It’s not often I get to visit a brand-new winery. I’ve been on a multi-year quest to visit every winery in the state, making first-time visits are rare. So obviously when a brand new place popped up on my wine app it was as if my phone was making me an offer I couldn’t refuse.
12 Ridges is definitely a destination winery. Not just because it’s in a physically stunning location, but it’s far enough off the beaten path that only dedicated wine connoisseurs (or hikers looking for a diversion) are likely to make the trip.
What sets 12 Ridges apart from the rest of the Virginia wine scene is the tasting room tops out at 3300 feet, making it the highest altitude winery in the state. The soil is a mix of clay and volcanic green rock with excellent drainage. Why is this important? Well, when wine luminaries like Michael Shaps and Jake Busching first examined the site they practically salivated over its growing potential, so you know this place is going to produce great wine.
Besides the view, why did they pick this site? Well, the altitude provides the vineyard with a cool climate and windy slopes, both of which allow its vines to resist disease pressure. Also, mountaintops often have rocky, well-drained soil which facilitate minerality in their grape’s flavor profile, and forces vines to struggle – allowing them to produce berries with high flavor concentration.
It wasn’t a vineyard until recently. Owner Craig Colberg purchased the former event center in 2009, but it took time for this current vision to take hold. Even now when you drive in, you pass a Christmas tree farm before arriving at the tasting building.
That tasting building adroitly takes advantage of the view. Sadly, clouds prevented me from enjoying the scenery, but on a clear day I’m certain it’s amazing. Besides; you’re right off the Blue Ridge parkway, so the drive alone is worth it.
Operations manager Sam Hanny greeted me when I arrived. Sam is a self-described ‘vineyard geek’, which is a trait that I can definitely appreciate. He gave me the low-down of the vineyard as he poured.
As the vines are very young, 12 Ridges doesn’t yet produce its own wines. But in keeping with its theme of a high altitude winery, they serve a variety of wines from other high altitude locations around the world. When I was visiting, a nice assortment including a Tempranillo, Riesling, Malbec, a French high-elevation sparkling, and Pinot Grigio were being served.
But when 12 Ridges’ vines become ready – watch out! Its 12 acres include Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris, Chardonnay and Riesling – all varietals that should thrive in this climate. I’m especially excited at the Pinot Noir, since it’s a grape you rarely find in Virginia. Their first vintage probably won’t be available until 2021, so a revisit (or several) is a necessity.
See you in another two years – if not sooner!