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Grace Estate Winery to open in April 2013

Virginia winery Grace Estate WineryMount Juliet Vineyards in Crozet, one of Virginia’s top vineyards that sells fruit to operating wineries will continue to do so, but will also start operating as Grace Vineyards. New owner John Grace hired veteran Virginia vintner Jake Busching (formerly of Pollak Vineyards) to manage the vineyards and make the wine; he’s been on board since July 2011. Grace Estate Winery will open in April 2013 and will be part of the newly-formed Appellation Trail.

I recently toured the vineyards and tasted wines with Jake. Mount Juliet vineyards is located in White Hall and is planted on the far lower edge of Buck’s Elbow which juts out of the Blue Ridge Mountains north of Crozet. The vineyard is 53 acres now but Jake says it will be expanded with another 15 acres in the next few years.  For years it has provided some of the best fruit in the state and has gone into single-vineyard designated bottlings.

Virginia winery Grace Estate WineryThe vineyard now grows chardonnay, viognier, vidal, petit manseng and a newly planted block of sauvignon blanc and a tiny plot of chenin blanc for whites. For reds, Mt. Juliet is growing cabernet franc including new plantings of clone #214, cabernet sauvignon, petit verdot, merlot and tannat, with a newly planted acre of pinotage.

Local wineries who have been buying Mt. Juliet grapes will be relieved to hear they will still be able to buy them, but Jakes says from now on, only Monticello AVA wineries will be eligible for that privilege, to keep the vineyard’s terroir in local wines.

The 53 acres of vines could produce up to 15,000 cases of wine, but Jake says Grace Estate Winery  will only produce a few thousand cases of wine annually starting with 3,000 cases from the 2012 vintage, selling the rest of the grapes within the Monticello AVA.

A small amount of viognier, chardonnay and petit manseng were made from the 2011 vintage. The chardonnay will be a varietal, and the others will be blended. There will also be varietals wines from both cabernets, petit verdot and tannat, in small amounts. Jake notes that in the difficult ’11 vintage, “the tannat was the only red grape that did really well” so he’s bullish on its potential and describes an upcoming varietal tannat as a “big project.” He’s also planted an acre of pinotage that he sourced from Riaan at Lovingston Winery.

Grace Estate Wines 2010

Right now, Grace has a small amount of wine made in 2010 by Michael Shaps at Virginia Wineworks. The white is a blend of chardonnay, viognier and petit manseng. The nose is forward on oak and malolactic influences, but more fruity on the palate with bright orange blossom notes, a hefty, round, mid-palate mixture of oak, malolactic and fruit elements, with a nice lingering finish. It’s an eclectic style that will work well with food or as a stand-alone drink.

The Grace 2010 red is an 80/20 cabernet sauvignon/merlot blend using 100% estate grown fruit. The nose has loads of red and black fruits and hints of licorice. On the palate, it has huge dimension but is smooth and fruity, with firm tannins, the merlot giving plushness as the cabernet gives structure in fine balance.

“I think merlot is putting Virginia on the world wine map; it’s the magic ingredient in all the top state red blends,” says Jake. He’s excited about merlot’s potential at Mount Juliet both in the vineyard and winery.

The new winery will be built in an existing barn and Grace Estate Winery will open in April 2013; weddings will be scheduled in the elegant manor house at the top of the hill. Grace Estate Winery can be found on Facebook under Mount Juliet.

Reprinted with permission. Richard Leahy’s Wine Report

Richard Leahy is a wine writer and consultant who has been reporting on the wines of Virginia and Eastern North America since 1986. He works with numerous wineries in Virginia and along the East Coast and has been writing for the wine industry since 1986.

He became well-known in the Eastern wine industry as East Coast Editor for Vineyard & Winery Management, and is the Mid-Atlantic and Southern Editor for the ground-breaking Oxford Companion to the Wines of North America (2000), a regional editor for Kevin Zraly’s  American Wine Guide. and assisted Steve DeLong on his recent Wine Tasting Notebook. Mr. Leahy is a member of the Circle of Wine Writers, professional organization of leading wine journalists based in the U.K.