Red red wine: Mountfair winemaker shares her secrets

Kelly Meyers Rogan, who’s been with Mountfair Vineyards for years, recently took on the role of winemaker. Photo: Rammelkamp Foto Kelly Meyers Rogan, who’s been with Mountfair Vineyards for years, recently took on the role of winemaker. Photo: Rammelkamp Foto

Tucked away at the end of a windy dirt road at the foot of the Blue Ridge Mountains, Mountfair Vineyards is not a spot that you’re likely to just stumble upon. The tasting room is modest, both in size and décor, making it clear that the emphasis is on the wines, not the show. The wines are intentional, and they are focused on making small-batch, blended red wines from (mostly) traditional Bordeaux varietals, namely Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot, and Malbec. The wines with quippy names like Twang, Intertwined, and Irreverent are all aged for 18 months or longer in barrel and cost $30 per bottle. To learn more about these wines, and to get the perspective of someone directly involved in making them, I sat down with Mountfair’s newly promoted winemaker, Kelly Meyers Rogan.

A UVA grad and longtime Virginia resident, Rogan first learned of Mountfair before the winery even opened, when she and her husband stopped by to talk with the folks planting vines on Fox Mountain. While Rogan got her winemaking chops from her professors and classmates at UC Davis, she gives most credit to the winemakers she trained under, particularly Frtiz Repich, her predecessor at Mountfair.

For her, the most satisfying aspect of her job is watching the wine transform as it ages.

“Wine and winemaking are very organic,” Rogan said. “At times the wine almost acts like it is a living thing, the ways it improves as it ages and becomes more interesting and nuanced and responds to the nudges I give it. And I love sharing that with people, giving barrel tastings or wine tastings to folks and talking about this.”

With this sense of satisfaction also comes frustration, she said, and the most challenging aspect of the job is the “occasionally uncooperative” weather of Central Virginia.

“Having a beautiful growing season sullied by a tropical depression bringing lots of rain is tough,” Rogan said.

At least she isn’t alone in this department, nor is it under her control—Virginia weather is unpredictable, as seen by the recent blizzard followed by sunny days in the mid-60s.

She also noted a common misconception about red wine in particular (which is her forte) and the length of time necessary to let it “breathe.”

“The secret to properly aerating a bottle of wine is a function of the amount of time you have and how much exposure to air the wine has,” Rogan said. “So if you know ahead of time what you would like to drink with dinner, you can simply pop the cork around lunchtime, pour off a splash and re-cork it. When you come back six or seven hours later that little bit of air has had that time to circulate through that wine and open it up nicely.” Just in time for dinner. She also prefers to “stick to Virginia red wines since that is what I make at Mountfair.” Fair enough.

Since food and wine go hand-in-hand, I asked Kelly about her favorite pairings. Maybe it’s because she works in a forest-studded environment, but her preference is venison and a bold well-aged red.

“The jammy, earthy notes in a mature wine reflect the gamey, rich venison and can be really fabulous,” she said. “A great Virginia example of this type would be a significantly aged Petit Verdot, such as the Wooloomooloo here at Mountfair that will be released this fall.”

When I asked Rogan how she relaxes after a workday in the cellar, she made it clear that she practices what she preaches.

“I love a nice glass of red wine after a long day to unwind,” she said. All in a day’s work, I suppose.

The Mountfair tasting room is open Friday-Sunday from noon-6pm, otherwise by appointment only. Located at 4875 Fox Mountain Rd., in Mountfair. (434) 823-7605