When you only have a day to tour an area’s wineries, you want to spend as little time navigating and as much time tasting as possible. We’re blessed with 23 (and counting) wineries on the Monticello Wine Trail, but with hundreds of miles of winding roads between them, a happy day of tasting can turn harrowing if you don’t consolidate your stops. Five northwestern members—Glass House, Mountfair, Moss, Stinson and White Hall vineyards—have branched off with a mini trail (cleverly named The Appellation Trail), giving tourers a day-trip destination for tasting quality wines that come with personalized attention and beautiful surroundings.
As one of the two unopened wineries in the group, Stinson Vineyards (which officially opens June 16) looks forward to the collaboration as a boon to business. “The more of us involved, the better,” says owner Scott Stinson. “We’re able to offer visitors a fascinating experience to spend a day on the trail getting the unique perspective of boutique wineries—all in an area that’s close to town.”
When Moss Vineyards opens in 2012, the Appellation Trail will have already had its fair share of traffic. Owners Barry and Ellen Moss envision that some day their own Route 810 will resemble Napa Valley’s thoroughfare, home not only to other wineries, but also to restaurants featuring local produce and goods. Until then, even though the wineries’ licenses won’t allow them to operate cafés, some will offer prepared plates of food and all will continue to encourage guests to stop in at the local country stores for picnic provisions.
The geographical proximity of these wineries raises the question of whether their shared soil composition and micro-climate will come through in the wines as a characteristic of the region’s terroir. Glass House Winery’s Jeff Sanders feels that the Appellation Trail is an excellent area for growing grapes. “Our sloped land, dry micro-climate, and slightly longer growing season all contribute to quality fruit,” he says. Mountfair’s Fritz Repich also believes in the local terroir.
“Northwestern Albemarle’s terroir has been highlighted in many of the award-winning wines of this area. As the other wineries in the Appellation Trail open and their wines become better known, so will our distinctive local terroir,” he says.
In the end, it’s the visitors that will benefit most from this marketing effort. “We want to give wine lovers an easy way to find us,” says White Hall Vineyards’ Lisa Champ. It seems that for both wine tasters and winemakers, it’s definitely a case of “the more the merrier.”
The five wineries will celebrate the opening of the Appellation Trail on Saturday, April 16, with special events like cheese pairings, live music and tank tastings.
Vine line: Spring edition
Each season, The Working Pour will check in with area winemakers about what’s happening with the vines that they tirelessly tend in order to get their wines onto our dinner tables.
Here’s what’s happening in the grapevine now that spring has sprung:
While the winemakers wait for the buds on the Chardonnay to break (the earliest varietal to show growth), they keep busy by pruning, ordering next year’s supplies, performing blending trials, and as winemaker and vineyard consultant Gabriele Rausse says, “raising a glass here and there.” The early spring rains were a welcome sight to Pollak’s winemaker, Jake Busching, who says that the ground water is needed after an exceptionally dry winter to get the vines growing fast and healthfully into summer. Spring frosts become a major concern (as was that unseasonable snowstorm a few weeks ago), but like Jefferson Vineyards’ winemaker, Andy Reagan, points out, “All we can hope is that we don’t see growth too early, leaving us susceptible to a killing frost.”
Terroir (n.): An abstract notion that describes the influence that certain uncontrollable factors (soil, climate, and topography) and certain controllable factors (viticulture, winemaking, and tradition) have on the character of a wine from a particular region or appellation.