Capstone Vineyards

If there was a prize for great neighborhoods to open a winery, Capstone Vineyards would be in the finalist round. With Crimson Lane Vineyards literally next door and Linden Vineyards down the road, this town is something of a winelovers mecca.

These wineries all recognized something crucial; these hills have great soil. New owner Theo Smith put it this way; “With dirt like this, making wine is easy. All I have to do is not screw it up.”

Capstone opened in February 2019, although it’s been so under-the-radar few people knew about it. That was by design; founders Dave Adams and Andrea Baer only made one small batch of wine from their 2015 and 2016 vintages (produced by Jim Law at Linden, no less). All subsequent harvests was sold to Early Mountain Vineyards (EMV). They accepted visitors by appointment only, slowly selling off their remaining stock but not making more.

EMV labeled all of Capstone’s fruit under a series of vineyard-specific bottles. This is high praise; EMV knew this was a quality vineyard, and this limited production seemed to sell out so fast that non-members like myself couldn’t get their hands on anything.

Eventually Dave and Andrea decided to move on. Both Theo and EMV were interested in purchasing the vineyard, but eventually the owners decided to go with Theo. Capstone changed hands in December 2022.

The first thing that visitors experience is a long, steep driveway to the small tasting room which overlooks the vineyard. The vines are south facing, which maximizes sun exposure. The steep slope tops out 1500 feet, so it has excellent drainage. Right now, they have 12 acres of mostly Bordeaux varietals planted (with room to expand), plus some rows of Roussanne, Chenin and Muscat Ottonel.

The tasting room is tiny, but some improvements have been made. One of Theo’s first moves was to install a new deck and put some tables outside. Now it’s a lot easier to take in the fantastic view, which includes a look at Avenius vineyard just a few hills over. Theo expects to eventually build a new further up the hill, but making a wine production facility takes priority.

Theo greeted me and poured a glass of sparkling before running off to take care of another customer. Eventually things settled down enough to take me through a tasting, where I was able to pepper him with questions. Turns out that he’s from Nova Scotia and originally had a job in the cancer research field. But Theo wasn’t so keen on office life and eventually made his way into winemaking.

Local winelovers may recognize his name; until very recently Theo was the winemaker at nearby Rappahannock Cellars for over a decade. Theo described his time there as a fantastic learning experience, overseeing its transition from a 6,000 case/year facility to one making over 30,000 cases/year (plus adding a sparkling program).

But being a winemaker is one thing; being an owner seemed the natural evolution of the job. So when Capstone became available, he jumped at the opportunity.

Right now Capstone is only serving 4 wines; two of the original 2016-vintage red blends (one Cabernet Franc-heavy, the other Merlot-heavy), a sparkling he made from Monticello fruit, and a still-unlabeled Chenin-Chardonnay blend.

Of the lineup, my favorite was the Chenin blend, which had a delicious creaminess to it. The runner up would be either the 2016 Fielder’s Choice but the sparkling was nice as well.

As 2023 will be his first vintage using Capstone fruit, it will likely take a while for them to make their own wines. But the Chenin blend was promising, and I’m hopeful Capstone will have some great whites coming out in another year.

Theo seemed especially psyched about his future sparklings. Rappahannock had a great sparkling program and he learned directly from Claude Thibault. With a background like that, things seemed really promising.

Right now Theo is running the entire tasting room by himself, so things were a little hectic. But he knows he has a great location, so he’ll get more help as the word gets out.

* This is an update to my January 2020 blog on the same location, but with the previous owners.

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