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All Day Class at a Winery/Vineyard
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K.L. Sullivan

January 14, 2007

We had an opportunity to take a one day class and learn about vineyards and wineries.  Limited to about 20 participants this was a great experience for those who would like to learn more about growing wine grapes and how grapes become wine. If you choose to participate in this one-day class, you will find yourself standing in a recently planted vineyard learning how soil, climate and disease affect the growth of grapes and the quality of wine produced with these grapes.

We were looking forward to visiting wineries on the Blue Ridge Wine Way in Virginia. Plans had been made since before Christmas, as this learning event had a limited amount of space. Even though the day promised to be filled with clouds and drizzle, we were looking forward to this experience as we drove south into Virginia.

From Vine to Wine :Winemaking 101 in Virginia Wine Country was an all day event – rain or shine. Participants were advised to be prepared for the weather and wear boots, sweatshirts as we would be out in the vineyard. The event was sponsored by TasteDC.com.

Arriving at The Winery at La Grange we were directed up a long driveway to a parking area on the other side of a red building. This is the winery where the press pad and barrel room are located.

Across from the winery is a large historic house, dating from the 1700’s. Most of the participants arrived early and were invited to walk through the house. A tremendous amount of work was done to renovate the house. It is even more amazing when we learned that the renovations began in February 2006. . Two rooms have been set aside for tasting and purchasing wine.


The Winery at La Grange is a new winery with newly planted grape vines.
Fletcher Henderson, Chief Winemaker at La Grange, led the entire daylong class. Fletcher was enthusiastic about the entire process of winemaking, from planting the grapevines to the bottling of the wine.

The class began at 9:00 AM. Fletcher’s enthusiasm carried over to the history of the 18th century house and its renovation. George Green built the manor house in the 1790’s. Lafayette accompanied by George Washington was given the honor to name the house and property. Lafayette named the estate LaGrange. The house has had many owners since the 1790’s. Today spirits flow in the house, which is also reported as being haunted.

Shortly thereafter we were invited into the vineyard. This is a young vineyard just planted in 2006. For demonstration purposes ten older grape vines were planted near the vineyard. Fletcher discussed the entire process of planting grapevines including location, soil, spacing, trellising disease harvest and more.

After spending two hours in the vineyard we went to the winery where Fletcher talked about the treatment of grapes, crushing, maceration, pressing and fermentation. He pointed out the differences in the process for making red wines and white wines. The influence the winemaker has on wine is remarkable for those who may think the flavor is dependent only on the grape used in the wine making process. Even the yeast chosen by the winemaker for fermentation influences the wine.

At noon, lunch was served in the barrel room at a large table placed between oak barrels on all sides. While we ate, Fletcher and Rick from Pearmund Cellars answered questions.

After lunch the discussion was about secondary fermentation, aging, and tasting. We tasted several wines. We compared a bottled Chardonnay and a Chardonnay that was not ready for bottling. What a difference!

Another afternoon activity was a chance to make a blend out of three wines. We were given four wine glasses. Three were filled with a Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Cabernet Franc. We experiment blending in the fourth glass. Most of the participants liked different combinations of the wines.

The day ended with many questions being answered and the opportunity to taste and purchase wine. If you want to learn what happens to grapes before they become that bottle of wine on your dining table, this would be a wonderful class for you to consider.

The Winery at LaGrange



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