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Early Mountain Vineyards
Kathy Sullivan

Early Mountain VineyardSummary: Early Mountain Vineyards is a place for locals to come, visit and stay awhile.  In addition to focusing on producing quality wines, Early Mountain Vineyards is a venue for socializing and enjoying locally produced foods.

We visited Early Mountain Vineyards located in the Charlottesville, Virginia region to discover what changes had taken place at this winery in addition to the name change. Since purchasing the winery in 2012 the new owners, Jean and Steve Case, have changed the interior of this castle-like building and have made changes in the vineyards.

The new owners renamed the winery and chose the name Early Mountain from historical records. Lt. Joseph Early, from the Revolutionary War owned the property. The story is that he heard of someone traveling through the area looking for a place to stay overnight. After the stranger arrived at Early’s home, it was discovered that the unknown visitor was General Washington.

Early Mountain VineyardWine Tasting

Early Mountain VineyardEarly Mountain Vineyards supports other local wineries as well as local food producers including cheesemakers. Our wine tasting in the tasting facility included a flight paired with different cheeses and meats. A variety of artisan cheeses is available including traditional cheese, goat cheese and sheep cheese. Charcuterie is also available. Guests can order a Sampler Cheese Board, Sampler Charcuteries Board or Charcuterie & Cheese Board. Other foods available include assorted Panini, Sammiches, Bites and Sweets.

Local Wines

Early Mountain Vineyards is unique as they work with several Virginia wineries and provide wine tastings of those wineries' wines. Our tasting at the winery began with a Brut by Thibaut-Janisson, a producer in the Monticello AVA.

Tasting Room and Event Facility

Early Mountain VineyardEarly Mountain VineyardThe interior of this large facility has been brightened with the massive brick walls painted white. A large fireplace near the center of the tasting room has been opened up to increase light flowing through the room.
Visitors can stop at a tasting counter to taste wines or choose to sit in comfortable seating area. During our visit it was noted that people like to come and sit and enjoy some wine without feeling that they have to move. Think of it as a big friendly living room.

A long, wide gallery/hallway connects the tasting room with the event room. The way is lined with photographs of large black and white vineyard scenes. The event room has large fireplaces at each end. The bricks in the event room were painted white and brightens the area. Weddings and other private events can be scheduled. A room is available on the lower level for the groom. Outside a guest cottage is for the bride and bridesmaids to prepare. Numerous winery events also take place at Early Mountain Vineyards. On the day of our visit we saw a sign for “Painting at Early Mountain.”

Early Mountain VineyardWinery

The winery building is a short distance from the event center. The facility would be the envy of many winemakers. The winery building was designed with efficiency and gravity flow in mind. Flexibility is important; the winery is equipped for either mechanical punch down or pump over. The upper level of the building is the press pad where grapes are brought in through a large rolling doorway. On this level the crusher, press and other typical winery equipment are on wheels and it is easy to move the equipment to the best location for the best performance. The barrel room on the lowest level is partially underground and can hold several hundred barrels. When talking about the use of oak during winemaking, Steve Monson winemaker noted, “Oak is like makeup on a beautiful lady.”

Currently Steve is experimenting with two experimental stainless steel barrels that permit the addition of oak.


The focus in the vineyards is sustainability and biodiversity. Several organic and Biodynamic principles are followed in the vineyard. Currently 22 acres are planted with Merlot, Chardonnay, Muscat, Petit Manseng, Pinot Gris, Petit Verdot, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon and Malbec. Plans are being made to plant an experimental vineyard.
The owners lease a nearby vineyard where Early Mountain employees do the vineyard work. In the future the winery will lease from local vineyards and do all of the work in the vineyards including hand harvesting.

Early Mountain VineyardRed Wines

Look closely at the wine glasses at Early Mountain Vineyards. The design is a grape vine tendril. Use your imagination and you might see the tendril forming the letters "e" and "m" for Early Mountain. Front Block Red 2012 was a blend of Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon. This dark ruby wine offered notes of dark fruit and tobacco. The finish had mild tannins with tobacco hints. Paired with charcuterie the wine had some smoky hints.
Eluvium 2012 named for a type of soil was a blend of Merlot, Cabernet Franc and a little Cabernet Sauvignon, Petit Verdot and Malbec. The result was a dark ruby wine. The wine offered dark fruit and tobacco notes throughout the taste. Tannins were on the finish. Merlot 2012 was a dark ruby color. The wine offered earthy and tobacco nuances. The taste had dark fruit and tobacco notes. The finish was chewy with tannins.

Rosé 2013 was produced with 100 percent Merlot. This light orange wine had an aroma of berries especially cranberry. The taste had some raspberry hints with mostly cranberry notes. The finish was crisp and fruity. Another Rosé 2013 was made with Malbec grapes. The light pink/orange color wine offered a floral aroma with hints of grass. The taste reminded one of grass. The crisp finish had minerality with a touch of citrus.

White Wines

Pinot Gris 2012 was produced with Muscat skins. The result was a light yellow wine. The aroma was of floral and citrus with faint orange blossoms. The taste also had notes of floral and citrus. The finish was crisp with fruit lingering. Chardonnay 2012 was yellow. The wine offered notes of pear, apple and a hint of caramel. The finish was crisp. Block Eleven 2012 was a blend of Petit Manseng and Muscat. The wine offered floral notes especially orange blossoms. The taste reminded one of citrus especially orange. The finish was crisp with a perceived sweetness.
Muscat 2013 was a light yellow. The aroma and taste reminded one of orange blossoms. The finish was dry with a long orange aftertaste.

When planning to visit Early Mountain Vineyards, plan to stay awhile to enjoy the ambiance, wine and food.

Early Mountain Vineyards
6109 Wolftown-Hood Rd
Madison, VA 22727

GPS: N38º 21.100’ W78º 18.627’

Article written March, 2014



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