I’ve visited a ton of Virginia wineries over the years. I’m gradually revisiting favorites, not so favorites, and new wineries so I can share the experience. According to Virginiawine.org, there are over 300 wineries in Virginia. Visiting all of them is starting to sound like Mission Impossible. But I’ll do my best.
Once upon a time, my husband and I visited Virginia wineries on the weekend, but not anymore. Virginia wineries have been discovered (especially as a bachelorette party destination), and they are über-crowded on the weekends. Disneyland crowded. And I’m not a crowd person. Crowds give me the vapors. Also, Hummer limos full of drunk bridesmaids get on my nerves.
So what’s a crowd-loathing wine girl to do? Visit wineries on a Tuesday morning! It’s one of the perks of being a stay-at-home mom with kids in school.
King Family Vineyards is one of my favorite Virginia wineries. I’m even a member of their wine club — the only Virginia club in my cellar. I have a somewhat antagonistic relationship with Virginia red wines, and King Family makes two of the few I enjoy. Bonus: there’s no Norton for me to pretend to like. Still trying, Norton. Still trying.
Owned and operated by the King Family, King Family Vineyards is located in Crozet, Virginia, just west of Charlottesville. It’s nestled in a valley at the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, and it’s a little slice of gorgeous.
There’s a full size polo field on the property, and polo matches are held there every Sunday. If you’ve never seen a polo match before, put it on your bucket list. Pack a picnic and tailgate on the lawn. But be prepared — polo people are kinda fancy. It’s a seersucker and sundress crowd.
Alright . . . on to the wines.
Here’s the cozy (not crowded) tasting room. I can see how cozy could be problematic on a Saturday afternoon, but it’s not an issue on a Tuesday morning.The tasting room host was a bit of a character — what a hoot! He knew a lot about the wines, and he was excited to share his knowledge.
I’ve never seen this at a winery before. Self-serve utensils, plates and napkins . . .
The tastings start at $15 but I’m a wine club member so it was free for me and a guest. We tasted 5 wines on our recent visit. I think that’s a reasonable number to taste at a single sitting. More than 7 or 8 and my palate gets a little fuzzy. So many wineries have tasting lists that stretch into the teens . . . too many. That gives me an idea. Assume you’re not using the dump/spit bucket . . .
Viognier 2011: Another home-run Virginia Viognier. Well balanced acidity. Tropical notes of mango and peach with a slightly spicy finish. I’ve said it once, I’ll say it again: Virginia is for Viognier. We need t-shirts. I’m dying to try this with my girlfriend’s recipe for Chicken Tagine with Apricots.
Viognier 2012: I asked about the 2012 Viognier and was told it hadn’t been bottled yet . . . but would I like to taste it out of the barrel? What? Of course I would! It definitely had a “not ready yet” greenness to it, but it’s going to be another great Virginia Vioginier. Can’t wait for the release!
Roseland 2012: 74% Chardonnay, 26% Viognier. Partial malolactic fermentation. The Viognier lends some floral and spice notes to balance out the toasty oak of the Chardonnay. A little green apple sneaks in. A very enjoyable wine . . . the food pairing potential is off the charts!
Crosé 2012: LOVE this. Bone dry Rosé. It’s a Merlot base, made using the skin-contact method. Contact for 48 hours and then direct press. On the lees for 5 months. Grapefruit and currant. Lime finish. Fresh and easy . . . summer in a bottle. YUM.
Merlot 2011: I was told this was a difficult vintage because they had a lot of rain right before they harvested the grapes. 80% Merlot, 10% Malbec, 8% Petit Verdot and 2% Cabernet Franc. 16 months in French oak. My brother had the quote of the day: “Wow! A Virginia red wine that doesn’t suck!”. Lots of chocolate on the finish.
Meritage 2011: 43% Merlot, 27% Petit Verdot, 22% Cabernet Franc, 8% Malbec. Each variety was aged for 6 months in French oak individually before blending. After blending, it spent 18 months in French oak. Loaded with cherry and blueberry. Well integrated tannins. Huge vanilla finish. Unusually full and rich for a Virginia red.
Seven 2011: Named for the 7th Chukker in polo. (Think 19th hole of golf). We didn’t get to taste this on our most recent visit, because it was sold out. We tasted it back in November, and I was instantly hooked. A port style wine aged in Kentucky bourbon barrels for 2 years, it’s a knockout! And could potentially get you into a lot of trouble.
After we tasted our wines, we headed to the patio with a bottle of Viognier and our picnic. The patio and grounds are beautifully landscaped. Very peaceful and inviting. I’m not sure it would be so peaceful on the weekend, but for today it’s peaceful.
Would you believe these crowds? Where oh where are we going to sit?? LOVE Virginia wineries on Tuesday morning.
There’s plenty of room on the property for bored kids to throw around a frisbee or football. But if you have to be inside the tasting room with kids, that might get a little stressful. There’s not a lot of room to spread out, and there are lots of shiny baubles at eye-level to attract the tiny humans. Just something to keep in mind . . .
There’s even a winery dog. I love winery dogs. I have no idea what his real name is. I named him Chukker (because it’s the only polo word I could think of). He hung out with us for over an hour. I’d like to think it was my sunny personality that had him glued to our table, but more likely it was the ham scraps my brother kept feeding him.Veni, Vidi, Bibi . . . I’ll be back. And now that I’ve spliced Latin and Schwarzenegger, I will bid you farewell. Until I write something else.
Taste Wine Like A True Armchair Sommelier
Spice up your next party with our FREE wine tasting guide! Learn what to look, smell, and taste for while appreciating your favorite bottle. We’ve also included a printable tasting notes template and a tasting wheel.