ankida Ridge’s 2010 Pinot Noir near the top of his favorite regional wines of 2011! Esteemed wine writer, Richard Leahy, posts this review of our Pinot Noir! … “The new, small, Burgundian-style winery Ankida Ridge high in Amherst County is not only focused and passionate, but has done their homework from the ground up, hiring viticulturist Lucie Morton and paying attention to every detail in the process. The result is the most remarkable pinot noir I’ve had from the Eastern U.S.“….
Ah, where to begin?
It all started with a dream; a dream that confirmed a vision that became Ankida Ridge - where Heaven and Earth join. Christine Vrooman had a dream of a serene place to withdraw with her family in the mountains of Virginia. In her “dream journal” she described a place that had come to her in her sleep, a piece of land with a little cabin and a fruit tree near a pond. She sketched it in her journal and forgot about it until she happened on the land near Amherst on Franklin Creek Road. It was all there, the cabin, the pond, even the cherry tree! This was only one of the intimate stories she shared with us on our visit to Ankida Ridge Vineyard., now a part of the new Jefferson Heritage Trail!
It was my pleasure to be invited by Glass House Winery friends on an outing south to a new and up and coming winery. Our group of wine adventurers( advinturers?) included ring-leaders Paulette Musselman ( a kindred spirit- wine lover, photographer and knows no strangers) and Michelle Sanders, chocolatier and owner of Glass House; plus Connie, GH tasting room manager, and friends Nancy and Candace both newcomers to the Charlottesville area.
Nathan Vrooman is the winemaker and supervisor of construction of the new winery. Greeting us warmly, he guided us into the lower level of the winery. Brazilian music softly filled the vat room and the family dogs, Boom-Boom (Boomer) and Tonka begged for our attention. I think these two along with their adorable and quirky Bella should definitely be on the list for the next Virginia Wine Lovers Readers Choice favorite vineyard dogs. Pouring us their chilled 2010 Chardonnay, we shared stories taking in the views of sheep grazing and snow dusted mountains. Tasting note: I really liked the Chardonnay even though it is being overshadowed by the 2010 Pinot Noir. Nathan doesn’t try to take credit but certainly deserves it, especially with the praise that their first vintages are receiving. Only Pinot Noir and Chardonnay grapes have been planted on the property. Interestingly, while attending the dinner at Monticello I got to hear first-hand the praises of the 2010 Pinot Noir from Dave McIntyre of the Washington Post during the 2011 Wine Bloggers Conference .
Here are just a few of the positive comments about Ankida Ridge:
One of “Virginia’s Top Picks,” … “a new and exciting producer ” — Jancis Robinson, acclaimed international wine writer and critic
“Amazing Pinot Noir,” An insider’s pick… that “wowed the crowd” — Dave McIntyre, The Washington Post
“A faithful Pinot taste ….. The Chardonnay is well-balanced and spicy, and a treat in the style of a white Burgundy” — Jim Raper, The Virginian-Pilot
Christine’s blog is one of my favorite blogs with excellent photography and a true gift for writing. She captures life at the vineyard through heart warming pictures of family, beloved pets, the unravelling of the woods into orchards and vines…and the sheep, the lambs and grandbabies stomping grapes! A must-read for any one longing for the simpler life. Her photo of the mountains seen through a glass of Chardonnay became the cover of the 2011 Virginia Wine Guide and was coveted by Virginia’s First Lady, Maureen McDonnell.
Christine also is committed to organically treating the property and has written in detail of the benefits of Willow tree bark tea, a concoction they make from their own Willow trees. She explained quite scientifically how the tea poured around the roots causes SAR (System Aquired Response) and thus resulting in a more complex intense fruit flavor. It’s working! Christine mentions a link in her blog about this. You should have tasted the Port they have in barrel, Wow! I think we all really liked that, just have to wait another year and a half.
For a cool February afternoon with sun peaking in and out casting shadows on dormant vines, it was magical. The Vroomans treated us all as old friends and I feel we stayed a bit long imposing on their hospitality and delicious wine. A return visit is imperative during the Spring and I can only imagine the Redbud trees and Dogwoods with baby lambs romping below the vineyard. Visits to the winery are by appointment only so check out their website before you venture out.
I had to include this picture of Christine’s eyes which I found captivating and could be described as “veraison” eyes changing colors from green to violet. Thank You to Christine, Nathan, and of course, Paulette (for driving and packing the picnic basket)!
Credit to C. Vrooman for the lead picture and Paulette for the ones with her name on them
After spending a day at the Omni Hotel on the Charlottesville downtown pedestrian mall ( I write this description for non-locals) we climbed on busses heading up curvy route 53 to Monticello for a dinner reception featuring Virginia wines. Extremely muggy hot weather was not the best conditions to show off our fair city and Blue Ridge Mountains. I still think despite the New Orleans Bayou-thick air, out of state visitors were impressed with the history and beauty of Monticello. Efforts were made to keep the guests comfortable, hand-held fans printed with “Virginia Is For Lovers” were distributed and outdoor air conditioning was provided at strategic locations, fans with water reservoirs diffusing cool mist on the more aggressive heat relief seekers (Me!). TJ look-alike mingled with the guests along with celebrities like the Zonins, owners of Barboursville, just in from Italia!
The wine makers were sheltered under a vast tent, keeping their bottles in coolers before opening them for the bloggers. I couldn’t be more proud of our winery owners, wine makers and hosts-cheerfully pouring (more requested) whites and reds and extolling the quality of their wines. Meanwhile, I shed my heels at Ankida Ridge’s table and walked barefoot in the grass, meeting other wine bloggers and tasting wine. As I wandered around, I couldn’t help but wonder what Thomas Jefferson would think about these techy wine lovers traipsing around his home and sharing thoughts regarding an industry that he started centuries ago in Virginia!
I was a little despondent about the demise of the 200+ years old White Oak and Poplar trees flanking the west side of Monticello. Noticeably missing, the large tree stumps look void and sad, so I toasted Thomas Jefferson quietly to myself. The value of some of the wines attributed to his collection have reached record prices at auction!
Ankida Ridge, Glass House, Stinson, Gabrielle Rausse, Flying Fox and Pippin Hill Farm Vineyard were stops for me, unfortunately I missed several others due to waning energy. The food was excellent! Shrimp and cheese grits, mini crab cakes, tiny stuffed red potatoes were all tasty pairings for the wines offered. Water bottles were the most coveted item on the menu, Keswick Hall did a fabulous job!
All in all, a lovely event and I overheard many guests discussing return travel plans to Virginia!
Great job, Charlottesville and Virginia Tourism!