By. Neil Williamson, VWJ Editor
Situated between Roanoke and the North Carolina line just off the Blue Ridge Parkway, Villa Appalaccia provides visitors with Tuscan inspired wines and ambiance.
Inspired by their love all Italian wines and their perceived potential of the Virginia vineyard site, Villa Appalaccia was started with test plantings in 1989 by the husband and wife team of winemaker Suzanne Becker and wine grower Stephen Haskill.
Even as visitors pull into Villa Appalaccia’s parking area, there is a feel of being transported to a place apart. The white stucco tasting room/winery building and its tile roof feels right at home with the rolling gardens, bocce court and outdoor brick oven at the base of the hill.
Walking up through the doors, you are greeted by an outdoor piazza with tables uniformly scattered providing glorious views of the surrounding Blue Ridge Mountains. A member of the Mountain Road Wine Experience, Villa Appalaccia celebrates being “cooler by several degrees”
The tasting room it self is reminiscent of poet Robert Browning’s quote “Less is More”. The room is open with plenty of seating at the sides for visitors to wait to taste or enjoy a glass of wine (though I would choose the piazza). Italian artwork hangs throughout the tasting room but not so much that it feels crowded. Astute visitors may notice the Mediterranean country kitchen behind the slightly open door in the rear corner of the tasting area.
The tasting bar itself is small, by design, to ensure a personal tasting experience. More often than not, visitors find either Suzanne or Stephen working the bar serving both tastings and their vast knowledge of the vineyards, varietals and vintages.
Visitors will not be surprised to find the anticipated Italian grapes such a Sangiovese, Pinot Grigio, Cabernet Franc and Primitive; but may learn about lesser known varietals such as Corvina and Aglianico. The vineyards are located twenty miles away from the winery (at an altitude of 1,600 feet), all of wines produced at Villa Appalaccia are estate grown fruit.
Haskill, a former biology professor in Chapel Hill, with fifty acres under vine (11 producing) is ever experimenting in the vineyard. Considering the three years it takes to bring a vineyard into a producing status, constantly testing new clones and varietals is a significant resource investment.
At twenty two years of age Villa Appalaccia has a track record with their vineyard holdings and found many of the vines planted in their original blocks require replacement after just fifteen to twenty years.
In an Italian tradition, the wines of Villa Appalaccia are best enjoyed along with food. Along those lines, they offer local cheese, salami, prosciutto, and fresh breads are available for a light lunch.
The tasting room is open only Friday, Saturdays and Sundays. Suzanne and Stephen travel throughout the summer to bring their Italian influenced wines to festivals across the Commonwealth.