- Rating: 96 out of 100
- Tasting Fee: $10-$25, depending on flight choice
- Accepts Reservations: Yes
- Reservation Required: true
Crozet, VA 22932
I’ll admit, when I heard of how King Family Vineyards got its start as a winery, I was hoping they wouldn’t be good. But after tasting their wines and visiting their winery, I must admit that they are among the elite in Virginia, both in terms of their wine quality and the quality of their facilities/staff. The wines were so good in fact that I left with a case… If your budget allows for wines in the $30-$40 range and you can make a weekend trip to the Charlottesville area, King Family needs to be on your itinerary. Just be prepared to taste wines that are almost Bordeaux-like in complexity, integration, and deliciousness.
Since I mentioned it in the intro, I feel like I need to elaborate. Why didn’t I like King Family coming in? Well, it was jealousy. King Family Vineyards was established in 1998. A little before then, the King family moved from Texas to Virginia, looking for a flat piece of land to purchase on which they could play Polo each week. They had no intention of making wine.
The land that they purchased was covered in alfalfa originally. Once they cleaned up the field and established their Polo stadium, a VA Tech alumnus from the wine program suggested that they try growing grapes with the rest of the land. Soon after the suggestion, a terrible drought swept through Virginia and they family decided they needed to plant a crop that would withstand those conditions (perfect for grapes!). To say that this decision worked out for them is an understatement. Their land feels a bit like the Napa valley during the summer - there is plenty of sunshine and heat in this area next to the mountains that help the grapes achieve sugar and phenolic ripeness that surpasses most other wineries in the state. Ripe for Virginia is still more like Bordeaux than Napa, but it’s enough to make wines that consistently end up in the Governor’s Case (the Top 12 wines of the VA Govenor’s Cup make it into the Govenor’s Case - it’s even more elite than a gold medal at the competition).
They opened the winery in 2002, which at the time was a shack along the side of the road. In 2019, they have 50 acres under management, which is just about the maximum they want to manage, so don’t be surprised when their production starts to level off. Still, that’s 12,000 cases of wine a year that the world gets to enjoy. Like most other wineries, they purchase some grapes as well in order to fulfill the demand they have - about 75% of the grapes are from their vineyards and 25% is purchased from other wineries in the Monticello AVA.
Today, the two eldest son run the vineyards and the youngest son makes the wine. But once a week on Sunday mornings, the family gets together and plays Polo (I think club members and family friends are invited to as well). How does that sound for a Sunday? Playing Polo in the morning and enjoying really good wine in the afternoon, staring at all of your wine awards… Like I said, I’m jealous. But there is just no denying the quality that’s coming out of this winery, as you’ll see below.
- 2017 Viognier ($27)
- Medium intensity of peach, honeysuckle, and other stonefruit on the nose with some vanilla. There’s also lemon and unripe yellow apple in the profile too. On the palate, the ripe stonefruit flavors and pineapple/mango tropical fruit come through with pronounced intensity. Medium finish with medium(+) body, acid, and alcohol. This wine is very fresh and will warm you up gradually, making it a good summer AND spring/fall wine. A very nice rendition of Viognier and no faults I can tell. I made sure to grab 3 bottles, especially at the $27 price point…
- 2017 Chardonnay ($28)
- Medium(+) intensity of butter, cream, toast, green and yellow apple, lemon and yogurt. On the palate, medium body and acid with pronounced intensity of lemon, toast, butter, cream, and yellow apple. The medium length finish leaves you with a medium(+) alcohol heat, but it’s not unpleasant if you are in a cooler environment (Spring/Fall). A solid Chardonnay that clearly displays the winemaker’s techniques without going too over-the-top.
- 2018 Crose ($21)
- Medium salmon in color. Medium(+) intensity aromas of cranberry, strawberry, red apple, peach, ripe pear, and a bit of honeysuckle. On the palate, medium body, medium acid, and a phenolic bitterness / unripe lemon flavor pinches the jaw a bit. Other flavors include unripe cranberry and strawberry at medium(+) intensity along with a few of the other notes found on the nose. My least favorite of the wines, but apparently their biggest selling wine. Am I the crazy one? Or does everyone just need their Rose…? Interesting to find a Merlot rose in Virginia though!
- 2017 Merlot ($28)
- Deep ripe red fruit including cherry, cranberry, red currant, and even a bit of rhubarb with some baking spices and toast. Even at a young age, the wine is showing good integration and complexity on the nose. On the palate, medium body, high acid, medium(+) tannins that take time to build up, medium(+) alcohol, and bright (almost unripe) red fruit that is seen on the nose. The nose is riper than the palate, and that difference will only be enhanced in the future when some of the tertiary character comes out more (you can already detect some forest floor coming).
- 2017 Small-Batch Cabernet Franc ($35)
- The nose has a similar red fruit profile to the Merlot, but brighter with more ripe strawberry and even hints of kirsch and plum. On the palate, the fruit profile is similar in intensity and ripeness (not fully ripe red fruit) to the nose. The medium tannins are already so soft and the med(+) acid doesn’t pique too much. The medium(+) finish is fantastic without pyrazine detractors but instead with herbal mint notes and the medium(+) alcohol is well-integrated into the fruit. I don’t know if you’ll believe me when I write that I could taste the whole-cluster fermentation impact on the flavors and texture of the wine. You’ll just need to see for yourself. A truly complex, cerebral, fine Cabernet Franc rendition. I bought 3 bottles.
- 2017 Meritage ($36)
- Their flagship wine. The medium(-) intensity nose makes me think the wine is a little closed down early in its life or it needs to decant for a bit to open up. The profile is a blend of the Cabernet Franc and Merlot described above (as you might expect from a blend of the actual two wines), with some tertiary hints already showing. Smooth medium(+) tannins that take time to build up, medium(+) acid that is well integrated with the tannin and flavors that reveal themselves on the finish. Very subtle, but there is depth and the medium(+) finish portends great things. Such a pleasure to drink now, but I need to try and hold off and see how it evolves. It will likely age the longest of all their wines as well. I got 5 bottles of this to track it’s aging.
As you can tell from the tasting notes above, I was very impressed by not just the ripeness level the wines were able to achieve, but the complexity that came from deftly integrating the herbal notes into the profile. If I took a group through the Charlotteville area again, this would need to be on the itinerary, but you don’t have to wait for me to experience the wines yourself.
So take a weekend, enjoy Jefferson’s Estate at Monticello, then go have some excellent wine. And if you have a horse and Polo gear, give them a call and ask if you can bring them too, haha. Cheers!!
Rating: 96 out of 100