AWG Correspondent

James Houston

Blenheim Vineyards Photos

Blenheim Vineyards Review

Regions: Monticello AVA, Virginia

Reviewed: July 5, 2012 by James Houston
Published: July 17, 2012

Not much sun makes it through the lush, towering trees that line Blenheim Farm Road, ten miles south of Charlottesville. But this changes as you pull into the lot at Blenheim Vineyards and finally behold the open Virginia sky sprawling southwards over gently rolling hills covered in vineyards.

And by covered, I mean covered, extending into the distance until the vineyard posts look like the letter “I” typed in six-point font. It is beautiful.

Blenheim Vineyards is a young operation, founded in 2000 by Dave Matthews—who, in case anyone forgot, started his eponymous band while tending bar in Charlottesville. The jam-circuit kingpin’s viticultural ventures are now bi-coastal, with Blenheim complemented by his California-based Dreaming Tree label.

But if the winery is new, the farm most certainly is not. The first building on the property, Blenheim House, was raised in the 18th century. Legend has it Thomas and Martha Jefferson took refuge here when their horse-drawn carriage was waylaid by a snowstorm.

The timber-frame structure that houses the winery and tasting room was designed (by Matthews and his mother) to minimize its impact on the environment. It is built into a hillside, which naturally regulates its interior temperature. Skylights and a massive south-facing window make electric lighting all but unnecessary.

The interior has the toasty, comforting feel of a ski lodge. As you make your way to the tasting counter, your attention shifts downwards to the glass panels along the center of the floor that grant a birds-eye view on the winery located directly below. Just don’t tap the glass!

The back door opens onto a patio overlooking the vineyards. If you go on a Saturday, arrive early to snag one of the highly coveted outdoor seats. Picnics are welcomed, and a small selection of cheeses and gourmet treats are available for purchase inside.

Winemaker and General Manager Kirsty Harmon says she aims for an “approachable and laid-back” experience in the tasting room, and has similar objectives for her wines which are all intended to be drinkable upon release.

Born in England, Harmon holds a Masters’ degree in Enology from UC-Davis, the premier winemaking school in the U.S. Her practical training included stints at Domaine Faiveley in Burgundy and Craggy Range in New Zealand.

If available, be sure to try the Rose 2011, a curious blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Mourvedre. Mourvedre flourishes in Southern France but is uncommon in America. Its gamey, leathery flavors add depth and intrigue to the refreshing red fruit flavors of the blend’s other varietals.

Also look for the Cabernet Sauvignon 2010, a grape that can be hit-or-miss in Virginia but shows its best potential in Harmon’s capable hands. Notes of cinnamon and redcurrant entwine in the aromatic profile, and the palate bursts with dark berry and plum flavors. Great stuff.

The tasting staff led by Andrew Ornée is knowledgeable, perhaps because most of them get their hands dirty in the vineyard when extra help is needed. At a respectful volume, a soundtrack of mostly 90’s and 2000’s alt-rock wafts across the acoustically rich room.

Yes, they even play DMB sometimes.

Address & Contact Information: 31 Blenheim Farm Charlottesville, Virginia 22902. Telephone: 434-293-5366, email:, website: Tasting Hours: 11:00-5:30.

Overall Rating:  

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