Reviewed by Lorre White, The Luxury Guru, an international luxury marketing expert.
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I won’t say it is not fun to go to the big wineries in France, Italy and even California, but most of my ultra- wealthy fan base has been there, done that, and been there, done that again. What is of interest is exploring the new and often eclectic world of the boutique wineries. It is of more interest to serve a great small batch wine that their guest won’t get anywhere else, than to serve the big famous names, with distribution, that they can drink every night. Virginia offers the perfect place for those that enjoy the sport of finding treasures in boutique wineries.
Stinson is a perfect example of the character that small boutique wineries have to offer. This father/daughter team, making wine out of a 3 car garage on their property, are building a good name for themselves. Scott and Rachel took their inspiration from “garagiste” wineries of France, in both their wine-making techniques and the winery itself. Focus is placed on European-style wines that emphasize subtlety and complexity rather than power and super-ripeness of West Coast wines. The wife/mother, Martha, manages the property. She and her daughter raise hens and sell the fresh eggs from the tasting room shop. They also sell grass-fed beef, farm-raised pork and chicken, local produce, and garden fresh herbs. Stinson Vineyards is definitely a family run operation. Visitors get to talk with the “hands on people” that crafted the art. Their garage is only open for tastings Thursday thru Sunday.
It was a beautifully clear sunny winter day, the day and night just after the heavens had dumped a foot of white powdery snow, that I ventured out to explore what Stinson had to offer. As snow days are, things were a little discombobulated. Martha, who normally works outside, and clearly not as comfortable about talking the nuances of the product, was filling in for the absentees. She was warm and welcoming and very pleasant to deal with. She extended herself and really tried to please, which made up for her lack knowledge about the specifics. Later Scott rolled in, and I could hear him talking to another group of tasters, and he was clearly more adept at this role.
I could see the tops of chairs and tables peeking out of the snow in an outdoor area facing the vineyard. Inside there is not a real lounging area, or fireplace, so in winter it is best to plan on just doing a tasting. They offer a limited, but more interesting than most, selection of cheeses & charcuterie in their frig, and you can get a warm mini baguette, to accompany it, to consume with your wine out on the deck.
The Piedmont House at Stinson Vineyards was built in 1796, and expanded to current size in the 1840s. Legend has it that General “Stonewall” Jackson stayed at the house during his Valley Campaign of 1862. Anchored by this historic house, the total property now consists of 12 acres of which the vineyard block occupies 5. Stinson Vineyard are neighbors to Grace Estate.
The daughter/wine master, Rachel, recently married into another VA wine family and they created “Mariage” a Bordeaux blend, blending of both vineyards fruits. This wine was served at their wedding, and each winery got 1 barrel to sell, so very limited quantity. It sells for $34.99/bottle. Although there were several wines that I really enjoyed, this was my favorite, plus it had a nice story behind it. This was among the bottles I took home. Don’t wait, this one won’t last long.
The other wines on the $7 tasting were: 2013 Chardonnay, (I am not a huge US Chardonnay fan, but I really enjoyed this one). It was very crisp and refreshing and had only very gentile caramel tones from oak, much more like a European wine. When I take home a Chardonnay, that says something. The next white I liked much less. It was a Viadal Blanc which was way too sweet, as the name ‘Sugar Hollow’ forebode. Moving into their reds, they offered a lovely 2013 Merlot with concentrated red berry, dark cherry and plum. Their Meirage was a blend of 38% Merlot, 25% Cab Franc, 25% Petit Verdot and 12% cabernet Sauvignon. This one was pleasant now and would cellar very well. Both the Merlot and their Meirage were very enjoyable. Stinson offered one 2010 red wine, La Tour d’Afton, from another winery, Turk Mountain Vineyards in Afton, VA, a small little winery that uses no commercial yeast or enhancers. It was a blend of 40% petit Verdot, 20% Cabernet Frac, 20%Merlot, and 20% Malbac. This was full bodied, deep rich fruit and bold tannins. This was $34.99/bottle and I recommend this as one of your take away treasures. The tasting closed on a 2012 Petit Manseng late harvest wine. They offer 5% discounts on 6 bottles and 10% on case +. Of the seven wines in their tasting, 5 were worth taking home. I was really impressed by the number of exceptional wines that this little boutique offered. Bottle price range from $23 to $35 (except for their one ‘Sugar Hollow’ that is $14.99).
This small boutique winery is quirky and full of personality, and the wines exceptional. It is a must visit for any oenophile.
Stinson Vineyards – 4744 Sugar Hollow Rd, Crozet VA 22932 Phone: 434.823.7300
Lorre White - http://luxguru.typepad.com