Over the summer we brought you a snapshot of California, Oregon and Washington Wine Country through out West Coast Wednesday series. Along the journey, we were able to sample the award winning and unique flavors of Sonoma Coast, Napa Valley, Walla Walla, the Willamette Valley and other exciting wine regions on the left side of the country. We were lucky enough to work with some incredibly talented and passionate winemakers, viticulturists and entrepenuers within the industry. It was a wonderful experience for us and we hope that you learned a little something as well.
Today we are excited to share that we are launching a new wine series, this one a little bit closer to home. Join us as we explore our local roots this fall, highlighting some of our favorite Virginia wineries and the people, the places and the tastes that made us fall in love with Virginia Wine Country.
Tune in every Tuesday to learn more and experience a Taste of Terroir right here in Virginia.
Stinson Vineyards in Crozet, VA
Almost one year ago we sampled our first wine from Stinson Vineyards at the Epicurience Virginia Festival in Loudoun County. We were blown away and immediately knew that we had to learn more. This family-owned winery is located in the heart of Virginia Wine Country along the Monticello Wine Trail. Gorgeous views, a beautiful tasting room and some innovative winemaking techniques have put Stinson on the map as a popular destination for locals and wine enthusiasts alike.
Scott Stinson and daughter Rachel Stinson Vrooman opened Stinson Vineyards in 2009. Rachel shared with us that her first serious appreciation of wine came when she spent a month in the Loire Valley in college as part of a summer program to learn French– “I lived with this amazing French grandmother who would cook multi-course dinners from her garden every night, paired with a local bottle of wine. Although I had no knowledge of the wine region I was in, it was the first time I really understood how wine was meant to be enjoyed.”
While living in New York, Rachel’s parents purchased the property in Crozet, which happened to be home to an old vineyard planted in the 1970’s by Gabriele Rausse, known to some as the “Father of Modern Virginia Wine.” After falling in love with the Virginia countryside and inspired by those early experiences in France, it didn’t take long for Scott to convince Rachel to move to Virginia and start a winery on the family’s property.
Rachel and Scott worked with two well known Virginia wine consultants, Matthieu Finot (winemaker at King Family Vineyards) and viticulturist Lucie Morton, who pointed them the right direction from the start.
Winemaker Chat: What’s your go-to wine for a typical fall evening?
Rachel Stinson: “As the weather starts to cool down I’m looking for a slightly chilled, lighter bodied red to transition from Summer to Fall. Cabernet Franc is a great option – obviously from Virginia but also from the Loire Valley, Finger Lakes, or even cooler regions in California. We’ve also been drinking Mencia (from Spain) which has a bit of the same floral/herbal nuances as Cab Franc.”
Stinson’s vineyard is located in the Monticello AVA, which is known for it’s views of the Blue Ridge Mountains, rolling hills and fertile granite-based clay soil. The first vines on the property were planted over 40 years ago by Gabriele Rausse. After multiple changes in ownership, the vineyard sadly fell into disrepair. When Stinson made the decision to open up shop, they pulled out the old vines which had become disease-ridden throughout the years. With a little tender love and care (and a whole lot of sweat), the vineyard and soils were restored to a grape growing state and ready for planting.
Stinson currently has seven acres under vine consisting of Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Petit Manseng, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Tannat. The vineyard is set up to maximize sunlight exposure while careful pruning limits the amount of fruit per vine, resulting in quality berries more concentrated in flavor true to the terroir. Additional fruit is sourced from other Virginia growers to add complexity to the wines.
As we mentioned before, Rachel and Scott are both inspired by the wines of France, particularly those of Bordeaux and the Loire Valley. They aim to produce wines reminiscent of these regions, yet true to Virginia terroir. They strive to make wines that are well-balanced and smooth, with subtle complexities that highlight the fruit characteristics. Winemaking consultant Matthieu Finot provides guidance over this process to ensure that Stinson achieves this goal.
Winemaker Chat: In your opinion, what does the future hold for the Virginia wine industry?
Rachel Stinson: “Virginia wine is at a pivotal point right now. There is quality and innovation in our wines, and people outside the industry are starting to get excited. As we continue to grow, more resources are available to us as well as a greater wealth of knowledge. It all builds on itself. We just have to keep doing what we’re doing and maintain the level of quality in the wines.”
The Tasting Room.
Owner and architect Scott Stinson designed the winery and tasting room. Built into an existing three car garage on the property, the facility is small yet elegant. The tasting room is filled with natural light and is decorated with a mixture of modern and farmhouse rustic features (our favorite). The patio offers great views of the vineyard and the surrounding Blue Ridge Mountains, making it the perfect place to enjoy a crisp fall day and watch the leaves turn. The tasting room also doubles as a unique farm store offering grass-fed beef, farm-raised pork and chicken, free range organic eggs, local produce, and garden fresh herbs.
