It’s Virginia Wine Month: A Visit to Early Mountain Vineyards, one of Virginia’s newest wineries

It’s the last weekend of October and Virginia Wine Month. With Autumn colors in full bloom, this is a great weekend to get out and enjoy wine country. Early Mountain Vineyards will be a great stop, especially with their Fall Family Festival taking place Saturday.

I’ve visited their picturesque location in Madison, just off Route 29 on the Monticello Wine Trail, twice since their opening, and it truly is a fabulous winery to visit. Where else in Virginia can you get history, a sampling of Virginia’s best wines, delicious locally produced food, a beautiful setting in which to enjoy it all, AND give back to the state’s wine industry?!

Early Mountain, formerly Sweeley Estate Winery, was purchased by Jean and Steve Case, former AOL executives and Founders of the Case Foundation, last autumn and re-opened in June. Jean and Steve are on a mission to help elevate the entire Virginia wine industry with their winery. They believe Virginia wine has the potential to compete with the best wine regions of the world.

The winery’s name comes from the property’s history. Revolutionary-war veteran Lt. Joseph Early, the first landowner of the property, learned of a stranger traveling through the region in search of shelter. He sent word they were welcome at his home. Turns out it was Gen. George Washington, under whom he served at Valley Forge. Their’s a gorgeous historic barn still standing on the property that dates back to 1787.

The 300-acre property, with 40 plantable acres, came with a state-of-the-art winemaking facility. There’s everything from electronic punch down equipment for the temperature controlled fermentation tanks to modular sorting equipment and a new bottling line. Current production is planned to be around 5,000 cases, but the facility could do upwards of 15,000.

The Cases assembled a top notch team to make the best wine possible and serve guests in their tasting room, including Vineyard Manager, Jonathan, driving their sustainable growing practices, and Sommelier, Michelle, hand selecting the best of Virginia wines for their program.

The four current Early Mountain wines on offer are…

  • 2011 Pinot Gris: My favorite, this wine is a combination of crisp orange and melon.
  • 2011 Viognier: Big white fruit and peach.
  • 2011 Chardonnay: Just released in September, it’s full of honey and tropical fruits.
  • 2008 Merlot: Bordeaux-style black fruits and lavender.

You can sample all of these in the tasting room, along with some of Virginia’s best wines thanks to their Best of Virginia program.

Best of Virginia is an initiative created to celebrate and champion the finest wines of Virginia by featuring them in the tasting room. This is your virtual tour across the state. Their partner wineries include Thibaut-Janisson, King Family Vineyards, Linden Vineyards, Barboursville Vineyards, Chatham Vineyards, Breaux Vineyards and Ankida Ridge Vineyards. Wines from the partner wineries are tasted in flights, offered by the glass and sold by the bottle, along with the local curated food program of panini, salad, cheese, charcuterie and sweets.

Best of Virginia also feeds into Early Mountain Vineyards’ larger goal of elevating and supporting the whole Virginia wine industry. As such, Early Mountain Vineyards is a social enterprise, and all profits will go toward strengthening the industry. You’re giving back with every dollar you spend!

Early Mountain regularly hosts events like this Saturday’s. The tasting room and grounds are family and pet friendly. And they have a gorgeous event space looking out onto the vineyards.

What more reason do you need for a visit?

Cheers to Early Mountain and all they’re brining to the Virginia wine scene!

For more on Jean Case’s and Early Mountain Vineyards’ innovative plans to support the wine industry, read my piece on Palate Press.

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