Sunday, May 20, 2012

Annefield Vineyards Shows Committment and Style

I had not heard of Annefield Vineyards before the Taste Camp East 2012 grand tasting at Boxwood Vineyards. However, I must admit, finding them was a complete joy. While there, not only did I discover their luxurious wines, but had the pleasure to meet co-founder Stephen M. Ballard. Both were a very insightful and cordial moment!

Stephen M. Ballard and Michael T. Leary purchased Annefield in June, 2005. Since then they have completely renovated the house and grounds, and planted the first three-acre vineyard. The place is spectacular.

Like many people in viticulture, they came to it first with a love of wine. They have learned the business from the soil up, and have been hands-on with every aspect of winegrowing, from understanding soil composition, vine and rootstock selection, pruning, trellis building, and choosing equipment. They are responsible for the year-round cultivation and care of the vines and of the farm.

Stephen M. Ballard was pleasant and cordial, and chatty, all good things for a winemaker. Stephen provides the company strategic business and financial planning guidance, and day-to-day management of the vineyard and winery. Since establishing Annefield Vineyards in November 2005, Mr Ballard is an attorney with Heritage Title & Escrow Company in Washington, DC. His expertise includes zoning, planning, land use, historic preservation, and landlord and tenant law. Mr Ballard has studied all aspects of viticulture and winemaking since 2005, and manages the vineyards at Annefield following biodynamic principles. In 2009 he was elected a director and vice president of the Southern Virginia Wine Trail Association.

Michael T. Leary will be responsible for day-to-day tasting room operations and systems management and integration. He has spent the bulk of his career working in all aspects of customer service for a number of companies, and is now responsible for the development and integration of customer service computer systems for Sirius XM Satellite Radio in Washington, DC. He is also a long-time student of viticulture and winemaking, and directs the wine program at Annefield.

While they do not have a winery yet, (they are in the planning stages) they have assembled an all-star team t help make their dreams come true and make the best of all possible wines.

First, you start with the winemaker. They retained Virginia industry veteran Michael Shaps. With their first harvest in 2008, their retained award-winning winemaker Michael Shaps. Michael (who has is own brand under his namesake Michael Shaps)is the founder with Philip Stafford of Virginia Cellars, Virginia’s first custom crush facility, and their own label, Virginia Wineworks. For the past eight vintages Michael has created wines with careful attention to the details of fine wine production. The wines are produced with a traditional old-world style.Michael has earned over one hundred medals in local and national competitions.

As winemaker at King Family Vineyards in Crozet, Virginia, he won the coveted 2004 Virginia Governor’s Cup from a field of over 300 entries and received gold medals for his 2002 Michael Shaps Cabernet Franc and King Family Vineyards 2002 Meritage. Recently, Michael Shaps’ Virginia Wine Works 2005 Petit Verdot was a gold medal winner at the 2007 Virginia Governor’s Cup competition. Mr. Shaps has consulted on half-a-dozen start-up wineries and for over a dozen start-up wineries on the East coast.

Their winery consultant, Joyce Rigby of Rigby Consulting Services, has been involved in eastern viticulture since the 1980s when she and her husband, Stephen, began a vineyard and winemaking consulting firm in Virginia. She brought her experience in all aspects of vineyard establishment and management to North Carolina in 2000.
With a Bachelor of Science in Industrial Engineering, Joyce has over 15 years’ experience in project management, cost analysis, efficient process flow, and facility layout.

Their vineyard consultant is Paul J. Mierzejewski of PJM Vineyard Consulting. Paul’s vineyard experience began in 1980 when he was working on his bachelor's degree in Viticulture at California State University at Fresno. During this time he also worked at the Paul Mason Winery in the grower relations department, an opportunity that gave him valuable insight into the problems and issues facing local growers and exposure to the wide variety of grapes they produced. He received his Bachelor of Science in Viticulture in 1982 and moved to Virginia. Paul is past Vice President and Treasurer of the Virginia Vineyards Association and remains an active member. He has hosted several viticulture seminars on the technical aspects of vineyard management with Dr. Tony Wolf, State Viticulture Specialist and Dr. Bruce Zoecklein, Virginia State enologist. Paul is the Winemaker at Delfosse Vineyards & Winery in Faber, Virginia.

All this is to say, Annefield has a committment to making quality wine.

2009 Annefield Viognier - This was a lovely wine. A light, crisp white. Big nose up front, floral, with honeydew and grapefruit flavors as promised a hint of orange blossoms, honeysuckle, and lime. Nice hint of mineral notes. Nice finish with linger flavor of lime. Excellent!

2009 Annefield Cabernet Franc - This was a medium to dark colored dry red, with red, but also with a darker purpulish tint. Spice, raspberry and a hint of plum all came through. Also a touch of earthiness to it...a hint of mocha? Defintely a whiff of vanilla. Nice big fruit up front, soft tannins on the back side, low acidity. Still, very nicely structured. Very, very pretty wine! This wine won a gold at the 2011 State Fair of VA Wine Competition.

The wines are as spectacular as the estate itself. And it seems like from here, that Annefield Vineyards produice wines stylish wines, will have someday a stylish new winery, and will be a winery to watch out for in the future. Congrats on all fronts!