Stinson produces a variety of white and red wines, as well as a port-style red and a sweeter dessert-style white wine. For our feature we were able to sample four of their current wines including the newly released and much anticipated Tannat.
2015 Sauvignon Blanc
Winemaker Notes: A bright and elegant Sauvignon Blanc with classic hay and passionfruit notes melding with a more new world style white peach and grapefruit, finishing on a note of flinty minerality.
- The fruit is sourced from Monticello AVA
- 100% Sauvignon Blanc, fermented in stainless steel and concrete egg
- Price: $23.99/bottle
- Winos’ tasting notes: We loved this crisp Sauvignon Blanc. Lightly acidic with grapefruit, stone fruit and lemon notes. The stainless helps bring out the acidity with the concrete rounding out the flavors. A nice warm day sipper.
- Where would we drink it? We know that summer is coming to an end, but this would be a great beach happy hour beverage! Pack this in your cooler, head down to the water and kick back watching the tide roll in and out.
- Recommended food pairing? Keeping with the beach theme, we’d pair this with a light fish dish or a shrimp cocktail appetizer.
Winemaker Notes: Mouthwateringly crisp with a long finish and round floral nose. Lightly oaked in 15% new French barrels for soft caramel and vanilla undertones. Serve with cheese and antipasto, salads, or fish.
- Monticello AVA fruit
- 100% Chardonnay, fermented in 7 months french oak (15% new)
- Price: $23.99/bottle
- Winos’ tasting notes: We have a preference for lightly oaked, slightly acidic Chardonnay and this one is simply perfect. Crisp with notes of lemon, green apple and apricot and a lovely hint of vanilla on the finish.
- Where would we drink it? This is a solid Tuesday night wine. Come home from a long day at the office, put up your feet, pour yourself a glass and fire up the DVR for a quiet night on the couch.
- Recommended food pairing? Cheese plate all the way– a creamy goat or brie with a spicy plum or apricot chutney on the side. Simple dinner, great wine.
Winemaker Notes: The 2013 Meritage is a velvety smooth, complex blend of our finest grapes. Full bodied with dark fruit and spicy tannins. Aged 18 months in French oak. With good structure and balance, this wine will drink well now and benefit from aging.
- Virginia fruit
- 33% Merlot, 25% Cabernet Sauvignon, 25% Petit Verdot, 17% Cabernet Franc
- Aged 18 months in French Oak, 30% new
- Price: $31.99/bottle
- Winos’ tasting notes: A beautiful Bordeaux blend of 4 grapes, including a few of our favorites (love that Petit Verdot), this wine is smooth, bold and complex. The Petit Verdot and Merlot help to bring out the dark fruit and cherry notes with a slightly tannic structure.
- Where would we drink it? Last fall we went camping at Big Meadows in Shenandoah National Park in 30 degree temperatures. Boy do we wish we had this wine then! This is a great post-hike, fireside wine to warm the body and the spirit.
- Recommended food pairing? A steak or roast is an obvious pairing for this wine but, a pasta with a red sauce or meat lasagna would knock it out of the park as well.
Winemaker Notes: A rich wine with vibrant, lively tannins. Florals and blueberries on the nose give way to toasty cedar and spicy white pepper. Aged in 50% new French oak.
- Monticello AVA fruit
88% Tannat, 12% Merlot
Aged 22 months in French Oak, 50% new
- Price: $35.99/bottle
- Winos’ tasting notes: Tannat can be a tricky grape, but Stinson has nailed it. Earthy, woody and spicy are how we’d describe this. It’s complex with a lot of structure. The Merlot provides balance and dark fruit flavors. If you like earthy and powerful reds this one is for you.
- Where would we drink it? Weather forecasters are predicting another cold and snowy winter in Virginia– grab yourself a bottle for the first big storm! Save the shoveling for the following day and savor this for lunch (with the food pairing below, of course).
- Recommended food pairing? We’d pair this with a hearty soup– chili or vegetable soup that will warm you up and bring some moisture back to your mouth!
Winemaker Chat: In your opinion, what is the best bottle of wine that you have produced?
Rachel Stinson: “I’d have to say the 2010 Cabernet Franc. It was the first vintage we ever made, and we got lucky because it was an awesome harvest year for the reds. It’s still tasting delicious! We had no idea what were doing though, so it was really the product of good consultants and pure luck.”
Stinson Vineyards is open Thursday-Sunday and holiday Mondays from 11am-5pm. Tasting fees are $7 per person (groups over 8 are $10 per person). Dog-friendly and kid-friendly, we highly recommend you check them out this fall, especially with Virginia Wine Month and the fall foliage right round the corner! To learn more, visit http://www.stinsonvineyards.com or check them out on Facebook and instagram!