By. Neil Williamson, Editor, Virginia Wine Journal
The terrace is just steps away from the vineyard separated by a custom designed wedding pagoda. Between the vineyards is a glorious tiled courtyard that provides respite for weary travelers and perhaps a dance floor for other winery events.
The Tasting House has the restful, unpretentious feel to it. While the tasting bar is in the center of the house and several tables are available on the veranda, a comfortable sitting room provides climate controlled relaxation for those not wanting to venture out of doors. In addition, the house features a “Board Room” for small group wine tasting.
One benefit of the rich heritage of Afton Mountain is the age of the vineyards. As a vine ages the yields tend to drop but the character and personality of the fruit increase.
Twelve acres were planted in the late 1970s by David Mefford. While many of these vineyards have been replaced, today many of the vines in the red block are 32 years old.
Replacement vineyards have been in the works as well. Just two years ago, vineyard manager Robbie Corpora and his crew planted almost 1,000 new vines of Chardonnay, Gewürztraminer, Muscat, Cabernet Franc, Pinot Noir and Cabernet Sauvignon.
Twenty-five percent of Afton Mountain’s 13 ½ acre vineyard is planted to Gewürztraminer with another twenty five percent dedicated to Chardonnay.
Based on this clonal selection it is not surprising that Afton Mountain’s winemaker Damien Blanchon is from Perpignan, France. Blanchon obtained his degree in Viticulture and Enology from Carcassone in his native country. Blanchon has significant French experience including Burgundy and has been making wine in the Old Dominion since 2006.
Located in the “rain shadow” of Afton Mountain, many of the localized thunderstorms that often refresh the lowlands never reach Afton’s vineyard holdings.
While the vast majority of the fruit used in Afton Mountain’s wines is estate grown, they augment certain varietals from other local vineyards in the Monticello American Viticultural Area.
A great deal has changed at Afton Mountain Vineyards since they acquired the property in 2009. Elizabeth and Tony Smith have put their personal stamp on the historic property and created a consumer friendly tasting experience in one of the most beautiful vineyard sites in Virginia.
An easy day trip from most of the state, it’s worth your time to see why they say “Grapes Don’t Grow in Ugly Places”™.