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.
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:
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 . . .