AWG Correspondent

James Houston

Jefferson Vineyards Photos

Jefferson Vineyards Review

Regions: Monticello AVA, Virginia

Reviewed: July 6, 2012 by James Houston
Published: July 17, 2012

While talking to Andy Reagan, Winemaker and General Manager of Jefferson Vineyards, you sense in him an urgency to make wines that are better, stronger and truer than anyone—himself included—has ever made before. It is also an urgency to crush any doubts that remain about whether Virginia can stand with the best wine regions in America.

A former Marine, Reagan trained at wineries in Virginia and one in Florida before taking the reins at Jefferson in 2005. With a cherubic face and ginger beard, he is the sort of guy you’d invite to your Super Bowl party, but then realize you’ll probably want to have something better than Domino’s and Coors Light on hand if he comes.

I pull into Jefferson at the end of a parched day of tasting in Albemarle County. The long, narrow tasting room accommodates a lot of people, which on this Thursday afternoon is a young and/or attractive mélange of college seniors and Porsche jockeys. Behind the bar, racks of wine bottles catch sunlight through the big windows behind them, the white wines luminescent in the green glass. (Sun exposure is not great for long-term storage, but these bottles are likely to be drunk sooner rather than later).

As I wait for the tasting to begin, I poke around the memorabilia on the walls. While “Jefferson” is the premier name in Virginia wine—due to Thomas Jefferson’s apocryphal founding of the state’s wine industry—it bears mentioning that this operation is not affiliated with the Thomas Jefferson Estate.

Which is curious, considering you could walk here from Monticello. President Three’s lost cattle probably wandered onto the land that eventually grew these grapes. And the land itself was supposedly entrusted by TJ himself to its first viticulturist, Filipo Mazzei, in 1774.

Now it is in Andy Reagan’s hands, which is a good thing. This is apparent many times over by the end of my tasting, especially after I have had the 2009 Meritage—a 770-case run that achieves a dark ripeness and licorice-y depth more often associated with red blends from Napa Valley. Bursting with blueberry and cassis that merge seamlessly with the rich vanilla of high-quality oak barrels, it is a hedonistic wine that deserves cellaring.

Another standout is the 2010 Petit Verdot. Though risky to bottle on its own, Reagan’s Petit Verdot comes through with massive weight and grapey elegance. But the kicker is the 2011 Viognier, one of the finest Virginia white wines I have ever had. Mind-bendingly fresh and intense, huge melon flavors almost overwhelm you before morphing into a cleansing minerally finish.

The quality of the wines here is outstanding. Andy Reagan clearly understands that well cared-for grapes want only one thing: To become great wines. And once they are off the vine and in the winery, the winemaker’s job is to guide them gently to their destination, not meddle with nature’s plan. He is most certainly not bogged down in the sticky-sweet swamp that many winemakers are, of spending time, energy and resources making bad wines because they happen to sell.

Visit this winery, buy these wines, and do your part to move Virginia wine forward.

Address & Contact Information: 1353 Thomas Jefferson Parkway Charlottesville, Virginia 22902. Telephone: 800-272-3042, email:, website: Tasting Hours: Summer 10:00-6:00, Winter 9:00-5:00.

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