Even if you’ve never visited Grace Estate, you’ve probably enjoyed their product – the grapes that is. At 50 acres of vines (and 1,500 cases/year) they sell a considerable amount of fruit locally, using only a portion for themselves. In fact, the majestic house on the hill surrounded by acres and acres of vines is the very first thing you notice as you drive by.
The vineyard has many of your standard Bordeaux grapes (including Malbec!) plus a few other varietals you don’t see as often, including Sauvignon Blanc, Tannat, even an experimental row of Chenin Blanc. The only hybrid they grow is Vidal Blanc, which tells me these people are definitely not taking any ‘easy outs’ in their vineyard.
The Grace family is all about history; not only are many of their wines named after different historical family members, their family tree is on display as you walk in. Today the owners split their time between Switzerland and Charlottesville, in addition to traveling everywhere else. A home in Switzerland plus a 450-acre Virginia mansion surrounded by vineyards? I’d call that ‘living the dream’.
General Manager Peter Dimmick was nice enough to grand me an interview despite being an exceptionally busy summer day. While he was proud of his wines, he seemed just as excited to talk about the vineyard. That’s always a good sign! He explained how over the past few years Grace had carefully replanting parts of the vineyard to maximize its potential, although they still retained some of its oldest vines (going back to 1995, way before the tasting room opened).
While the tasting room near the road is nothing to sneeze at, I still miss the one they had in the mansion. The views from there were amazing.
The tasting menu was expansive, but Peter let me sample a good cross-section of what was available. The only one that I wish I could have tried (but was unavailable) was their Malbec, which they have a considerable planting of.
2017 Sauvignon Blanc: Some citrus notes, made in neutral oak.
2016 Chardonnay: Toasty nose made in French Oak Burgundy-style. Excellent! My favorite style of Chardonnay.
Le Gras (Malbec Rose): This was unusual; I almost NEVER see Malbec in Roses. Very fruity, with low acid and strong strawberry notes.
2016 Cabernet Franc: Pepper and leather notes
2015 Tannat: My favorite! Elegant, not overly bold, great balance. I’d put this against any Tannat in the state.
Ice wine (made with Vidal): This was a treat! Made in a true ice wine style, as a few years back they took a risk and let the fruit hang on the vine just long enough to get frosty. Great acid and a refreshing change of pace.
Not tried was their vineyard tour, which sadly I didn’t have time for. Maybe during my inevitable follow on visit?