King Family easily cracks my Top 10 list of favorite Virginia wineries. Even if you’re a novice wine drinker, as soon as you drive in it’s easy to see why I love this place.
With manicured polo grounds set against the backdrop of the Blue Ridge Mountains, the place is STUNNING. They have some indoor space for picnicking, but the optimal time to visit is when the weather allows you to sit outside.
If that’s not enough reason to visit, I have two words for you: Matthieu Finot. Those familiar with the Virginia wine scene likely know the name, as he’s easily one of the best winemakers in the state. Don’t take my word for it; just look at the composition of the Virginia Governor’s Case for the past 8 years. Nearly every one of those years has a King Family wine in them, with their 2014 Meritage winning the cup in 2018.
During my visit I had not one but two hosts; James King and Wine Director Matthew Brown. Matthew teed off with a (very extensive) tasting while James gave me the backstory of how King Family Vineyards came to be.
James gives all the credit to his parents – David and Ellen King. They picked out the land because David wanted to follow one of his passions. If you guessed ‘wine’….you’re wrong! Actually the driving force behind their acquisition of over 300 acres of land west of Charlottesville wasn’t wine – it was polo.
David gave his realtor strict guidelines that their future home needed enough flat land to pursue his hobby. Little did the Kings know their farm was also suited for viticulture. They turned down the first suitor who randomly appeared at their doorstep asking to plant vines, but the idea stuck. King Family planted their vineyard in 1998 and opened the tasting room in 2002.
Today, King produces 20,000 cases/year (5,500 of that Rose), making them one of the largest wineries in the state. While their 50 acres of vines gives them a lot of fruit, they get grapes locally as well. And yes – polo is still played here, from Memorial Day to mid-October.
I soon learned that King Family has a problem that most businesses would love to have – they are so popular, they sell out of their inventory exceptionally fast. When I visited their tasting menu leaned heavily on 2017 and 2018 vintages, and the popular Rose was long gone.
Compounding the problem is King was holding back some of its best wine so it can submit them into next year’s Governor’s Cup wine competition. Even so, I still had a tasting of almost a dozen wines, including several stunners.
We started off with the whites, all of which came out in 2018. This was a tough growing year, but Mattieu still put on a solid lineup. I think my favorite was the very zesty Viognier, which wasn’t overly floral like many Viogniers can be. We also tried their Chardonnay and a Chardonnay-heavy blend called Roseland. Both were easy drinking and very approachable.
Next up were a trio of single varietal reds, starting off with a 2018 Cabernet Franc that was both tart and fruity. After that was their 2017 “Small Batch” Petit Verdot, which caused my lips to pucker up. I LOVED that PV. Granted I love PV in general, but I especially enjoyed this one.
The third was a Petit Verdot from…Argentina! This is a new initiative, and a good way for King to expand their repertoire of red wines. I liked it but I have to admit; I’ve grown to be a PV snob, and it’s hard to beat the ones in Virginia.
After that were the Merlot-heavy red blends. I sampled the 2012 Meritage, which had a nice mix of earth and fruit (and also was in the 2015 Governor’s Case), followed by their 2017 Mountain Plains red blend. I enjoyed both, but that Meritage was definitely hard to beat…except maybe…MAYBE that small batch Petit Verdot.
Finishing the tasting was their 2017 “Seven” port-style and 2016 Lorely desert wine. The Seven was made with…Petit Verdot! Again – have I mentioned I love PV?
Sadly I never got to meet Matthieu, but I can’t write about King Family without talking more about him. Mattieu arrived in Virginia just do ‘one vintage’ and then move to another assignment. It so happened that year was the very wet 2011, so he stuck around a second year to try again. Then he stayed a third year. While he focuses on King Family, Matthieu makes wines for several other wineries in the area as well.