Virginia Wine: Jefferson’s dream fulfilled, part 2

Our tour of Virginia’s Monticello wine region continues with a look into two of the area’s most popular destinations and a rock star vineyard championing a sustainable agenda.

VirginiaWine-TJ-2-Front

Our tour of Virginia’s Monticello wine region continues with a look into two of the area’s most popular destinations and a rock star vineyard championing a sustainable agenda.

Veritas

Hemmed in by terraced vineyards, rolling hills, and the mighty Blue Ridge Mountains, the grounds at Veritas appear to exist in their own isolated valley. A magical, L.L. Bean-y utopia, where nature is kind enough to complement the furniture, and where people can pull off wearing fleece without looking like a Furry on casual Friday. It’s this rarified air that makes Veritas as much a draw for tourism as it is for tastings–playing host to weddings, conventions, and a slew of special events like the popular Starry Night summer concert series.

Of course, none of these extracurriculars would matter if they weren’t built around a solid foundation of excellent wine. And while this is clearly no shoestring, mom-and-pop operation, it’s surprising to discover that, when it comes to the wine, Veritas is very much a family affair. Head winemaker Emily Hodson Pelton oversees the entire production with a little help from her folks, vineyard owners Andrew and Patricia Hodson. Nine grape varieties are grown in the vineyard’s 25 acres, yielding roughly a dozen wines. Standouts include their vibrant, Chablis-style Saddleback Chardonnay; a robust Claret (natives of the UK, the owners opted to use the British equivalent of Meritage for this Bordeaux-style red); and a pair of popular, fruit-forward blends, the White Star and Red Star.

Blenheim Vineyards

With so much left to discover, it’s far too early to create any “best of” lists, but I will say that, at least so far, the award for “Coolest Tasting Room” goes to Blenheim Vineyards. A vaulted, barn-like construction of timber-framed reclaimed wood, the interior is a beam-by-beam manifestation of the image any Elle Décor subscriber conjures up when they hear the word “rustic.” Paneled glass floors allow you to spy the wine production facility below, while floor-to-ceiling windows on the back wall beckon with breathtaking views. Better still, the whole operation squeaks by with the tiniest of carbon footprints, thanks to the sustainable practices set out by owner Dave Matthews. That’s right THE Dave Matthews, from the hit movie You Don’t Mess with the Zohan! Apparently, he also has some sort of band but, really, who doesn’t these days?

A similar commitment is carried out in Blenheim’s vineyard, which actively composts, recycles, and prizes companion planting and hands-on care over regular chemical bombardment. Not only do these practices benefit the Earth, they also yield some superior wines, including a fresh and easy-drinking dry rose, which, at $14 a bottle, may be one of the best values in all of Virginia Wine-dom.

King Family Vineyards

I don’t know if it is the pristinely manicured grounds at the base of the Blue Ridge Mountains, the elegant tasting room, the polished service, or the pervasive polo motif, but there’s something about a visit to King Family Vineyards that feels like playing 1% for a day. The vineyard actually hosts real-live polo matches every Sunday from Memorial Day through mid-October. Though I’m not sure I trust myself to attend one, as everything I know about polo (nothing) I learned from ‘80s movies. The threat is too great that I’d revert to some teen-flick fantasy, where everyone is named Chet or Buffy and thinks a street rat like me just isn’t good enough to date their daughter (even though I have a heart of gold and am really awesome at karate).

Personal polo phobias aside, King Family Vineyards is no white-collar winery. This is indeed a family-run operation, and the Kings like to get their hands dirty. Owner David King planted all the original vines and his sons manage the vineyard. Their 15 acres of high-quality, low-yield grape vines are all tended, maintained, and harvested by hand. King is another one of those rare gems that manages to consistently turn out beautiful wines. My personal favorites include a fantastic Viognier, that balances the grape’s characteristic liquid Fruity Pebbles quality with a vibrant acidity; the 2010 Meritage, at once big and brash yet floral and elegant (the Madea of wines); and two gorgeous dessert wines, the Lorely and Seven.

The man behind the wines at King is Matthieu Finot, and it’s clear that this guy Finots what he’s doing (#DadJoke!). Born in the Rhone Valley of France with viticulture in his blood, Finot’s winemaking career carried him through the top French wine regions—Burgundy, Bordeaux, Provence, Jura—before broadening his horizons in Italy and South Africa, to ultimately settle in…wait for it…Crozet, Virginia (imagine explaining THAT decision to your parents!). As crazy as this move may sound, it’s not an entirely uncommon story. To many skilled winemakers, Virginia is a brave new world, offering an alluring combination of promising conditions and the chance to be a pioneer in a largely unexploited territory.

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Coming up: We too opt for the road less traveled…and it goes on for five full miles without a bathroom in sight. Tasting tours for adventure seekers, when our series on Virginia wine continues.

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Want to learn more? Check out all of Virginia's wine regions and AVAs. And if you're looking for something specific you can search through Virginia's 210 wineries.

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Matt Brehony

When he’s not musing on food for his blog, or working as a server/Minister of Propaganda for Secco Wine Bar, or writing editorial pieces for various media outlets, or starring in sketches and commercials, Matt Brehony doesn’t do much of anything.

2 comments on Virginia Wine: Jefferson’s dream fulfilled, part 2

  1. Joe Sokohl on said:

    No Keswick? Veritas is overpriced, and Blenheim is good…but Keswick rocks!

  2. Joe, this is but one part of an ongoing series. I’ll take your recommendation and see if I can get out to Keswick in the near future.

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