WanderCurtis Wine

Wine tastings, corporate events, reviews and recommendations

Blenheim Vineyards, Charlottesville, Virginia , USA

Leave a comment

Kirsty Harmon is a local girl turned renowned winemaker.

She grew up across the road of Blenheim and is well acquainted with the local scene.

Her first degree was in microbiology. She then worked as an event and wedding planner and worked for the previous owner of the Trump winery. She stayed on, ultimately becoming head of winemaking and general manager.

She Trained in enology at UCL Davis and won various scholarship for internships.

This took her to Craggy Range in Hawkes Bay New Zealand part of then Family of 12.

She also gained experience at Domaine Faivlely in Burgundy. She was the first intern there since 1837!

Dave Matthew a local celebrity in country music owns Blenheim and many of the labels have his colourful artistic designs.

It’s boutique winery producing 5 to 8 000 cases.

Kirsty with her microbiology background initially had a service lab for testing wines and helped out local wineries.

She has pioneered her wines all under screw cap, somewhat unusual for the US, but having worked in New Zealand and learned of its merits prefers this method of closure.

Blenheim Sauvignon Blanc 2021

100% Sauvignon Blanc steel fermented


Somewhere between new and old world

Goooseberry reductive, some passion fruit and tropical nuances

Blenheim Albariño 2021

Peachy stone fruit

Saltiness mineral

Delicious Albariño very typical

Amazing it shows such typicity and saltiness after such a recent planting in such a new environment

Heavy red clay here with iron which I’d noted when I visited the Trump winery for lunch.

Blenheim gruner veltliner

An interesting story, it was planted very much by chance when their 800 vines of Teroldago didn’t bud and they were offered by the Gruner the nursery!

Slight gun flint

Lean reduced nice acidity

Blenheim Cabernet franc 2020

Interesting Fractal wine label especially liked by the mathematicians

Kirsty prefers to make lighter style red

Enjoys the fruitiness

Full of fruit

9 months barrels

Some whole cluster and natural carbonic

Painter Red Nlend


Lots grapes fresh fruity blend

Tasting with Kirsty reminded me that the winemaking in this region is a mere 30 years old and they are very much finding their feet and don’t know yet exactly what’s going to work.

She has a great pioneer spirit and along with Albariño planting from Mencia in Galicia, (also has clay soils and high humidity).they have planted Garnega, Tempranillo Roussane and Gruner Veltliner are among many others being planted here.

It will be fascinating to see what the future holds. It certainly seems to be in good hands.

Jefferson vineyards

This is an historic site with vineyards first planted by Fillipo Mazzei,Italian architect with the backing of Thomas Jefferson whos Monticello estates is nearby.

Recent plantings date from 1981

I was kindly hosted by Chris Ritzcovan winemaker and met the current owner Attila.

This is Chris’s 10 th vintage. His father made home wine which may have sparked in him an interest.

He trained locally at the famous University of Virginia

Chris mentioned they have a lot of vintage variation and also described the challenges mentioned on other visits

Wines tasted

Jefferson Vineyard petit manseng 2021

Dry, Sugar gets high

Neutral oak

75 cases made (only 3 barrels)

Petit Manseng originally form Jurancon-aromatic, peach honey ginger

High acid

Lovely texture lees ageing

Good balance nice nutty feel almond

Great effort here and shows potential of this grape in the region.

Jefferson Vineyard estate reserve 2019

Viognier, barrel fermented for 9 months in new French oak barrels Petit Manseng 6%

Really rich, full bodied oily with stone fruits, apricot and peach

Slight bitter finish

Jefferson Vineyard 2019 Chardonnay

Barrel fermented 9 months in oak

25 years old vines

Lemon, some vanilla, butter, lees ageing new American, new French and Hungarian oak (lighter spicier influence than French or American)

Jefferson Vineyard 2017

Cabernet Franc

Great vintage, 9 months in oak barrels

Fruit bomb, blue fruits

Plenty of tannins

Mouth and gum tannins integrated, Not green or herbaceous

Jefferson Vineyard 2019 meritage

Merlot and Petit Verdot, cabernet franc Malbec

20 months in oak Hungarian French and American oak

Blue and black fruits good tannic structure

Quite drying tannins

May benefit from more time

Jefferson Vineyard Merlot Réserve 2019

Smooth tannins wrapped with fruit

Chocolate and plum slightly hot

Made with Older vines 100 % French oak

Chris is also growing some Tannat and shows the same enthusiasm for the region as fellow winemakers.


The wines from Virginia are somewhere between new and old world. They are quite European in style. They don’t have the opulence and power of California but they still have more fruit and aromatics than similar wine growing areas in Europe.

It still a young region and experimental.

The current notable varieties performing well are Chardonnay, Viognier, Petit Verdot . Cabernet Franc and Merlot.

However, watch out for new varietals including Albarinho, Petit Manseng and Nebbiolo.

I’d love to visit again and explore other areas, such as Rappahannock, an hour north of Monticello. Perhaps a few weeks earlier, in October to witness the full autumnal splendour.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s