How To Go Vineyard Hopping

In Virginia Like A Pro This Fall

Written by Sophia Kedzierski

As summer ripens into fall harvest, a Virginia favorite becomes ready for the Commonwealth: wine. While preparing for the season among us, we’re taking it back to the basics. Whether you’re a true newbie or a wine savant, we’ve asked three local vineyards to introduce themselves and their processes to our readers.

Slater Run Vinyard

Tucked away along a quiet creek in Upperville, Virginia, Slater Run Vineyards boasts a unique blend of viticultural genius and family history. Husband-and-wife team Christopher Patusky and Kiernan Slater Patusky made the choice to move their family of four from Baltimore, Maryland down to the historic farm inherited through the Slater name in order to preserve the family’s history for future generations. The entire winery is solar-powered.

Tell me a little bit about the history of Slater Run.

Patusky: Kiernan’s ancestor, John Glascock, acquired the vineyard and winery farm in 1720, about eleven generations ago. For the past 300 years, his descendants have operated a cattle and feed crop farm. This is the source of Slater Run’s slogan: “Roots that Run 300 Years Deep.”

As for some background, Kiernan’s great-great-grandfather, George Meacham Slater, moved from Baltimore to Fauquier County in the 19th century. After the Civil War, he acquired and lived the rest of his life at Mount Bleak Farm in nearby Paris, Virginia (now Sky Meadow State Park). In 1905, George M’s son, George Hoffman Slater, and Kiernan’s great grandmother, Tacie Glascock Fletcher, who had inherited the farm from Thomas Glascock were married, and that is why it has been owned in the Slater name ever since.

Two of your wines honor Kiernan’s ancestors. Can you tell me about those?

Patusky: “First Bridge,” a red Bordeaux blend, is named after the closest of two small bridges that George Hoffman Slater had built along with three of their neighbors along Crenshaw Road over Goose Creek in 1919 so that their cattle could more easily be brought to the depot at Rectortown. “Roots,” our flagship Bordeaux blend, features a photograph of Kiernan’s grandfather, Thomas Glascock Slater, on horseback jumping a stone fence on a neighboring farm. We named this “Roots,” in honor of the deep roots of the family that match to the deep roots of the grapevines.

What’s unique about your winemaking process?

Patusky: Our winemaker, Katell Griaud, was raised in a small family-owned winery in Bergerac, France, just to the east of Bordeaux, and she received both her undergraduate and graduate degrees in winemaking from Bordeaux University. She makes the wines at Slater Run Vineyards in a traditional dry, French style. We owe the consistent high quality of our wines to both the quality of the grapes that we both grow on-site and purchase from other quality Virginia vineyards, and to the extreme skill and care that Ms. Griaud brings to the winemaking process, cutting no corners, and drawing upon her lifelong experience and university training to make “correct” wines.

What type of advice would you give to beginners in the wine drinking experience?

Patusky: The main thing for beginners is not to think that drinking wine is a stuffy or snobby experience that requires some secret knowledge. Wine is drunk in numerous cultures around the world as a drink that accompanies food, and every person has their own taste, and so the important thing is to put aside any anxiety and try the wines. We have no dress code at Slater Run, although our guests tend to be mature people who have come here to relax and enjoy quality Virginia wines. We offer spit buckets to those who want to try multiple wines without needing to consume too much quantity, and there is no right way to hold a glass in our view, other than the one that feels most comfortable to you.

Any special events coming up at Slater Run?

Patusky: We are open late on Fridays, from 5 – 8:30 p.m., exclusively for our club members and their guests, and we often have music and great food trucks on these nights. For example, we will be hosting an OysterFest for our club members on Friday, September 17, from 6 – 8:30 p.m. with music by Zach Jones. We think it is a wonderful way to end the work week by watching the sun go down over the Blue Ridge Mountains as you eat tasty food, listen to some classic American songs, and sip delicious wines with friends and family.

Early Mountain Vineyards

Located in Madison, Virginia, Early Mountain Vineyards rests on a historic property owned by Revolutionary War General Joseph Early. The property was visited by George Washington in 1784, where he wrote in his journal about the kind hospitality he received. Today, that hospitality continues through Early Mountain, which was first built as a winery in 2005 and opened by owners Jean Case and her husband, Steve, in 2012. Here, their vice president of strategy and marketing, Aileen Sevier gives us insight into their process.

