Monday, April 22, 2013

Charlottesville Area Wineries


If I had to sum up our day tasting with three Charlottesville area wineries yesterday, disappointment would be the key word. I guess that we are very spoiled and very, very fortunate to have such awesome winegrowers as Jim Law at Linden, Jeff White at Glen Manor, and Jim Dolphin at Delaplane in our very own backyard.

I was looking forward to getting back to the town where I was born. Sometimes I miss the place. I had been back only twice since I left in 1984 and now having a daughter at UVa has given me the excuse to get back for the third time. Because her college (ahem, party) schedule did not allow her to be available until after 2pm, we decided to visit three wineries (our limit for a day) on our way into town before visiting her.

We dropped in on two wineries whose wines are on our list at the restaurant, Pollak Vineyards and King Family Vineyards, and a third, Veritas, whose wines we carried some years ago. All three of these are within spitting distance of each other to the west of Charlottesville, right on our way into town on US 250.

We went to Pollak first and of the three wineries, they made my favorite wines. Despite the very early hour of our arrival, the counter staff were exceptionally nice and we enjoyed interacting with them. The soaring tasting room overlooking the pond was beautiful and I could have spent a lot more time sitting outside contemplating nothing!

Pollak Tasting Room
Most of the Pollak wines that we tasted were 2011 and for the reds, that was a disaster vintage. Pollak weathered this vintage as well or better than most, producing light, but drinkable reds. The star of the day for me was the 2010 Meritage and I can see that having a place on our wine list at the restaurant. My one complaint about this winery is about their glassware: more of the same cheap, crappy stemware.

From Pollak, we backtracked a bit to Veritas passing our supplier of cultivated mushrooms, amFOG, and the Blue Mountain Brewery, as we worked our way up the mountain. During my bike racing years in college, I used to ride my bike along all these deserted country roads, that are now pretty crowded with winery traffic. I remember the old Saddleback Farm way up Afton Mountain Road; it is now the site of Veritas.

Entry at Veritas
Veritas is a drop dead gorgeous place and the tasting room is amazing with a huge fireplace dominating one end and leather sofas spread out everywhere. The open beams and woodwork give it a very upscale rustic look. As beautiful as it is, the wines don't match the venue and the venue, like that at Sunset Hills, is not for us. We didn't feel any particular warmth at this winery or any particular connection to the people. Where the staff at Pollok was warm and engaging, the staff at Veritas seemed to be going through the motions: pouring while distractedly looking off in the distance; reciting verbiage by rote. Speaking of warmth, all the wines are served ice cold (way too cold) in cheap crappy glassware.

We were passed off to three staff members during our tasting and it felt like we were interrupting them. I couldn't wait to leave. Mediocre wines in a crazy bar scene is not my cup of tea. It seems to me that contrary to most wineries, the quality has gone down over time at Veritas. Of course, that could also be the result of focusing on all the revenue generating events at a party central winery. The Sauvignon Blanc was the best of a boring lot and it lacks a lot compared to the awesome Sauvignon Blancs in our area.

Tasting Counter at Veritas

Annie Just Outside the Veritas Winery
Our next and last stop before Charlottesville was King Family winery, close to Crozet proper and the closest to Charlottesville of the wineries we visited. Again, another drop dead beautiful winery in the middle of Roseland Farm where the Virginia Polo team plays their home matches. And as you might imagine, being so situated draws the beautiful horsey crowd. We're more at home where people come for the wine and to hell with the amenities.

We tasted through the line up, again from horrid clunker glasses, and the wines were mostly 2011s. I thought the 2011 Merlot was serviceable but Ann decided she wanted to drink the Meritage even though I found it to have a rose petal lipstick nose.

King Family: Looking out over the Polo Field; Winery in Background
King Family have all manner of lunch goodies in a refrigerator in the tasting room for a self service lunch. Ann got a box of crackers, some local soft goat cheese from nearby Caromont Farm, a "Barolo" salami from Creminelli, and a tub of Three Little Pigs duck rillettes. We took a bottle of the Meritage and the food to the patio outside to enjoy the sun and have a bit of lunch.

Lunch and 2011 King Family Meritage
Caromont goat cheese is always good and we're big fans of both their Bloomsbury and Esmontonian cheeses. The fresh chèvre is OK, but not really goaty and unlike most people, I want my goat cheese to be goaty. The Creminelli sausage was really pretty damned good. I didn't know Creminelli before, but I do now. It is not as good as salame from Olympic Provisions, but it is closer than any other salame I have had. The rillettes were standard Three Little Pigs fare: undistinguished but serviceable. They are not in the same league with my own rillettes, but then that's true of a lot of other food too.

Remember when I was describing the King Family Meritage above, I wrote rose petals and lipstick? Those aren't really compliments and it is about to get worse. With food, especially the duck rillettes, the mid-palate exploded with cocoa and orange which combined in a rather sick way to taste almost like a chocolate covered dreamsicle. We ended up giving the remaining half bottle away to a table near ours.

Great Day with my Best Girl
So, while we had a good time visiting three wineries we had never visited before on a gorgeous spring day, we were left feeling pretty disappointed in what we tasted. Bummer.


  1. Nice blog! If I can put in my humble 2 cents, my husband lived in C'Ville before we got married last year, and we both love visiting local wineries. If you get the chance on your next trip to C'Ville, try Delfosse Vineyards, Mountfair (our current favorite), and of course Barboursville is pretty good if you haven't been there. For beer, try Wild Wolf Brewery - that's our favorite so far. Decent food, too. If you're stopping to eat, the restaurants in Crozet are pretty good - La Cocina del Sol, Crozet Pizza, and Three Notch'd Grill. We love Linden and Glen Manor as well, so thought you might be interested in our C'Ville experience.


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