Thursday, January 17, 2013

Early Mountain Vineyards

On a sunny and unseasonably warm Saturday in January, we decided to make the long trek out to one of the few area wineries that we hadn't visited - Early Mountain Vineyards.  I was a little hesitant to make our way out to Early Mountain, knowing that it had only recently been reopened in the old Sweely Estate Winery location and was the latest example of a local wine-making operation being taken over by big money (think also Trump Winery).  Early Mountain is owned by Steve Case, former co-founder and CEO of AOL, and his wife Jean.  I also knew that Early Mountain had very few wines of its own, and was instead touting its "Best of Virginia" wine tasting program.  For all of these reasons, we set out with cautious optimism.

It took about 50 minutes to get from our home near downtown C-Ville to Early Mountain (which is located in Madison County, about 17 miles near of the Charlottesville-Albemarle airport).  On our arrival, we were met by the elegant stone facade of the winery building.  The winery itself is situated within a valley, so the views are not as fantastic as some other area wineries, but there are still mountain views nonetheless.  Inside, the tasting room is warm and inviting, with exposed wooden beams, chandeliers, and a cozy fireplace, which was lit the day we visited.  There is plenty of seating with a wide variety of tables (of varying size) and couches. 

The Tasting Room, Image courtesy

Early Mountain offers a variety of wine tasting flights, which each cost $12.  The day we visited, they had a red flight, a white flight, a red/white flight, and a cider flight.  We ordered one each of the red/white flight and the red flight - for a total of 8 2-oz tastings - and were told to have a seat and make ourselves comfortable and the wine would be delivered to us.  We picked out a nice table near the fireplace and about 5 minutes later received our 8 glasses of wine.  Out of our 8 varietals, we had 3 which were actually Early Mountain's own - Pinot Gris, Handshake Red, and Merlot. The pinot gris was light and flavorful, and certainly among the best Virginia pinot gris I have tasted.  The Handshake Red, described as a Bordeaux-style blend, was somewhat disappointing.  It was very light and fruity with little of the deep flavors expected in a Bordeaux blend.  The merlot was silky and flavorful, but again lacked the depth of the best merlots.  Overall, Early Mountain's wines were good, but not great, though I certainly see potential for them as they move beyond their first vintages.  In addition to the Early Mountain wines, our flights included wines from King Family, Barboursville, and Breaux Vineyards, all of which were very nice selections that showcased some of the best Virginia varietals.

Early Mountain Wine, Image courtesy

In addition to our wine, we ordered several dishes from the food menu.  The food, like the wine, is brought right to your table, making for a very relaxed and self-paced tasting experience.  We started with the Chef's Selection cheese platter, which was delicious.  The platter included a variety of cheeses, from the wine-soaked Pride of Bacchus sheep's cheese to the soft, tangy Skyline blue cheese.  The platter's accompaniments, including dried fruits and an incredible creamed honey, paired perfectly with the cheeses, as did the prosciutto which we added to the platter.  Next we ordered the spinach and artichoke dip, which we found to be warm and hearty, though nothing special compared to the many other spinach and artichoke dips I have had before.  Finally, we added the Smithfield pulled pork sliders to our order.  The sliders were the perfect size and the cole slaw was very crisp and flavorful.  The pork itself was slightly on the dry side, but when smothered with the incredible Setter Mountain Bourbon BBQ sauce, I barely even noticed.

Now, it was time for dessert and we simply couldn't resist the warm Carpe Donut with Homestead Creamery ice cream.  The donut was warm and, as always, delicious (if you have never tried a Carpe Donut you really should!) and the ice cream was great, especially when topped with caramel sauce.  To accompany our dessert, we decided to order a cider tasting as well.  We promptly received a tasting of five Virginia ciders, ranging from the very dry and champagne-like Albemarle Ciderworks Jupiter's Legacy to the sweeter, off-dry Foggy Ridge's First Fruit.  My personal favorite was the Potter's Craft Cider Farmhouse Dry, which was a perfect balance between dry and sweet with just the right amount of bubbles. 

Overall Impression:  Boasting good wine, great food, and an awesome atmosphere, Early Mountain is certainly worth the drive!

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Contact Information:
           Early Mountain Vineyards
           6109 Wolftown-Hood Road, Madison VA 22727

Early Mountain Vineyards on Urbanspoon

1 comment:

  1. Love this blog! Can't wait to see what other restaurants you attend and hear how your experiences were!