“Is everyone happy?” asked winemaker Deon Abrams, as he came out to check on the growing crowd. If there was a theme of the day, this was it.
Grayhaven is one of the more accessible wineries in the state, located roughly mid-way between Charlottesville and Richmond. Not nearly enough people from NOVA head this way, which is a shame because not only is it a great place on its own, it shares a wine trail with 53rd Winery (another favorite) just north of here.
The first thing you notice is the VIEW! Grayhaven looks something out of a Tolkien novel. Walking towards the tasting room you cross a tiny bridge over a koi pond, then approach a pair of doors that would be at home guarding a castle. There’s even a classic merry go round around the corner. With views like this, it’s understandable why Grayhaven has been used as a filming location for music videos and even a movie – including one with the awesome title of Attack of the Vegan Zombies (because why eat flesh when you can feast on wine grapes?).
Grayhaven is also one of the older wineries in the state, planting its vineyard in 1978 and opening the winery in 1994. Small to mid-sized by Virginia standards (translation: still very boutique), it has 9 acres of vines including Touriga Nacional, Pinotage, Frontenac, and a few other grapes you don’t often see in Virginia.
The vineyard-geek in me shouted for joy I heard about the sheer variety of vines. Pinotage is South Africa’s signature grape – a cross between Pinot Noir and Cinsault that provides a full bodied, low acid red wine. Touriga is the national grape of Portugal, used as the basis for Port. If you’re itching for a Virginia made wine made with these varietals, this is the place to find them.
Another thing that distinguishes Grayhaven is its South African theme – no doubt because it’s Deon’s birthplace. The Pinotage was definitely a nod to that heritage, but they also sell a variety of South African wines to supplement what the vineyard produces, and host an annual South African festival (well…with the exception of 2020).
What I tried:
‘M A N’ Chenin Blanc: A South African Chenin that was a great value-for-your-money wine. High acid, crisp and light.
‘Villiera’ (Semillon/Sauvignon Blanc blend): Bright and very lemon up front.
‘Blooming White’ (Gewürztraminer, Riesling and Cheinin): Floral, almost spicy notes. Perfect for hot weather.
‘Rendezvous’ (Pinot, Chambourcin and Sauvignon Blanc): This vintage was super light; I detected strawberry notes.
Pinotage: Dion seemed especially happy with this one; fruity, with spice notes on the finish.
Indaba ‘Mosaic’ (South African blend with all 5 Bordeaux grapes): More fruit than I expected. Long finish.
Rivercrest: Touriga/Pinotage blend. Smooth! So good I had to buy a bottle.
I would be remiss in not including a shot of their amazing cheese plate. The goat cheese with South African chutney was off the charts, but also loved the Tuscan Fontina and Wisconsin Bellavitano. If the South African heritage festival isn’t enough they ALSO host several cheese events every year.