- Rating: 92 out of 100
- Tasting Fee: $10-$20, depending on your flight choice
- Accepts Reservations: Yes
- Reservation Required: true
Crozet, VA 22932
The first review of a winery in my home state: Virginia. Although I’ve never visited Grace Estate nor had their wine until this weekend, I’m glad this happened to be my first review. There are two things I look for in wineries: (1) Is the wine quality on point? (2) Is it relatively off people’s radar? If the answers to both are “yes”, you’ll have at least one intrigued customer coming to visit you. Each one of the wines poured during the tasting at Grace Estate were unique, cerebral, and pretty good. Combined with a nicely designed tasting room that feels like home rather than a Napa spaceship, I had a really nice time visiting for a couple hours.
Like many other wineries in Virginia, Grace Estate is a family-owned business. But unlike many other Virginia wineries that purchase grapes to some degree to produce their wines, the wines of Grace Estate are 100% estate-grown and estate-bottled. And we aren’t talking about a small amount of land or grapes either. Grace Estate owns over 450 acres of land and 50 acres of it are visible from their Tasting room (Mt. Juliet Farm). I also appreciate how the Grace Family’s residence is on the grounds - they live with their vines and wine. If I owned a winery, I would certainly want to!
One thing that the wine ambassador said to us that resonated with me was that Grace Estate Winery “embodies the true tradition of a Virginia farm winery”. You can also find that phrase on their website. Virginia is more like Oregon and Washington than Napa/Sonoma in that people can’t just spend a lot of money to buy land, build a sensational winery, produce wine, and become successful (there are always exceptions like RdV). The differentiation between a lot of Virginia wineries are the stories and traditions that the wineries were built upon and the care they put into managing their crop. After all, the land isn’t as diverse as Napa’s AVAs and they weather isn’t nearly as kind either (it’s very easy to lose your crop to frost, rain, mildew, etc.).
As you can imagine with important New Yorkers, everyone had an emergency or two to deal with over the weekend. When they weren’t checking messages, they were always engaged in spirited debate on some deep topics. Wine is good at enabling that. I was quiet most of the trip - just taking these notes you are reading now, haha.
Tasting through the wines, you could get a sense of the weather, land, and struggles of making wine in Virginia. Though, the vines at Grace Estate are largely 20+ years old, so they are capable of complexity and depth, maybe moreso than other wineries in the region. I wasn’t the biggest fan of the white wine, but all of the red wines were very interesting and beguiling to me. I definitely recommend visiting and tasting these cerebral wines. At the tasting’s price point, there is absolutely no reason not to visit if you are in the Charlottesville area.
The other interesting thing to me is that as these vines continue to age, the wines should continue to improve too. So if you want to get on the ground floor of something potentially great one day…
This is what the wines are like today!
- 2016 Estate Le Gras Cuve ($19)
- The nose is very perfumed with green and yellow apples, but simple in nature. Medium(+) acidity, medium body, medium(+) intensity flavors with green/yellow apple and some bitter vegetal notes. Pleasant to drink but not much complexity or length on the palate. Medium length finish with the bitterness really emerging. The round body and apple notes make this nice to drink on a hot day, but the Vidal Blanc could stand to be a bit riper.
- 2017 Estate Viognier ($29)
- Pronounced nose of yellow fruit, stonefruit (peach), and honeysuckle that is classic Viognier, but the blue cheese aroma is definitely different. Medium(+) body, medium(+) alcohol, medium(+) acid, with ripe stonefruit flavors and bitter, unripe green flavors as well. Probably means ripe and unripe grapes were crushed and blended together. There is a brine that remains on the finish as well.
- 2016 Estate Chardonnay ($26)
- Med gold in appearance (like the Estate Le Gras Cuve). Ripe/cooked flavors of yellow apple pie, vanilla, and some banana (likely from the volatile acid). On the palate, the flavors lean closer to cooked rather than fresh yellow apple with some butter/cream flavors from the partial oak. There’s bitterness on the finish that blends with the med(+) acidity that leaves your mouth watering.
- 2017 Estate Le Gras Rose ($19)
- The color of the wine is deeper than medium garnet, likely a byproduct of the extended maceration on the skins and a darker varietal (100% Malbec). The nose has medium intensity aromas of ripe strawberries, cranberries, and some lighter cherry. Medium(+) acid, low tannin, medium(-) bodied, with medium(+) flavors of tart cherry, cranberry and strawberry. On exhale, it feels like medium(+) alcohol with a medium(-) finish.
- 2016 Earl William Cabernet Franc ($34)
- The nose is really interesting. Red cherry, cranberry, green pepper, and a pinch of asphalt (likely from the Pinotage). High acid, medium bodied, medium, powdery tannin, medium(+) alcohol, with medium(+) intensity flavors of red cherry, cranberry, currant, green pepper (though lighter than the nose), with forest floor, coffee and a touch of wet straw. Highly cerebral, but the finish is a little off-putting since it isn’t a continuation of the palate and feels like something else entirely.
- 2015 Estate Merlot ($34)
- Medium(+) intensity aromas of dried/cooked red fruit (cherry, strawberry, currant, hint of rhubarb), plum, baking spices. Very integrated and deep on the nose. On the palate, medium body, medium powdery tannin, medium acid, with medium intensity flavors of unripe cranberry/cherry/strawberry, baking spices, and some green, unripe vegetal notes, with a medium finish. If not for that vegetal note at the end, this would be one of my favorite Virginia Merlots.
- 2014 Estate Tannat ($39)
- The nose is very ripe, rich red fruit, green pepper, rhubard, cocoa. Softer, spicier, less ripe red fruit on the palate with medum(+) tannin, acid, and body. The tannins are not harsh at all and is easy to drink right now. I was genuinely surprised by how pleasant and interesting this wine was. It’s also soft on the palate making this easy to drink alone or pair. The earthiness and leather on the palate is also indicative of Tannat. Nice…
While the Viognier, Chardonnay and Cabernet Franc are normal to see in Virginia, the Merlot, Tannat and Malbec are less common. Each of the wines showed some level of phenolic bitterness, but I feel the winery has done its best to incorporate those flavors into the style of the wine.
I think that Grace Estate is worth a visit, especially since you could end up getting a tasting, a bottle, and some food for all under $50. So be sure to give this place a look the next time you are in town. Cheers!
Rating: 92 out of 100