Chestnut Oak Vineyard

Chestnut Oak has a tiny tasting room but great assortment of wines. This was my second visit. While they’ve been making wines since 2009, the tasting room has only been around since 2014. I believe their 8 acres of vines have been around for even longer than that. It’s a good thing when wineries focus on the fruit first and open to the public later.

Located not far from Barboursville winery, the two locations couldn’t be more different. As soon as you walk in you notice the brightly colored walls that gives it a hippy vibe. Bonus points for being dog-friendly as well.

In the past they specialized in flights of Cabernet Sauvignon and Petit Manseng. Now they have a broader selection of wines, although they still seem to focus on those two.

Of the wines I tried, the standouts were the 16 Cabernet Sauvignon which had cherry-ish notes, the 16 Petit Verdot/Cab Franc blend (which was nice) and the 17 Viognier which was not overly floral. Good Cab is hard to find in Virginia, but they are hitting it out of the park here.

I missed out on their “Chestnut One” red blend! Apparently it’s a competition winner. Hopefully they’ll bring back the Cab and Petit Manseng flights, because those were fun.

Jefferson Vineyards

I revisited Jefferson after a 4 year delay. It’s actually quite a wonder why I waited so long; Charlottesville is one of my favorite wine regions, PLUS it’s right next door to Montichello. As a history buff, this place is a magnet.

It’s hard to talk about this winery without also mentioning it’s namesake. Thomas Jefferson (I’ll call him TJ for short) is literally the founding father of all American wine, despite failing to make a single decent wine himself. A dedicated oenophile, TJ felt Virginia’s terroir was perfect for wine making. He was right – but what he DIDN’T have was a microscope. Little did he suspect that the US east coast is home to a tiny bug named phylloxera, which does nothing except dine on a grape vine’s rootstock. While native American vines are resistant, TJ’s imported French vines were not. Alas, his vineyards never had a chance.

Courtesy of Jefferson’s Facebook page

Had he visited today though, I’m positive he’d have loved this place. They are neighbors with his home of Monticello, so the view is hard to beat. While their tasting room doesn’t have seating, they do have a separate building with indoor seating. Dogs can visit the main tasting room and hang outside as well. Over 20 acres under vine, so they are a good-sized producer.

My servers were very friendly, and I lucked out – they were doing a special tasting of their 14 Petit Verdot this weekend, and were happy to let me sample it. Score!!!

What I tried:

Rose: Off dry; light

2017 Viognier: Wonderful!!! Honeydew notes. Best Viognier I’ve had in a long time

2017 Chardonnay Reserve: Too oakey for me

Vin Rouge (mostly Merlot): Light, soft red

2016 Cab Franc: Soft for a Franc; pepper notes, cherry finish. Very nice

2017 Petit Verdot: Nice nose but too young right now

16 Meritage: Kinda oaky but OK

2014 Petit Verdot: Ooooohhh myyyy! Loved this one. So smooth…

Flying Fox Vineyard

For those who remember the old location down the road, this is going to be a brand new experience for you. In 2018 Flying Fox was sold to members of the same family who own Veritas winery, which is where their wine is made. Emily Pelton is not only a co-owner, but their wine maker for both locations.

Experimentation is a key theme here. Having the Flying Fox label provides the owners with the flexibility to try out new techniques and wine types. They have a total of 14 acres under vine, although its association with Veritas gives them the opportunity to broaden the number of varietals they have access to.

While the old building looked like someone’s home, this has more of a lounge/industrial vibe to it. It’s also conveniently located at the crossroads of several nearby wineries, including Veritas, Afton Mountain, and Valley Road. This is not a section of Virginia that will let you go thirsty.

Nate was my server, and he was definingly excited by his wine! He walked me through a tasting of 6 x samples.

My first two were both Pinot Gris, although stylistically they couldn’t be more different. The first had lots of green apple; good, but pretty typical of what you’d expect to find in a Pinot Gris.

But the second was an ‘orange wine’, an ancient style you almost never see. It was skin fermented, which gave it it’s color. It was sorta tangy, almost salty. I kinda liked it, but was mostly taken aback how different it was.

2015 Merlot: Amazing plumb/cherry nose and black cherry on the palate.

The 2014 “Trio” red blend had some fruit on the palate.

“Sly Fox” Cabernet Franc was aged in bourbon barrels, but despite that it wasn’t over powering. I bought a bottle.

Perhaps the most interesting one was their vermouth. I’d always thought of this as a drink mixer, but actually vermouth is a fortified wine made with wormwood and viognier, which gave it a very floral-y nose. This is definitely the first vermouth I’ve ever had at a Virginia winery, and a good showcase for Flying Fox’s willingness to try new things.