First Colony is a cozy winery at the foothills of the Blue Ridge on the Monticello Wine Tour. A (pet) friendly place with historic ambience where you can taste good wines in a 5,000 square-foot tasting room that includes a variety of wood indoor and outdoor seating areas to breathe fresh air, make a picnic, and disconnect from your mobile phone (there is no signal). Co-owned by Bruce and Heather Spiess & Jeff Miller, it was named to honour Jamestown VA, the first British colony in America, just a couple of hours away.
This is one of several trendy little wineries where a new generation of young winemakers are pushing hard to find sustainable ways to cultivate under the difficult climate and wavy Virginian ground. They are trying new techniques, but mainly they experience a lot of trial and error looking for the best possible grapes to make the best possible wines. Furthermore, they offer a very pleasant and affordable experience.
They have around ten wines on the tasting menu plus four for purchase. Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Cabernet Franc, and Vidal Blanc are common varietals, however Viogner became the signature Virginian varietal a few years ago. Wines are built with patience in steel tanks and aging oak barrels. Petit Verdot is winemaker Gavin Baum’s favorite, “It displays aromas of dried blackberries, burnt cedar, tobacco, espresso, and eucalyptus. On the palate, flavours of black raspberry, mulberry, red currants, plum and black pepper are accentuated by fine tannins and well embedded acidity…” Beyond the several reds and whites, the naturally sweet Thatch, port-style dessert wine, is replete with palate-coating flavors like toffee, molasses or raspberry preserves.
“The culture of Virginian wines is very much based on the experience of sampling the wines on site. It would be difficult to scale up the model, like in California, because of the farming and remaining true to our terroir,” explains Baum. So go visit them and try the wines! Wine makers are often around and available to chat. And, you can even adopt a row of grapevines if you fall in love with them.
Phone: (434) 979-7105
Hours: Mon-Thu 5.30pm-9pm. Fri-Sat 5.30pm-10pm
Text and photo: Edu Bayer