We started early on the second day of our Virginia wine weekend, tasting at two wineries that opened before noon, and then a third that is a must-visit whenever we are in the area. Now it becomes difficult to critique individual wines, because they’re all so good. It’s hard to even say which wines at which wineries we likes best, other than to note what bottles we came home with. We also had the problem of knowing what was coming next – “winery Z has great reds, so we’ll pick up more whites at winery Y, but not too many Viogniers, because winery X specialized in those.”
The struggle was real!
We visited King Family Vineyards once, years ago, during an organized wine tour. We recalled that the wines were good, but on our subsequent trips to the Charlottesville area we never had the motivation to get back to it, until now. This is a big, beautiful winery with an inviting tasting room, a separate event room, outdoor seating with a spectacular view of the mountains, and a polo field (with weekend matches during the summer and early autumn). The servers were friendly, talkative, and knowledgeable about the wines, and once again we noticed that the individual tastings were more substantial and less poor-describe-taste-repeat, creating more of a tasting experience rather than just a standard tasting.
We left with more than one bottle of King’s 2017 Viognier, which, considering this is Virginia’s state wine, says a lot. This Viognier has a little bit of sweetness on the nose, but not so much on the tongue – bold up front, yet with a very light and crisp finish. We wanted to balance our whites with our reds, so we added a Cab Franc – surprisingly dry and oaky for such a light-colored red – and a Meritage – a traditional rich and jammy and earthy Bordeaux blend.
Septenary Winery at Seven Oaks
Septenary is a new winery, and we tend to be avoid new wineries. It takes a few vintages to get a good rhythm going. However, they’ve been growing grapes for years and their winemaking has started off strong. Amazingly so. We were astounded by the quality of the wines, which was easily equal to any of the more established wineries in the area. The tasting room was spacious and comfortable – our taster brought our wines to us one at a time while we lounged in armchairs near the fireplace. We didn’t get a chance to explore the grounds much, but we will definitely be back for that.
More fabulous Viognier can be found at Septenary (honestly, every time we thought we tasted the best one yet, we found another we just had to have). The Chardonnay had that scrumptious hint of toasted vanilla that has been a recent trend in the area. Although we aren’t partial to blush wines, Septenary’s Summer Kitchen Rosé was just the right balance of fruit and acid, and we loved their full bodied Carriage House red blend. We also enjoyed a mini vertical tasting of their 2014 and 2015 Bordeaux style Coleman Blend, and as any married couple should, we completely disagreed on which one was better.
Pollak is one of our three required stops in the Monticello Wine Region. This is where we tasted our first Meritage and where we ate our first cheese and chocolates wine tour lunch (overlooking the pond). We had the personal honor of, unintentionally, being one of the first guests of their current – and beautiful – tasting room. Pollak may also be the first winery where we popped a bottle and set up camp, foregoing tastings elsewhere so that we could just enjoy the environment.
Again, this isn’t about which wines we liked best. That’s an impossible choice to make. We adopted a litter of bottles simply based on our current tastes, the time of year, and what purchases we had already made. This included: Pollak’s Chardonnay, which is rich and well-balanced; a tropical fruit Pinot Gris that stands out simply by not tasting like every other Pinot Gris; their Rosé, one of only two blushes purchased the entire trip; a Merlot of savory mixed berries, not sweet but not too dry; a fruity and oaky Petit Verdot so deep red as to be almost black; and their Meritage, which is the Bordeaux blend to which we compare all others.
- Virginia wines are great! Otherwise, why would we be writing this?
- Don’t count out a winery due to past experiences. Like people, wineries mature, and what was, “meh” before may be a winner now.
- The same thing goes with a particular varietal. Try a vertical tasting – you’ll be surprised what one year can do and what you can disagree with family, friends, and significant others on.
- Enjoy all aspects of the wine tasting experience, not just the wine itself. Take a break, breath in the mountain air and relax.