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Field Trip: Prince Michel Vineyard & Winery

I’ve driven by Prince Michel Vineyard & Winery hundreds of times (it has a great location right on Route 29 in Leon, Virginia), but we’ve always been on the way to or from somewhere else, so we never stopped.  But a few weeks ago, we had a Carpe Vinum moment . . . and pulled over.

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I LOVE the metal wine glass sculptures in front of the winery . . . I want one for my yard!

The wine tasting room at Prince Michel is circular and insanely busy.  But I’m not talking about people, I’m talking about tchotchkes — they’re everywhere.  And clutter makes me a little twitchy (you can call me Felix).  My girlfriend and I felt a little like we were tasting wine at a Cracker Barrel.  The tasting bar is welcoming, and the hostess was friendly and approachable, but I was on sensory overload before we tasted a single wine.  I’d be really nervous if I was trying to taste wine and watch little hands in here!

Case in point . . . here’s that rattlesnake wine bottle holder you’ve been looking for.  Oh!  And how ’bout a flask tie?  For those times when you need to look like a professional frat boy.

Prince Michel has a self-guided tour, which is an interesting option, but we weren’t really in a tour mood, so we skipped it.

We tasted a total of 12 wines for an obscenely reasonable $5.

BTW, Prince Michel has what just might be the most adorable dump buckets EVER:

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Prince Michel Pinot Grigio 2010 ⭐⭐/82
We were told these are the only grapes grown on-site at Prince Michel.  The remaining grapes are sourced from other vineyards in Virginia.  I get an unexpected bleach note on the nose — really hoping it’s just the glass.  Almond and herb flavors with a steely finish.  There’s some lime in here, but overall, not much going on.  $19/bottle.

Mt. Juliet Petit Manseng 2008 ⭐⭐/84
My favorite of the “white flight”.  Banana and clove note on the nose.  Reminds me of a sugar cookie with a pear finish.  $30/bottle.

Prince Michel Viognier 2010 ⭐⭐/81
A decent backbone of acidity with a creamy texture, yet the balance still seems off.  Loaded with tropical notes of mango and coconut.  $15/bottle.

Prince Michel Chardonnay 2010 ⭐⭐/80
Aged in 85% stainless and 15% French oak.  There’s some peach notes in the glass, but overall, nothing special.  $15/bottle.

Prince Michel Barrel Select Chardonnay 2010 ⭐⭐/83
Aged 2 years in French oak.  A lovely petrol note on the nose.  The oak is very present on the finish — vanilla and buttered toast.  $19/bottle.

Prince Michel Cabernet Franc 2010 ⭐/75
Ooof.  Sour and aggressively tannic.  Not a fan.

Mountain View Cabernet Franc 2009 ⭐⭐/83
Aged in French oak.  I really like the mint note that runs throughout — a departure from the vegetal component I usually find lurking around a Cab Franc.  A little tannic right now, I’d love to taste this one again in a few years.  $30/bottle.

Prince Michel Merlot 2010 ⭐/79
3% Shiraz.  The edges on this wine are just harsh.  Where’s the fruit?  Reminds me of pepper crackers.  $15/bottle.

Prince Michel Merlot-Cab Reserve 2008 ⭐⭐/80
LOADS of pepper obscure fruit notes.  There’s some smoke on the finish, too, but again, it drowns out the fruit.  $15/bottle.

Prince Michel Cabernet Sauvignon 2008 ⭐⭐/80
Thin and astringent, with violet candy notes on the nose.  $15/bottle.

Crown Orchard Cabernet Sauvignon 2008 ⭐⭐/80
Sour, smells like WD40.  Maybe some currant . . . really hard to discern.  $30/bottle.

Prince Michel Symbius 2010 ⭐⭐/84
42% Merlot, 32 % Cabernet Sauvignon and 26% Cabernet Franc.  The blend is paying off here — definitely softer and more complex.  $30/bottle.

Prince Michel also has a “sweet flight” of wines from their second label, Rapidian River.  I’m not a fan of sweet wines, so I passed.  The flight consists of a couple of sweet Rieslings and a whole array of fruit wines (raspberry, blackberry, peach, etc.).  There’s also a chocolate wine. Shudder.  That said, I know plenty of folks who only drink sweet wines, so if that’s your bag . . . you might want to give it a try!

The Bottomline:  For me, the wines at Prince Michel are mostly meh.  The stars of the party are the Mt. Juliet Petit Manseng and the Prince Michel Symbius.  I encourage you to visit and form your own opinions — my palate is my palate, not yours.  Prince Michel has a great location, and I’m sure you can find a cozy corner to sift away an afternoon . . .

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Salud!

Armchair Sommelier Wine Tasting Guide

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