Over President’s Day Weekend, my friend, Laura Beth, and I went to Charlottesville to go vineyard hopping. Every so often, we need a break from city life to go out in the country and try the many wonderful wines that Virginia has to offer. We usually go to places around Leesburg, so it was nice to visit an area that we are not as familiar with and taste the differences in wine. The Charlottesville area wineries are among gorgeous mountains, hills, and farmlands. The sky, on a clear day, is breathtaking, and you can see for miles in all directions. At night, there are shiny white dots in the sky called stars, which are also gorgeous, as well as calming and serene.
While in the Charlottesville area, there was one winery that we loved so much, that we went not once, but twice. It was a winery that was a wonderful mix of views, ambiance, wine quality, and food. This place was Early Mountain Vineyards in Madison, Virginia, which is convienently off of route 29 on the way to and from Charlottesville. This post is about the visit to Early Mountain on the way to Charlottesville.
We started our winery weekend here on Friday night, leaving DC around 5:00 and getting to Early Mountain Vineyards around 7:30. It does not usually take this long, but being DC around rush hour on a Friday, we got into a bit of traffic. We’d be cutting it close to their 8:00 closing time. We still hadn’t eaten yet, so we called ahead to make sure that they would still be serving food when we got there. I had heard from a friend that Early Mountain has a good menu, so we were hoping to have dinner there. Luckily, they were open, and they were kind to wait for us. We didn’t have time to do both a full tasting and dinner, but Early Mountain does several wine flights of four wines each, so we were able to at least try some of their wines along with enjoying a good meal.
Before I go into the food and the wine, let me take a minute to talk about the beauty of this building. We arrived at night, and the starlit sky was breathtaking as we walked in. Early Mountain’s tasting room is very modern, with an outside stone fireplace, picnic area overlooking the mountains, and a spacious, castle-like inside decor. Chalk drawings maps of Virginia wineries decorate the walls by the tasting counter, which is helpful when you are about to travel the area and wanted a visual to see where you would be going. The chairs and tables are über comfortable, which is not something I can say for many wineries. Sadly, I was so overwhelmed with the beauty, that I didn’t take any pictures. I know…how sad is that? Take a look at their website for some beautiful pictures. They were actually just named a Top Ten Favorite Tasting Room by VCA Wine Lover! Congratulations!
Early Mountain does something that no other winery (that I know of) does, and that is feature other wines from other vineyards in the area. You can get wines from other wineries by the glass or bottle. In fact, they also have both a white and a red flight that features four wines from four other wineries. They recognize that they are not the only vineyard in the area to create wonderful wine, and showcase others. However, it was Early Mountain’s wines that I wanted to try, so I ordered their Early Mountain flight. In their wine flights, you are poured samples of their 2013 Brut, 2015 Viognier, 2015 Foothills (a red blend), and 2013 Eluvium (another red blend).
Brut 2013: Many sparkling wines have some creamy notes due to spending some time in a barrel, but I got full clean, bright and crisp wine. While this one did spend some time in an oak barrel, it was in neutral barrels, so no oak flavors were in the wine, which I quite enjoyed. This would go well with Shrimp (as you will see below), sushi, or for sitting on the patio.
Viognier 2015: Lots honey and green apple. It was nice and crisp. This would go so well with cheese, especially softer ones like Brie. It is an excellent fish pairing as well.
“Foothills” 2015: 68% Merlot, 20% Cabernet Franc, 8% Syrah, 2% Cabernet Sauvignon, 2% Petit Verdot. This guy was so interesting. It had a powerful aroma, full of cranberry, leather, blackberry, and even some mint. However, with such a powerful smell, I was blown away with how light the body was. It is slightly heavier than a Pinot Noir, which I could see as a great poultry pairing.
“Eluvium” 2013: 72% Merlot, 15% Petit Verdot, 13% Cab Sav. Ooh baby this has a spicy scent! I got a lot of strong leather and baking spices. However, the taste was so much fruiter than I expected! I got a lot of blackberry jam and prunes. The wine definitely has structure, but was not as bold as the scent would have you think.
We wanted to go to Early Mountain not only because we heard that their wines are good, but their food as well. Their menu features the usual cheeses, meats, and breads, but also pastas, soups, salads, grilled cheeses, and many other foods, depending on the season. Being so close to closing time, I wanted to order something quick, so I ordered their Bibb lettuce salad and Shrimp Escabeche, which had boiled shrimp with red onion and grapefruit.
With the shrimp, the Brut was the best of the pairings. The Brut was bright and had a great acidity that complimented the grapefruit of the shrimp. The Viognier was not a bad pairing, but some of the apple taste was lost. The reds were quite fantastic on their own, but did not go with the shrimp. Either the meal overpowered the wine or visa versa. However, they were all able to be enjoyed on their own (meaning that they weren’t too heavy/tannic that you felt you needed a steak to wash it down), so I mostly drank the Brut with the meal and the other wines after I finished.
Like I said, this was just our first visit. The next post will be more of a review of everything that they have to offer. Stay tuned for more information on the rest of their wines from the tasting menu, the ambiance, the gorgeous building, and the friendly staff!