Located on the gently rolling foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains of Nelson County, Lovingston Winery sits about 35 miles south of Charlottesville. The winery has garnered national attention and a strong regional following by marching to the beat of their own drummer.
Lovingston was founded in 2005 by Ed and Janet Puckett. This “primarily family run” operation includes Ed and Janet’s daughter Stephanie Wright as Winemaker along with Head Winemaker Riaan Rossow.
By selecting the best varietals to grow in their mesoclimate, Lovingston has established blocks of Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot, Pinotage, Seyval Blanc and Chardonnay. With additional plantings of Petit Manseng this spring Lovingston now has ten acres under vine.
At an elevation of about 700 feet, the vineyard is planted 1,200 vines an acre, almost twice the normal density. Puckett told Jack Berringer of The Richmond Times Dispatch, “It’s our opinion that dense planting lifts the quality of the wine by naturally reducing the crop loads in the vineyard. By allowing only a small amount of space between them, the vines are forced to compete with each other, grow their roots deeper for nutrients, and produce a higher quality grape cluster”.
From the original “gravity flow” design, the production facility is all about the wine. Utilizing a stepped building built into the natural slope, Lovingston uses the power of gravity, rather than a pump, to move the wine during wine production. Such gentle handling retains the wine’s more delicate features.
As the fruit comes in to the crush pad, Rossow ferments in small lots, the better to preserve the uniqueness of each vineyard block.
In the cellar, Lovingston has again bucked tradition opting to use neutral oak barrels. As regular VWJ readers know an oak barrel is much like a tea bag the first time used you get a strong cup of tea, the second slightly less strong. After five uses the barrel no longer imparts flavors it is an excellent holding vessel.
South African born winemaker Rossow has been producing wine in the Commonwealth for well over a decade. He spent five years at Oakencroft prior to joining Lovingston in 2005.
While his wines are often described as elegant and a touch traditional, Rossow believes you can’t be paralyzed by the past. He told Cathy Harding of C-ville, a winemaker “should embrace tradition but never close the door on what’s next”.
Tasting wine at Lovingston Winery is priceless; really Lovingston is one of a handful of remaining Virginia wineries that does not charge a tasting fee.
By bucking trends, the Lovingston Winery family is blazing a new trail.