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
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.
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
Jefferson Vineyard petit manseng 2021
Dry, Sugar gets high
75 cases made (only 3 barrels)
Petit Manseng originally form Jurancon-aromatic, peach honey ginger
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
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.