The bar was crowded, but our hostess was very helpful, and did not make us feel like she was too busy to answer any questions we had about the wine. I bought a bottle of the 2009 Monticello Pinot Gris.
Shannon aays: The Jefferson Winery was our first of what turned out to be four very different wine tasting experiences. The Jefferson is a popular winery for the large body of people who are just out to drink wine and hang out on a nice day. Our first sight was of a stretch limousine parked right outside the deck seating. A bridal shower group all in brightly colored dresses, shoes on, and off were bouncing about between the deck and the limo. We sought refuge indoors at the long tasting bar only to find it packed. After waiting politely for a few moments I gave up and had to pull a Saturday night bar scene shimmy, squeezing in sideways to get one shoulder into the bar space right at the sliding bar space used for loading in cases and allowing the staff entrance in and out. The man working behind the tasting bar ignored us completely, but we were quickly rescued by a really great woman who managed to make the whole rest of our experience a real pleasure despite the couple with their 4 small and understandably bored children who came up along side of us for a tasting. For a cost of $5 we each were given a decent size pour (when talking tasting) of 10 different wines. The tasting covered everything from dry whites and reds to dessert wine. Since I am part of the large body of people who just want to enjoy some wine and a nice day and Erin was driving, I drank every bit. The family quickly disembarked and our host had only us to tend to. She spent a good deal of time explaining (mostly to me since Erin actually knows some stuff) the differences in their wines, stainless steal vs. oak barrels etc. She pointed out the 2008 Petit Verdot should peak in 2011 (two years after it's release). This lead to a discussion in which she stated that virtually all American wines are made for instant gratification, meaning they don't age well so buy and drink up! We liked the 08 Petit Verdot, the '07 Mertiage, and Erin liked Pinot Gris. Our "free" wine glasses in hand we headed out.
We continued down (up?) Route 20, and found ourselves at First Colony Winery. To get here take a turn off of 20 and onto a small residential street that winds around past a good number of small country homes. Just as you think you really may have taken a wrong turn a sign appears pointing onward. Here we found only two other cars in the lot, and a charming landscape. The farily large main room has a small tasting bar towards the back where we found two couples finishing up their tasting. Erin and I quickly found ourselves completely along with the whole of winery and it's two staff members. Erin cut out early on this one saving her taste buds for greater things down the road. I, however stayed on for the 3 dry whites and the 4 reds, that included the 2006 Tannat. To the Tannat I actually had to say... Whoa! The Tannat is apparently a grape with very thick skins and there for a very high level of tannins. In Virginia this grape is usually blended with other red grapes like the Cabernet Franc to give it a fuller body. I skipped most of their semi-sweet and sweet wines I believe the tasting cost $8 and 12 wines were offered for tasting. If you buy three bottles the cost of the tasting is waved. I did just that and walked out with the '07 Rose, the 07 Cab. Franc, and the 07 Cab. Sauvignon. This last one has a fruity rich flavor that ends with a chocolaty finish. It tasted quite good to me who knows close to nothing about wine.
Just a bit up a hidden dirt road in the back of First Colony is Virginia Wineworks- home of Micheal Shaps wines, and wines sold under the Virginia Wineworks label. The Virginia Wineworks seems to be a hidden gem of a spot. Micheal Shaps actually makes the wine for a number of other wineries in the area. The Virginia Wineworks label is his sort of "everyday" label. Those carrying the 'Micheal Shaps' label are his higher end wines and they will run you between $32 to $50 a bottle. Our third winery was another varied experience. We arrived at the back of warehouse loading dock area. Harvesting crates stacked high next to us, a large metal rolling door was three quarters of the way up revealing shining steal machinery. We must of looked uncertain and the lone woman standing outside gave us a wide, friendly wave to let us know we were indeed in the right spot.
Erin says: We walked into the warehouse, resting wine in barrels to our left, harvest and bottling machinery to our left, and had the best time with some fantastic wines and our very knowlegable and generous hostess. I was so struck by their use of native yeast in the initial fermentation and the complexity of the single varietals that I bought two bottles of wine that cost over $35. I am now the proud owner of a Michael Shaps Viognier and 2007 Cabernet Franc. (What now?) Michael Shaps consults with many wineries in the area, and his expertise is evident in his wines. I also bought two of the Virginia Wineworks label wines, a Rose and the VA Wineworks Red,which are made with purchased grapes, and sell for under $20. This winery is really fun if you want to learn more about how great wine is made.
At Kluge, you can either sit outside in a peaceful grove with your flight of six wines, which always includes their amazing sparkling wine, or at the bar inside. We elected to stay inside, (ostensibly to learn something from the woman pouring our wine, but it was pretty late in the day for anything resembling education) and our bar quickly filled up with fellow travelers on the wine road. We learned a lot about the Kluges, (did you know the estate is for sale?) laughed a lot and enjoyed some very fine wines. The Albemarle flight is $15, which is refunded if you join the wine club. I swear, this sounded like a really good idea at the time...