The 2021 Virginia Wine Year In Review

As 2021 closes Virginia has (by my count) 258 winery tasting rooms, plus 31 cideries and 11 meaderies. It also has over 20 businesses that sell their wine/cider/mead to the public but lack a physical tasting room.

17 wineries, 3 cideries, and 1 mead tasting room opened or were rebranded in 2021, a metric on par with the past several years. While Loudoun County, the southern Shenandoah/Staunton, and greater Charlottesville areas saw the greatest growth, Virginia had winery openings in nearly every corner of the state.

8 wineries formally closed. Considering some of these closures were actually rebrandings as new owners came in, the Virginia wine scene grew by a larger margin than it shrunk in 2021.

2021’s Honorable Mentions:

Sweet Vines Farm’s Seidah Armstrong became Virginia’s first Black, female winemaker. She and her husband are also the owners, making Sweet Vines one of the very few Black-owned wineries in the state. In an industry with limited diversity in winery ownership and winemaker positions & skews heavily male, this is welcome news.

Hazy Mountain Vineyard now likely has the largest indoor tasting area in the state, complete with a restaurant and brewery. With nearly 100 acres of vines (including a 60-acre vineyard in the Shenandoah) they are starting off strong. I love how a Charlottesville winery is taking advantage of land in the Shenandoah Valley; it’s a great place to grow wine and I’m hopeful more wineries will set up satellite vineyards there.

Merrie Mill Farm & Vineyard is perhaps Virginia’s the best decorated winery. If you haven’t visited at least check out the photos – it could easy double as an art gallery. While they aren’t yet serving estate wine, I expect great things given Emily Pelton of Veritas is their winemaker and they share the same granite soil as nearby Keswick Vineyards, which is known for their Cabernet Sauvignon.

Key Industry Trends

1. New wineries getting bigger & bigger. Hazy is actually part of a trend that new Virginia wineries have a bigger physical footprint (acreage of the property, larger vineyards, bigger tasting rooms) than ever before. While not every location can start with a grand tasting building, it’s apparent this newest generation of wineries are entering the industry with a higher level of investment capital and winemaking know-how than most of their predecessors had even a decade ago.

While part of me will miss the tiny mom & pop vibe that Virginia wineries are known for, overall this is a welcome trend. Larger wineries are able to benefit from economy of scale, which hopefully will allow the Virginia wine industry to grow. New wineries are also becoming smarter about their starting locations, choosing vineyard sites based on terroir as opposed to accessibility to the public. The main downside is a few have encountered local communities which are opposed to large-scale wineries in their proverbial backyard.

2. Guided tastings a thing of the past? The combination of COVID and staffing shortages have made stand-up, in-person tastings a rarity – and this trend likely won’t be reversed. Some patrons embrace this change, while others miss the days when you can stand at a tasting bar and chat ad-nauseum with an owner or winemaker.

This trend isn’t true across all locations, and some wineries may relax this rule on a day-by-day basis depending on how busy they are. But overall, winery patrons should expect take-away flights to be the norm.

3. Virginia Peninsula American Viticultural Area (AVA), which stretches from Hampton Roads to outside Richmond, is Virginia’s newest AVA (#9, if you count the Appalachian High Country AVA). It currently includes 5 wineries.

The utility of AVAs is a polarizing issue. Some look at them as a great method of promoting regional wine. Others see at them as a marketing ploy that only has a limited overlap with terroir. Wineries located in Virginia’s other AVAs have a hit-or-miss track record for promoting the AVA they are situated in, so hopefully these locations will use this opportunity to educate their patrons on what makes their terroir unique.

Tasting rooms that opened in 2021:

  1. Above Ground Winery (Shenandoah)
  2. Chiswell Farm & Winery (Afton)
  3. Ciders from Mars (Shenandoah)
  4. Ecco Adesso Vineyards (Shenandoah)
  5. Endhardt Vineyards (Loudoun)
  6. Fables & Feathers Winery (Goodview)
  7. Firefly Cellars (Loudoun; rebranded from Hunter’s Run)
  8. Hardware Hills Vineyard and Winery (Scottsville; rebranded from Thistle Gate)
  9. Hazy Mountain Vineyards and Brewery (Afton)
  10. Lightwell Survey (Wayneboro) (Note – this is just for the tasting room, which now has fairly regular hours)
  11. Merrie Mill Farm & Vineyard (Keswick)
  12. Old Farm Winery at Hartland (Loudoun)
  13. Old Town Cidery (Winchester)
  14. Southern Revere Cellar
  15. Stoney Brook Vineyard (Roanoke)
  16. Sweet Vines Farm (Unionville)
  17. The Winery At Sunshine Ridge Farm (Prince William County)
  18. Troddenvale at Oakley Farm (Hot Springs) (Tasting room only; cider has been sold for several years in stores)
  19. Williams Gap Vineyard (Loudoun)
  20. Wind Vineyard at Laurel Grove (Tappahannock)
  21. Windchaser Meadery (Hampton Roads)

Burnbrae Vineyards, Caihailian Vineyard, and Teaghlaigh Vineyard/Son of a Bear Ciders are also opened for sales, although they don’t yet have tasting rooms.

Wineries that closed in 2021:

  1. Bodie Vineyards
  2. Hammerstone Cellars
  3. Hinston Ford Cider & Mead
  4. Hunter’s Run (rebranded as Firefly Cellars)
  5. Rural Retreat (closing by the end of 2021)
  6. Tarara Winery (effectively closed in 2020 but formally closed in 2021; event space still open)
  7. Thistle Gate (rebranded as Hardware Hills)
  8. Winery 32 (reopening under a new brand in 2022)

Upcoming wineries & tasting rooms:

  1. Blevins Family Vineyard
  2. Bluemont Station Farm Winery
  3. Burnbrae Vineyards
  4. Caihailian Vineyard
  5. Crimson Lane
  6. Domaine Fortier Vineyard
  7. Seven Lady Vineyards at Dover Hall
  8. Everleigh Vineyard
  9. Lake Front Winery
  10. Nokesville Winery
  11. Pig Whistle Cidery
  12. Stag and Thistle Meadery
  13. Teaghlaigh Vineyard

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