How would you describe the atmosphere of your winery?

Sevier: Come visit! We have a gorgeous light-filled tasting room with vaulted ceilings and stunning views of the vineyards. We have a full-service restaurant integrated in the tasting room that features local, seasonal produce, and producers. We welcome pets in our outdoor spaces which include a full-service patio and more casual meadow seating with a walk-up bar and sandwich/salad menu. We love families and children.

What types of wines will we be drinking if we come visit you this October?

Sevier: We’ll have several exciting releases in October, including our “Quaker Run Chardonnay,” red blends “Novum” and “Eluvium,” as well as favorites “Five Forks” (aromatic white blend) and “Foothills” (red blend).

What year will the wines be from this fall? How long do you let the wine age before opening up a bottle for tasting?

Sevier: They will range from 2017 to 2020 vintage. Our fresher style whites and reds will be 2020, our more age-worthy reds will be 2017 and 2019 (both exceptional

vintages) as well as a limited release amber wine from the 2017 vintage.

What are your best beginner-friendly wines?

Sevier: We make a trio of “young wines” that are fruit-driven, fresh, but also offer some complexity and texture that makes them a notch above other entry wines. Our most popular wines are our rosé, five forks, and foothills, all blended wines that are bottled with screw caps and are accessible and versatile.

Walk me through some basic wine tasting etiquette for beginners.

Sevier: We offer wine
tastings tableside as flights, so it’s extremely non-intimidating. Folks can wear whatever they’d like! Most guests don’t spit, but if you’d like to, just ask your server for a spittoon and we’re happy to provide. As far as holding a glass, by the stem is best so that you don’t warm the wine or get fingerprints on the bowl, but it’s really not a big deal!

Are there any special events you’ll be hosting in September or October?

Sevier: We will be offering a “Bounty of Virginia” wine dinner on September 24, and our extremely popular fall oyster bar pop-up the weekend of October 16.

Greenhill Winery & Vineyards

Complete with a historic circa 1762 house and 11 acres of lush vineyards planted by the Swedenburgs in the mid-80s, Greenhill’s natural Virginian beauty creates an elevated wine experience that is unparalleled. The 128-acre property, formerly known as the Swedenburg Estate Vineyard, was purchased by David Greenhill in 2013. Assistant general manager and wine club manager Jenny Travers gave us some introductory information on wine at Greenhill.

How would you describe the Greenhill experience?

Travers: Greenhill Vineyards is an exception in the local winery scene. The focus is primarily on the experience of each customer and we have cultivated an atmosphere which welcomes small groups, dogs, horses, and of course the best oenophiles in the region exploring some of the best wines in the mid-Atlantic. Greenhill Vineyards is a 21 and over property perfect for dates, intimate conversations, and relaxing.

In your own words, explain your winemaking process.

Travers: The winemaking process starts in the vineyard, managed by general manager Jed Gray, who believes creating quality wines starts with a quality grape. The business owns and manages two vineyards in Virginia. The primary site is in Middleburg and the second is located in Amherst County, south of Charlottesville. The uniqueness of each site provides the winemaking team, led by Ben Comstock, with fruit that has different varietal expressions helping to create one-of-a-kind wines for the region. Using 100% French oak barrels handpicked for each vintage, Ben has already been recognized both locally and nationally for the quality of his wines.

What types of wines will we be drinking if we come visit you this October?

Travers: Greenhill Vineyards has many exciting new releases and of course the signature favorites! Be on the lookout for the 2019 tannat, a new varietal for Greenhill, and the 2019 eternity which has become one of the most exciting wines we have ever tasted. In addition, the 2020 viognier and 2020 petit manseng are two white wines that are Greenhill favorites, available this fall.

How long do you let the wine age before opening up a bottle for tasting?

Travers: Each wine has different aging preferences and potential. We generally suggest not aging white wines, but red wines age in the barrel for 1-2 years and then can be aged in the bottle for 5-infinite years. The red wines being released this fall will be primarily from the 2019 vintage and the whites wines will be from the 2020 vintage. The 2021 vintage is still on the vines, harvest will begin in the next couple of weeks and it will go into October.

Are there any special events you’ll be hosting in September or October?

Travers: Our fire pits will return in October and can be reserved through our website. We will also have our annual harvest dinner the first Saturday in November and tickets will be on sale around the first part of October. ML

This article first appeared in the September 2021 Issue.

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