Glen Manor Vineyards Winemaker Tour

There are many good wineries in Virginia. There are a few great ones. But if Virginia had a “Premier Grand Cru” or “First Growth” category, that’s where you’d find Glen Manor.

Owner/winemaker Jeff White didn’t plan on becoming a winemaker, or even growing grapes. His vineyard is actually his family farm which goes back 4 generations. But a summer working with viticulturist Tony Wolf gave him an appreciation of Virginia wine, and that lead to an internship with Jim Law. The rest is history.

Glen Manor has one of the prettiest vineyard views anywhere in Virginia. Its 17 acres of vines tops out at 1400 feet, right below the northern entrance of Shenandoah Park’s Skyline Drive. I’d always wanted to visit the vineyard and this November finally had my chance when a friend invited me on a members-only tour.

The vineyard is so steep that Jeff’s insurance won’t permit him to allow visitors there, so I had to rent a 4 x 4 vehicle to traverse the slope and sign a waiver as a condition of doing the tour. Well trust me – the view was worth it.

While doing our wine tasting Jeff talked at length about the vineyard and his family history, even pointing to a tree that he once climbed as a kid. Since he’s nearly always in the vineyard or cellar (often working at night) visitors including myself rarely have the chance to meet him one-on-one. But that’s ok – his wife Kelly is an amazing hostess, although I admit I miss the focaccia bread she’d leave on the counter, pre-COVID.

On the topic of legacy, Jeff mentioned how his niece Ashleigh White had recently gotten into the winemaking (and winegrowing) business. She’s still young and has the travel bug, so her path in life isn’t set. But one can hope there will be a 5th generation on the farm.

The vineyard’s westward orientation makes it a ‘hot’ site, which guides his farming practices. Jeff picks his fruit at night using headlamps, along with a vineyard team/family unit that emigrated here from Mexico. The story of how Jeff assisted the Morales family emigrate to the US and José’s own life story is amazing, but that’s probably a discussion for another time.

Jeff explained “I would say this was a pretty typical vintage in very untypical climatic times”. The reds seem to be pointed towards finesse rather than power, while the whites and future rosé show a lot of promise. Of course, that’s all in the future and blending trials haven’t started. At this point the whites seemed more like raw apple cider than wine.

My companion and I sat outside for a special library flight which focused on their Hodder Hill (Cabernet-dominant red blend), St. Ruth (usually Merlot-dominant), and Petit Manseng.

One of the Petit Mansengs was a tad too sweet for me, but their Petit Mansengs have otherwise been consistently stellar.

Don’t ask me to pick a favorite red; that question is too hard, and I didn’t take detailed notes regardless. Glen Manor’s reds have a very distinctive earthiness to them that I love. I made sure to get their 2017 St. Ruth.

After that it was time to return home. Hopefully in another year I’ll be a member and do this tour again.

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