3 Virginia Wineries for Fireside Sipping

untitled02Whether you are a native of the Old Dominion or a Virginian by choice, I’m reminded of a quotation, “You’re on your own. And you know what you know. And YOU are the one who’ll decide where to go…”
― Dr. Seuss, Oh, The Places You’ll Go!  In Virginia we have so many places to go! Historical, scenic, cultural and of course, the wineries and vineyards. Get out and shake that cabin fever!

It’s not the prettiest time in the vineyards, the vines are rough and scruffy, asleep waiting for the warmth of the sun to awaken them and the first buds to burst forth. However, it’s a great time to enjoy the wineries! Super Bowl has passed and Spring sports are just around the corner, in the meantime, what better way to enjoy a chilly day then to cozy up to a fireplace with friends with a glass of wine?

We have so many great wineries in Central Virginia, but I’ve chosen three of my favorite, all for different reasons but with a common element, fireside sipping. If you’re fortunate and have the option to go during the week days, you’ll not only avoid the crowds but can have some personal attention from the tasting room manager or even winery owners or winemakers.

All of these mentioned in this post are in the Western Albemarle, northern Nelson County area. All have Blue Ridge Mountain views, are gorgeous wedding venues (check out Borrowed & Blue) and all have  fireplaces.  Don’t miss the opportunity to head out on horseback with Indian Summer Guide Service like we did a while back with owner Ashton Beebe. Each of these vineyards offer horseback rides touring the vineyards.

While they all have much in common, each of the wineries has their own unique ambiance and appeal.

Nestled up close to the mountains is Afton Mountain Vineyards, one of the oldest vineyards in the area dating back to 1978.untitled01

Afton Mountain has the most intimate setting.  Stepping through the Mediterranean style exterior you feel as though you’ve been invited into Tony and Elizabeth Smith’s (owners of AMV) personal living room. We honestly stayed 2 and a half hours sharing a bottle of a perfect winter day Cabernet Franc and photographing with my new camera under the tutelage of our daughter, Jillian Curran of Lumina Boston photography- by the way-she does do weddings and will come to Charlottesville! Outside there are two patios and a covered pavilion offering more space for groups and special events. If you have a larger group (more than 6 or 7) please see the restrictions and special arrangements on their website. They really try to maintain an optimal wine tasting experience. untitled03

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Congratulations and Happy Chinese New Year to the Smiths and AMV for being chosen for wine pairings with the delicious menu prepared by Peter Chang and two other chefs at THE JAMES BEARD HOUSE in New York City as they celebrate the Year of the Monkey.

King Family Vineyards was on our list, of course, (love their Viognier) and in a rare moment we had the place to ourselves with the exception of one other couple. While the fireplace wasn’t lit, the tasting room host graciously offered more than once to light up the wood burning fireplace for us. untitled07

It was wonderful to see how King Family has expanded their space inside to accommodate the crowds of UVA folks and Polo fans that throng there when Spring rolls around. Like AMV, the tasting room offers a refrigerator case stocked with local snacks and has  additional fun wine lovers gift items in case you’re looking for a Valentine’s Day gift for someone special. The new Library is available for special events as well!untitled09untitled08

The most dramatic fireplace in the area is at  Veritas  with it’s floor to ceiling rock wall. The spacious bar and upstairs loft is able to handle larger groups with multiple leather sofas and expansive windows illuminating the tasting room. All three wineries have outdoor patios and seating to soak up the fresh air when the days get longer and warmer. Fire pits and outside space heaters can offset the winter chill for those so inclined. We did a complete tasting here and again, were the only ones in the tasting room until another couple strolled in briefly. We selected a port style wine, the 2012 Othello, made with 75% Tannat and 25% Merlot grapes, packed with complex flavors of dark fruit, vanilla and coffee, perfect for sipping by our own fireplace at home.untitled10

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Clearly, winter and weekdays are a great time to relax and find new wineries to visit or revisit some of your all time favorites. Oh, what places will we go…next?untitled14

 

 

 

 

 

Experiencing French Wineries vs Virginia Wineries

Clos du TriasVisions of warm sunny days, leisurely two hour lunches drawn out with conversation, an aproned waiter pouring bubbles into your champagne glass  and soft music beckon us back to the Old Country. If you’re like most wine lovers from the United States, it is a dream to visit the birthplace of  wine making, Europe. France, Italy and Spain are the most sought after destinations, followed by Germany, Portugal and Greece. 

