AWG Correspondent

Brian Yost

Ankida Ridge Vineyards Photos

Ankida Ridge Vineyards Review

Region: Virginia

Reviewed: October 19, 2013 by Brian Yost
Published: October 21, 2013

As the story was related to me, Christine and Dennis Vrooman were intent on cultivating a vineyard and opening a winery in Amherst County, at 1800 feet, high on the eastern slope of the Blue Ridge. Other winemakers tried to wave them off. “Too difficult,” they said. The Vroomans were not to be deterred. They engaged Lucy Morton, the legendary Virginia vineyard consultant. Lucy walked around the property. She analyzed the drainage, observed the sun exposure, tasted the soil and did all the other things Lucy Morton does to divine viticultural success. After lengthy deliberation, she pronounced that Pinot Noir might be cultivated on the site.

Let’s be clear. Virginia does not provide the most hospitable conditions for Pinot Noir. But perhaps at that elevation, the microclimate might support the varietal. The Vroomans cleared two acres of the mountain slope, planted Pinot and Chardonnay and began referring to their property as Virginia’s “Little Burgundy.” Three years later, they bottled their first vintage. The 2010 Ankida Ridge Pinot Noir immediately drew attention. David Schildknecht of the Wine Advocate referred to the 2010 as “multi-dimensional and mindset-mending.” In November 2012, Saveur magazine included the 2010 among its “37 Great American Wines.” The Vroomans had done their homework and it paid big dividends.

Ankida Ridge does not keep regular tasting hours, so the website must be consulted. They open primarily for special events, but they do schedule tastings on the occasional Saturday. I made sure to mark my calendar and we drove out on the appointed date. My wife and I took Route 60 east out of Amherst and started to climb. And climb. To its credit, and despite warnings that a GPS was not to be trusted to reach Ankida, my iPad managed to locate the front gate. There are no signs until you reach the property. The state only posts vineyard signs if the tasting room is regularly open for business. I drove across the property and through a small herd of goats. I was not entirely convinced that this was the place. Then, through a break in the trees, I spotted the tasting room further up the mountain. We climbed a bit more, parked and walked in. Christine Vrooman met us at the door, shook our hands like she’d known us forever and invited us in. How often does that happen? She chatted us up a bit and told us all about the winery. She poured our tasting, all the while telling us about the wine and expounding upon all manner of viticultural lore. She regaled us with her experiences in vineyard management, winemaking and life on the mountain. It was fascinating. I learned more in that one tasting than I’ve learned in all other tastings combined. I got the sense that this was the typical Ankida experience.

Aside from the Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, both of which are excellent and done in a Burgundian style, Ankida Ridge produces three additional wines. The Rockgarden Cellars line consists of a Vinho Verde, a Bordeaux blend and a Port-style Chambourcin. These are all made from locally purchased grapes. They are reasonably priced and well crafted, but pale in comparison to the Chard and Pinot.

After the tasting, we purchased a glass of the Pinot Noir and retired to the elevated deck at the rear of the tasting room. The view of the mountains is breathtaking. We sat for some time admiring the view and talking with another couple. When our glasses were empty, we wandered back inside and Christine asked if we’d like to ride up and see the vineyard. The other couple begged off, but we were game. We piled into Christine’s SUV and she drove us further up the twisting, gravel lane and parked in front of the vineyard gate.

Christine pointed out that in an effort to introduce Biodynamic practices and reduce the need for pesticides, bluebird and martin houses are situated throughout the vineyard. Guinea hens and chickens further assist in insect control. Goats control vegetation. Cats contain the rodent population and dogs ward off larger threats to the grapes. All of these animals coexist in Ankida’s “peaceable kingdom.” If not for the threat of Black Rot, for which there is no other solution, even the mild chemical treatment would not be necessary. As it stands, the vineyard is as organic as it’s possible to be in the damp Virginia climate. This was our topic of conversation as we climbed to the highest point in the vineyard. Then I turned around and looked at the view.

In ancient Sumerian, Ankida means, “Where heaven and earth join.” That is as close as I can come to a descriptor. It is beyond postcard beauty. I have no words to accurately measure it. My pictures don’t do it justice. It simply must be seen in person. That’s all I can tell you.

There are plans to open a satellite tasting room in Charlottesville in November 2013. This will certainly make it easier to taste the Ankida Ridge wines, but there is no substitute for a visit. The Vrooman’s may be the most hospitable winery owners on the planet and the view is unbelievable. I strongly recommend checking the website and planning a visit around one of the winery events or tastings. This is one Virginia winery that must be seen in person.

Address & Contact Information: 1304 Franklin Creek Rd. Amherst, Virginia 24521. Telephone: 434-922-7678, email:, website: Tasting Hours: Open first Sunday of each month..

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