Saturday, July 21, 2012

Stinson Vineyards: A Serious Place for Wine (VA)

I first came across Stinson Vineyards at the TasteCamp 2012. But even after a quick tasting realized I had stumbled onto something special. This is a serious winery. It made me want to learn more about the vineyard.

Stinson Vineyards is an evironmentally sustainable, family run boutique vineyard located at the scenic foothills of Virginia's Blue Ridge Mountains. Nestled in White Hall, the winding driveway boasts some of the area's best views. A repurposed garage winery combines modern architecture and equipment with traditional winemaking techniques.

The historic Piedmont House at Stinson Vineyards was built in 1796, and expanded to the current size in the 1840s. Local rumor has it that General “Stonewall” Jackson stayed at the house during his Valley Campaign of 1862. The property now consists of 12 acres, of which the vineyard will occupy 5. The house retains many of its original details and infrastructure as we work to restore it.

The first vines at Piedmont House were planted over 40 years ago by Gabriele Rausse. They primarily consisted of Cabernet Sauvignon, but fell into disrepair through multiple changes in owners. After tearing the disease-ridden vines out in 2009, the Stinson family have returned the long neglected soil to a growable state.

Their 5 acres are currently replanted with carefully selected clones of Sauvignon Blanc, Petit Manseng, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot, Merlot, and Cabernet Sauvignon. The new vines and rows are closely spaced in the French method to promote low vigor. A second round of planting is scheduled to take place in Spring 2012.

In the meantime, they are working with carefully sourced local growers to provide them with grapes while their vines mature.

Stinson Vineyard's Winery and Tasting Room are custom designed by architect/owner Scott Stinson. Built into the existing garage three car garage, the effect is a modernized, small scale production facility.

The unique farm store Tasting Room is integrated into the landscape and takes full advantage of the 360 degree views while showcasing their small batch, limited quantity wines. They also offer Gryffon's Aerie meat, Free Union Grass Farm chicken, free range organic eggs, local produce, and garden fresh herbs.

OK, so why do I say they are serious about wine? Let's start with the fact that they ripped out a 40 year vineyard established by Gabrielle Rausse, the father of modern Virginia wine, to replant. That's a commitment! They renovated an old estate house and buildings. Another commitment. They built a state of the art facility and they imported all kinds of equipment and barrels, etc. And they bought an egg, the hottest new thing in wine making (....actually old, since the Roman made wine in concrete and clay two millenniums ago). And you can smell and taste their commitment in a glass. From the eyes of this writer, they are doing everything write to make quality wine. For a small winery, these are big commitments. for the wines....

Three wines really made an impression on me. The first of which was the 2011 Sauvignon BVlanc. This wine was fermented in a concrete egg and in stainless steel barrels. This is a light, bright, delicate spicy dry white wine with tropical and grapefruit aromas. On the palate, the wine is crisp and refreshing with a nice big dose of mineral flavors and a big, mouth pucker pop of grapefruit (as promised). grapefruit come through and a crisp, flinty finish. This is as nice a sauvignon blanc as I have tasted from anywhere. A very pretty, elegant wine. A remarkable achievement! Fantastic!

The 2010 Cabernet Franc This is a blend of two different clones. This was whole berry fermented and unfiltered. The wine was aged in 20% new and 80% neutral French oak. This had an amazing big jammy nose. Like a big pot of red and dark berries simmering in a pot. A nice rich red deep in the middle but more garnet on the edges, this dry red wine had lots to offer. Raspberry and black cherry are big and lush up front, peppercorn and tobacco all came through as promised. Nice fruit, low acidity and structured tannins gave this wine the gravitas you'd expect from a good Cab Franc. This was another example of just a tremendous wine, with big fruit, serious intention, and exacting execution. An impressive wine that I would not only serve to friends, but that I would pour for wine and restaurant professionals. Absolutely fantastic! One of the best on the east coast! Exceptional!

The 2010 Meritage This is a blend of 40%Cabernet Franc, 15% Cabernet Sauvignon and 15% Petite Verdot. It was aged 18 months in 30% new and 70% neutral French oak. The nose was big dark cherry and vanilla with just a hint of cassis and spice. On the palate, the big, round dark cherry came through, as did hints of cassis and leather. This was a very good wine, with tremendous flavor. Great fruit up front, low acids, and lots of good tannin that will allow this wine to age nicely for years to come. Wonderful!

Stinson Vineyards is a wonderful new find. This is a very serious winery, set out ot make great, quality wines. And their first step is to the front of the class, where they join other wineries like Boxwood and The Winery at LaGrange is their quality and execution! You must try these wines. And you must share them with friends!

By the way, they have a wonderful and fun blog....check it out!