Thomas Jefferson was just so inspired during his travels to France, thus beginning the New World efforts of cultivating grapes to make wine. He started his vines on the slopes of Monticello, his mountain top home, overlooking Charlottesville, Virginia. Richard Leahy has written a wonderful book, Beyond Jefferson’s Vines, about the history of this endeavor and the more recent explosion of vineyards in Virginia. I especially like the praise offered by  John Hagarty, www.Hagarty-on-Wine.com “Richard Leahy has woven a rich tapestry of Virginia’s wineries and winemakers. If Jefferson could peruse this book a satisfied smile would surely grace his countenance because his dream of quality Virginia wine has been fulfilled. This volume will be referenced often for those seeking to better understand the Old Dominion’s wine ascendency. A riveting and rewarding read.”

Recently, I travelled “across the pond”  in the company of my mother, to visit my sister currently living in Provence.  The movie, A Good Year, with Russell Crowe and Marion Cotillard, , is one of my favorite movies and the film location of Bonnieux, Vaucluse, France was just a little southeast of Carpentras, where we made our home base. Maison Trevier,  the delightful maison we  stayed in, is within the walled village of Carpentras, around the corner from a wonderful fromagerie, La Fromagerie du Comtat. Grab a baguette, some home made fig preserves, olives and truffles from the market and you are in heaven.  As I walked into the jardin of Gina Trevier, owner of Maison Trevier,  I could almost hear the music from the soundtrack from  A Good Year 🙂

Maison Trevier & Bebe Chat
Maison Trevier & Bebe Chat
Fromagerie Vigier
Fromage

Ah, I drift….so this was the beginning of our visit to the romantic south of France, Chateauneuf du Pape, Avignon, Isle sur la Sorgue, Pernes les Fontaines, Gigondas and Le Barroux. The influence of Rome and Catholicism permeated the terroir, walled villages, monasteries and small churches and olive trees used for olive wood carvings.

11th Century St. Catherine's in Gigondas
11th Century St. Catherine’s in Gigondas

I was accustomed to our lovely tasting rooms at the wineries in Virginia. Many of which supplement the costly production of wine on the east coast by building fabulous event sites for weddings and celebrations.  Not all are like Pippin Hill Farm, Veritas, King Family Vineyards  or Early Mountain Vineyards with their beautifully appointed celebration halls (which are quite gorgeous!)  many are smaller, more intimate and not quite as opulent. Afton Mountain Vineyards has a wonderful outdoor covered space, complete with blankets and space heaters to enjoy the view even when it’s cold. They have a perfect spot with a contemporary arbor for weddings plus one of the coziest tasting rooms. See my post https://cvilleuncorked.com/2011/10/15/afton-mountain-vineyards-revisited/ for more about Afton Mountain.afton-mountain-008

Horton Vineyards
Horton Vineyards

Each winery around the Charlottesville area has it’s own personality. Some are dog friendly like Keswick with it’s Yappy Hours on Sundays but also known for fabulous weddings with a plantation feel that Scarlett O’Hara would have loved.  Some are tropical and create gourmet chocolates like Glass House Winery and seating under the glass conservatory jungle of banana trees. Pollak Vineyards sits below the mountain overlooking a pond and has offered fly fishing lessons in the past. Mountfair  does weddings on a smaller scale and many of the wineries offer live music on weekends. Veritas has their Starry Nights, outdoor fire pits and a bandstand. King Family Vineyards hosts Polo matches and  an annual benefit for breast cancer, the Pink Ribbon Polo Classic coming up on June 20th, 2014. None of this takes away from the fact that Virginia is producing award winning wines that rival the wines of the Old Country. Southern hospitality abounds and you won’t be disappointed in visiting a tasting room in Virginia.

