Altillo (formerly known as Alta Vista) produces some of the best Virginia wines you’ve tasted but didn’t realize the true source of. That’s because its business model is unique in the state; rather than focusing on selling Altillo-labeled wine to customers, it produces wine for other Virginia wineries – a process called custom crush.
Don’t get me wrong – Altillo DOES have its own wine, and it’s excellent (and at $20/bottle a steal). First planted in 2001, their vineyard has 5 acres of French varietals, including ½ acre of Shiraz. The location is actually an especially nice looking home – just go around the side to access the tasting room.
Owner Bob Schenkel was pouring for several guests and I joined in around half way through their flight. He explained how years ago he tried running it as a ‘regular’ winery but there wasn’t enough foot traffic in the area to keep it profitable, leading him to focus on custom crush. He’s actually luckier than most – there were more than a few wineries in his area that are no longer in operation, so this move saved the business. Now, wineries elsewhere in Virginia reach out to Altillo when they are short of their own estate wine, or lack the ability (or desire) to make wine themselves.
Bob’s son is the wine maker; they only use this building for wine making. Hopefully they also rent it out as an Air B&B, because who wouldn’t want to stay overnight in a winery?
What I tried:
16 Chardonnay: My notes fail me except to say made in oak.
17 Viognier: Made in steel. Full bodied for a Viognier, and not a lot of the honeysuckle notes that often define this wine.
17 Cabernet Franc: Spicy – in a good way. No green pepper notes here.
17 Meritage: Also spicy; my palate fooled me into thinking it was Cab Franc heavy but actually it’s not.
17 Shiraz: One of the rare Shiraz plantings in Virginia; a difficult grape to grow but they do it well here. Earthy.
17 Petit Verdot: I can’t wait for this one to be bottled because it’s awesome! Good balance, bold but not too bold, just all around great.
17 Merlot: 2nd favorite after the Petit Verdot, with definite earthy notes.
Rose: Semi-sweet, strawberry-cherry notes.