As they say – you should save the best for last. Rosemont qualifies for that distinction.
I first encountered Rosemont’s wines while visiting Early Mountain. It’s rare for me to not immediately recognize the name of a Virginia winery; when I looked them up I realized why! Located in the far southern reaches of the state, it’s definitely…out of the way…shall we say?
Roots go deep here – and I’m not just talking about the vineyard. Now on its sixth generation, the Rose family has owned this land since 1858, with patriarch Stephen turning the historic family farm into a vineyard in 2003. Son Justin is the wine maker, and his wife Aubrey is their marking manager. Aubrey was kind enough to invite me over for a pre-opening tasting before I returned home (obviously I was quick to accept).
The drive in rewards you with a fantastic view of the tasting room overlooking rows of grape vines. The building looks historic but that’s slightly deceiving; it was finished in 2008 using wood from old tobacco barns, making it a mix of the old and new.
Good wine needs good grapes, and this place delivers. They have 27 acres of vines, mostly French varietals. It’s not a matter of luck this is one of a handful southern Virginia wineries that has successfully focused on vinifera; famed viticulturist Lucie Morton helped set their vineyard up years ago. A few hybrids are also in the mix, including Chardonel (the lovechild of Seyval Blanc and Chardonnay). Not seen often enough, Lucie is a big advocate for Chardonel as it does well in the state’s climate.
I could probably do an entire blog on Rosemont’s geography – it’s just that fascinating to me. Aubrey called their location “The Bracey bubble”, named after the local town. See, Rosemont is very close to Lake Gaston, a man-made reservoir whose beaches are also a major tourist draw. As lakes are helpful in deflecting storm fronts (cold lakes can generate a dense pocket of cold air that steals the ‘fuel’ needed for warm-air generated storms), it’s not unknown for rain to be pouring just a few miles away but leave Rosemont relatively unscathed.
Rosemont is this area’s biggest producer by far; 6000 cases/year, 1000 of which goes wine club alone. Their customers are a mix of tourists, part-time residents with second homes around the lake, and locals who are more casual wine drinkers. I imagine this eclectic mix of wine drinkers requires Rosemont to be flexible in the styles of wines they produce.
Lucky for me, lots of bottles were opened. Of course I had to try them – it would have been impolite not to.
Brut Chardonel: I really enjoyed this one; green apple notes. Made in the Charmat method (a cost-effective means of producing sparking where secondary fermentation is done in a large tank vs the bottle; it’s the same method used for prosecco). Very dry.
Traminette: As is common with this grape, it had a big nose coupled with soft mouthfeel and good acid. Made in steel. At 0.5 sugar it could satisfy a sweet-drinker.
Virginia White: 70% Vidal/30% Chardonnay. Easy drinking.
Block A: Fancy name for their Pinot Grigio/Chardonel blend (OK not so fancy, but they needed a name and this worked in a pinch). Strawberry notes.
2018 Lineage (100% Chardonel): Hits that sweet spot of having juuuust enough oak without overpowering it. Zesty, hazelnut notes. I ended up taking a bottle home with me.
2018 Rose (Chambourcin): Dry but the brightness fools your palate into thinking it has sweetness to it.
Virginia Red (Cabernet Franc/Merlot/Chambourcin): Fruit forward but with some bite.
2017 Syrah: Complex, chocolaty.
2016 Cabernet Franc: The fruit notes were practically jumping out of the glass. Fruity but not pepperty.
2017 Merlot: Bold, black cherry and bramble fruit notes. Strong finish.
2016 Kilvarock (Bordeaux style). Signature red blend. Great complexity! Very good.
1858 (red blend): Club red blend with Cabernet Franc/Merlot/Petit Verdot/Tannat. Also very good.
Vidal Blanc: Semi sweet, easy drinking.
Blackridge Red: Semi-sweet Cabernet Sauvignon.
Vermouth: Fun fact – vermouth is actually a wine! And only the second one in Virginia that I know of (along with Flying Fox). Great nose with powerful botanical notes. I liked it but probably better as a cocktail mixer.