Glass House Winery
Glass House Winery

By contrast, the wineries and tasting rooms we visited in France were small, most do not charge a tasting fee and can limit you to three tastings, unlike Barboursville Winery (with it’s 5 Star Dining at Palladio)  or Horton Vineyards where you taste quite a large selection. Not to be outdone by the ruins at Chateauneuf du Pape, Barboursville has their own ruins of Governor Barbours home, designed by Thomas Jefferson himself. In Chateauneuf,  you can taste in a Cave, a small room under ground where you may taste from several different wineries or in the main tasting room for Chateauneuf du Pape that even sells souvenirs.  The French term for tasting is  “degustation” so look for a sign that includes the term. ‘En vente directe‘ indicates that they have direct sales and “vin a’ emporter” means they sell wine that you can take with you.

Ruins of Chateauneuf du Pape
Ruins of Chateauneuf du Pape
Barboursville_vineyards_ruins_snow
Ruins at Barboursville Vineyards

In Gigondas, my favorite village of the trip, we visited a more contemporary tasting room with very small bottles in a test tube style presentation, where you may taste many vintages and some world class wines. It was a bit  like stepping up to the counter in a store than tasting at a bar, but they had an amazing selection of wines.

Gigondas Tasting Room
Gigondas Tasting Room

The smallest winery we visited was Clos de Trias in Le Barroux and the winemaker’s home really did remind you of A Good Year, family owned and operated, this winery is one of the few 100% organic, biodynamic wineries in the world. With the family Great Dane, Tauro, sneaking in to watch us barrel taste, it was the best wine tasting on our trip. The wines were excellent and we had a wonderful  tour by Paige Carnwath and my sister, both who’ve bottled, pumped, picked and tasted for the wine maker,  Evan Bakke.

Steel Tanks at Clos de Trias
Steel Tanks at Clos de Trias
clos_de_trias_winery
Tasting at Clos de Trias

 

Clos de Trias "Tauro"
Clos de Trias “Tauro”

If you want to taste wine and make an effort to converse about your tasting in France, explore this link  for French wine tasting terms. It’s like the old adage, when in Rome…

Whether you venture out to wineries in France or Virginia, the wine community is a big family, facing the same obstacles of weather, and uniting to support each other. Both countries appreciate wine from bud break or bud burst to the final product, so go, enjoy and savor the experience wherever grapes are grown.

 

Afton Mountain Vineyards Revisited

Ripening pumpkins, juicy crisp Pippin apples, grapes, cornstalks, hot cider- all are heady aromas welcoming  Autumn in Virginia. October is fully under way with Maple and Bradford Pear trees changing like chameleons from green to orange and red hues.  Sprinkle in brilliant cobalt blue skies and puffs of cottony white clouds and you have the recipe for a brilliant Fall afternoon.  Armed with that inspiration, where should you go on a weekend full of apple butter festivals, University of Virginia football, tailgate parties and haunted houses?  I would like to suggest a little country drive towards Afton Mountain passing historic Virginia horse farms, more wineries, breweries and quaint little country stores like Greenwood Grocery on 250 west.

Living here has offered my husband and me a multitude of opportunities to visit local vineyards.  This year, the winery we’ve visited the most appears to be Afton Mountain Vineyards.  While attending the Wine Bloggers Conference in July, enduring hotter than Hades weather, we visited three different Nelson County wineries.  Sited just at the foot of Afton Mountain, a  whisper of cool air slightly diminished the heat while we sipped the acclaimed Festa Di Bacco on the tasting room deck.  Note to self- must return in the Fall,  if it’s this good in 100 plus temperatures it should be awesome in October. It is!

Approaching the tasting room from the road just past the vineyards,  a new structure and much-needed venue arose in front of us.  Tony and Elizabeth Smith, owners of Afton Mountain Vineyards,  have been quite industrious in expanding their event space.  We discovered  a beautiful covered pavilion outfitted with ceiling fans, outdoor restroom facilities and a backdrop of the mountains and more vines. This is a superb addition and I had visions of my daughter and her future husband dancing at a reception here with glasses clinking toasts to their future, (this is my dream and not necessarily the desires of the betrothed, by the way).  For more details regarding specifics of events and weddings contact Becca Yeamans, the tasting room manager at Afton Mountain and see their web page.

