As one of the smaller Charlottesville-based wineries, Stinson is easy to miss. Located in the woods just outside the city, it doesn’t have the grandiose tasting room that some neighbors have. But it has one key ingredient – excellent vino made by it resident winemaker, Rachel Stinson Vrooman.
Rachael said her winemaking style is inspired by the “garagiste” (garage) wineries of France. There’s likely a double meaning to this as the Stinson tasting room is located in an old garage, plus her consultant Matthieu Finot (of King Family Vineyard) to this day makes wine in his own garage. Hey – who needs a wine cave when you have a wine garage!
Even more astounding is she has no formal training; her previous job was a photo editor in New York. But when her parents purchased an old vineyard in Crozet, she came down to become their winemaker (her first vintage was produced in 2010). Today Stinson produces around 2800 cases/year from 7 acres of vines, plus locally sourced fruit.
I find myself constantly revisiting Stinson because this is one of the very rare wineries that I’ve ALWAYS left with at least one bottle. That’s no small feat; I visit a lot of places so I’m forced to be choosey on where to spend. I’m especially partial to their Sauvignon Blanc and Tannat, but vintage after vintage I always seem to return to their Chardonnay.
Stinson also serves wine from two other vineyards; Ankida Ridge (owned by her husband) and Turk Mountain Vineyard. Turk Mountain doesn’t have a tasting room so they sell their wine here. Unlike Stinson, Turk’s wines tend to have a rustic, unrefined quality to them.
Unlike most wineries that I’ve visited Stinson has several small tasting bars instead of one big counter. I found this adds to the intimacy of my wine tasting as you’re not fighting a crowd. After guiding me through her wines, Rachel gave me a tour of the facility – including a barrel tasting of some outstanding Tannat and Sauvignon Blanc.
We also stopped to discuss their concrete egg, which they used for their Sauvignon Blanc. This ‘egg’ fascinates me. These vessels combine some of the advantages of both oak and steel; it adds depth and mouthfeel but doesn’t leave flavor behind. Given Linden Vineyard (possibly my all-time favorite winery) is one of the few Virginia wineries that also uses such a device, I’d say Stinson is in great company.
What I tried:
2018 Sauvignon Blanc: Made in the concrete egg and steel. Soft and yeasty.
2016 Chardonnay: Light oak, toasty. I always enjoy their Chardonnay because Rachael always hits the right balance of oak without overpowering the wine.
2016 Wildcat (Rkatistelli): Made with fruit from Horton vineyards. Rkats is a really fun grape that has some bite to it.
2018 Cabernet Franc: Soft, almost herbal qualities but no green pepper.
2015 Meritage: Merlot heavy, black cherry notes.
2015 Tannat: Wonderful! Soft but full. This is up there with the Chardonnay as my favorites of the lineup.
2016 Petit Verdot: Full bodied, notes of plumb.
2015 Le Rouge: 50/50 blend of Tannat and Petit Verdot, which I swear is an up and coming blend in Virginia. My lips puckered up because of the acid (which is always a good sign).