Winery #1 of my 3 day trip! Not coincidentally, this was one of my longest visits – entirely due to the hospitality of the owners, Boyd and Shirley Archer.
Bright Meadows Farm looks humble from the outside, but the Archers were very generous with their time. They explained to their farm’s history, including how they opened in 2005 as ‘retirement’ gig after Boyd left the FAA as an air traffic controller. Boyd’s mom taught him wine making (using Muscatine grapes no less), so I suppose the wine itch never left him.
“American wines from American Vines” is their motto. The farm has 10 acres of vines, plus patches of blueberries and blackberries. They grow hybrid (Norton, Vidal, Chambourcin, and formerly Steuben) and American (Catawba, Cayuga, Concord and Niagara) grapes, plus a small test plot of Petit Verdot. Bright Meadows also sells fruit – especially the Norton – to other Virginia wineries, so you may well have tasted their grapes even if you didn’t know the source.
This winery isn’t exactly close to…anything…so you’re more likely to find them at festivals than as a visitor. Fortunately, Sans Soucy and Hunting Creek Vineyard are nearby, so this is one of the few places in the Southern Virginia AVA that could be called a winery cluster. As I drove by, I passed a horse-pulled buggy – no doubt owned by some of the local Amish. Hopefully, the rest of the locals are wine drinkers!
Shirley took me on a tour of the vineyard, explaining how while they aren’t certified organic (too much paperwork!) they try to be as organic as possible. Fortunately all their grapes are hardy varietals, so that allows them to minimalize chemical intervention.
While 10 acres of vines & over 1200 cases/year is a lot (all made in steel), they seemed especially excited by their fruit wines. Their blackberry has been a huge hit, and they were awaiting ABC approval of the label for their blueberry wine. This was a trend I noticed all over this AVA; nearly all the smaller wineries made fruit wine, which thrived in their terroir and was welcomed by their local customer base. I suspect it’s also easier to manage than a vineyard, so it was a good practice all around.
The tasting room is on the small side. They have some tables in back, but this isn’t exactly a party place. But as an old barn renovated into a wine room, it had a charm of its own – sorta like drinking in someone’s living room. Boyd even sat down with me outside as I enjoyed my lunch with a glass of the Sunrise.
What I tried:
Sunrise Surrender: Steuben blend.
Bright Meadows White: Sweet, made with Niagara.
Apple Wine: Made with Macintosh apples; I liked this one a lot.
Bright Leaf White: Semi-sweet Vidal; had a thickness to this that was heavy on the tongue.
Rambling Rose: White Norton, made possible by pressing but not crushing the grape. I found this took away the ‘foxy’ taste of the Norton, so this may appeal to those who don’t usually enjoy this grape (including me).
Concord: Light, semi-sweet and easy drinking.
Blackberry: Tart, light and very yummy. I get it why so many locals like the fruit wines from here.
BAG (Blackberries Apples Grapes): Fruit wine made with a blend of Concord.
Dan River: Semi-sweet Chambourcin.
Halifax red: Tart, dry…maybe raspberries on the palate?
Burley Red: Full bodied Chambourcin.
Rebellion Red: Norton, which had spent 5 years in the barrel.