New Pavillion at Afton Mountain

Future Mother of the Bride went a little crazy that day taking photos of the site, but  finally managed to join my family  on the deck for a bottle of wine I that I had anticipated earlier in the summer.

The Bridal Arbor

 Our son did the honors and selected a Gewürztraminer to try and it was excellent.  I can’t describe it any better than  it is presented on the web site:  As the German word “Gewurz” suggests, this is an aromatic wine that is excellent with spicy dishes and seafood. The 2009 vintage is a crisp, dry white wine with a nose of orange peel and spiciness typical of this grape with just a touch of residual sugar.

Sipping the "Gewurz"

 

Last little bit of fun, for those who like to pick up a little souvenir from a winery visit, the T-shirts are so cool!   The Grapes Don’t Grow in Ugly Places is  trademarked  and the Festa Di Baccus looks great on the guys. They also provide Wine Away at the tasting bar, the Smiths are so-so smart and thoughtful! A real life saver after a bump with a Cabernet Sauvignon. Cheers to Autumn in Virginia, we’re off to enjoy another winery and the Apple Butter Festival at Flippin Seaman in Nelson County.

Buy the T-shirt

Answers to Stump The Winos! See 7/19/2011 Post

A. Pollak Vineyard -View towards the Pond and Mountains

B.Glass House Winery-When the Raccoon ate the Pineapple

C.Flying Fox Winery-Quaint Cottage Entrance

D.King Family Vineyard-Polo Pony

E.Mountfair Vineyard-Barrel Room

F.Keswick Vineyards-Cherub Sculpture at Tasting Room

G.Blenheim Vineyards-Sign to Tasting Room

H.Pippin Hill Farm Vineyards-View from the Patio

I.Barboursville Vineyards-Ruins

J.Sweely Estate Winery-Sculpture

K.Afton Mountain Vineyards-Artwork

Just for Fun, How many did You get right?

Don’t Be FOOLish, Visit These Virginia Wineries in April

Saturday April 2nd                                                 

White Hall Vineyards

Release and tasting of the 2009 Pinot Gris

They have joined with a few of our neighboring wineries to form the Appellation Trail.  Other wineries on the wine trail are Mountfair, Glass House Winery, Stinson Vineyards (opening 6/11) and Moss Vineyards (opening in 2012). Check back for more details on our April 16th Appellation Trail kick-off event!

Sunday April 3rd

Delfosse Vineyards and Winery

1:00 p.m. Wine and Food Pairing with menu by Genevieve Delfosse

$40 per person, reservations required.

Glass House Winery

2:15-5 p.m. Live Music with David Tewksbury

Paramount Theater “Big Night at the Paramount”

3:30 p.m. . The brothers in Big Night–chef Primo (Tony Shalhoub) and businessman Secondo (Tucci)–have come to New Jersey to open a bistro named The Paradise that serves the finest in traditional, authentic Italian cuisine.

Sample food and wine, meet winemakers and chefs before the movie. Special guests are Virginia winemaker Gabrielle Rausse and Tavola Restaurant owner, Michael Keaveny. 

Tickets are $12

Afton Mountain Vineyards

2009 Vintners Reserve Merlot Tasting one day only!

Tuesday April 12th

Barboursville Vineyards

Palladio Cooking class: Seafood

6:30 p.m. Enrollment is limited to 12 and admission is $95

 Friday April 15th TAX Day!

Keswick Vineyards Tax Free Zone zone for the day 🙂

Look for more events the second half of April, this should be a good start for enjoying early Spring in the Virginia vineyards!

 

 Virginia Wine Lover magazine has announced their First Annual “Best Of” Readers’ Choice Awards.

 One lucky voter will be gifted with a wine weekend getaway.

The polls close on April 15, 2011 so be sure to vote now!