Hazy Mountain Vineyards & Brewery, perched on a mountaintop with a million-dollar view at the western extreme of Albemarle County, is the newest vineyard and winery in the Monticello AVA (the grand opening was June 17th).

Everything is impressive, from the 360 feet of elevation rise from the base of the expansive 36 acres of sometimes steep estate vineyard, to the grand and spacious tasting room building and adjacent event space, to the world-class views of the Blue Ridge Mountains with Humpback Mountain as the showpiece, and the neighboring mountains of Nelson County to the south, to the quality of the wines, I’m happy to say. A four-bedroom mansion on the premises will be a rental property.

Owners Michael and Sandra McGinnis also own an international industrial refrigeration business. Sandra is a native Virginian, and the couple have been wine enthusiasts for some years, and have wanted to have their own vineyard and winery, explains their daughter Sarah, the General Manager. Her parents met in Harrisonburg, and Virginia has been their home since 1997. “They were already proud of what the local wine industry had achieved,” explains Sarah.

Affirming the collegial reputation of the Virginia wine industry, the McGinnis’s sought the advice of established vintners in the area. John Kiers, proprietor of Ox Eye Vineyard and John Higgs of Barren Ridge Vineyard, both located in the Shenandoah Valley, were generous with their time and advice, according to winemaker Luke Trainum who is also a Valley native.

In 2016, the McGinnis’s planted their first vineyard in the Valley near the Ox Eye Vineyard site; 50 acres adjoining the National Forest of Little North Mountain near the town of Swope. According to Tranium, the McGinnis’s decided to focus on cool-climate vinifera varieties at this site. White varieties from the most to the least volume planted include: Riesling, Chardonnay, Gruener Veltliner, Chenin Blanc, Petit Manseng and Pinot Blanc. Red varieties include, also in order from most to least; Blaufrankisch/ Lemberger, Cabernet Franc, Pinot Noir, Saperavi (the tannic Georgian grape) and Schioppetino, an Italian red heritage grape from Friuli-Venezia in the northeast near the Slovenian border.

The soil of the Swope vineyard is mostly limestone. A small crop was harvested from the Swope vineyard in 2018; the first full crop was harvested from the 2019 vintage which features in most of the current Hazy Mountain releases. Their estate vineyard, recently planted and not yet producing fruit, features some 35 acres with vines on close spaced 8’x3’ planting. The soils are mixed, with rocky and sandy loam, granite gneiss and some dark rocky clay. Varieties planted include Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot, Merlot and small amounts of Malbec, Albariño, Chardonnay and Nebbiolo. The 85 total acres with the two vineyards should produce about 20,000 cases when the estate vineyard is fully producing.

Tasting Highlights (all from Swope vineyard, Shenandoah Valley):

  • **Blaufränkisch ’19 Rosé. Nose: elegant, with fresh strawberry, plum red plum and cherry blossom. Palate: delicate, fresh, dry, with strawberry and red cherry flavors.
  • *Riesling “Kabinet style” ’19. One percent residual sugar with pH under 3.0. Nose: complex, a bit reductive. Palate: complex, clean earth, good acid/sugar balance, not as fruity as most Rieslings. A good food wine, needs time but promising.
  • **Chardonnay ’19. Barrel fermented and aged but with only 20% new barrels, using both puncheons and barriques, all French, no malolactic fermentation. Nose: a rich Meursault style with clean ripe Chardonnay fruit and French oak but no buttery diacetyl. Palate: firm, fresh acidity plus rich texture. Full-bodied, without oak flavors. A well-executed Burgundian style Virginia Chardonnay.
  • **Pinot Noir ’19. All Burgundian oak, 30% new, fruit from the first crop on these vines, ENTAV clones #115, #777 and Wadenswil. Nose: mostly closed but clean and fresh, some spicy cherry and almond (French oak). Palate: zesty, lively red cherry, French oak/almond tones. Young, needs time but very stylish, promising.
  • *BDX ’18 (all purchased fruit from the Monticello AVA). A Meritage-style blend, 50% Petit Verdot, 30% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Malbec. Nose: clean, fresh with a hint of oak. Palate: nice black fruits and spice, pretty good for 2018! A lighter bodied style, fresh with firm acidity. Will be good for late summer/early fall and enjoyable with food.

Hazy Mountain also offers four styles of beer and a variety of light fare foods. More information can be found at www.hazy-mountain.com.