Situated at an elevation of 1,800 feet in Southwest Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains, JBR Vineyards & Winery transforms hand-tended, classic wine grapes into tastefully crafted wines. Owners Jessee and Deborah Ring began their winemaking journey in 2006 and later became not only the first vineyard in Giles County, but also the first Virginia winery to sell bottles made from Giles County grapes.
With only three employees and less than four acres of land, JBR Vineyards & Winery is one of the smallest wineries in the Commonwealth. Deborah leads the boutique winery’s sales and marketing sector while Jessee and part-time Vineyard Assistant Tommy Hall tend to the winemaking.
Wine has been a hobby for Jessee for nearly 40 years. While living in California, Jessee studied Boudreaux wines and purchased bottles from several wine auctions. He later took extension winemaking classes at University of California Davis before pursuing a career in Virginia wine, where he is now an active member of both the Virginia Vineyards Association and Virginia Wineries Association.
In 2006, JBR began with a trail planting close to the Ring’s home in Pulaski County. They expanded further into Giles County in 2009 and 2015, and in 2014 became the first Virginia farm winery in Giles and Pulaski counties.
The boutique winery now produces seven bottles of red and white wines made from the three grape varieties grown on the property. According to Deborah, Pinot Noir and Riesling grapes develop best in Virginia’s mountainous and often humid environment, but have slightly different growing seasons. Pinot Noir grapes ripen in early September, while the Riesling and Cabernet Franc are not harvested until the end of the month.
Once they’ve reached maturity, Jessee handpicks each grape and runs them through a crusher destemmer. To make red wine, Jessee first ferments the skin of red grapes and then presses them to extract the flavors of the grape’s local terroir. Riesling, however, is pressed right away and the juice is fermented. The couple also explains that all wines are left to age in bulk storage anywhere from nine to 10 months before bottling. During that period, the wine is racked several times to siphon sediment.
Deborah describes JBR’s Pinot Noir as a robust and dry red wine with classic structure. “It ages well,” she says. “In fact, it gets better the older it is.” She recommends pairing it with flavorful meats such as steak and prime rib.
JBR’s six other wines include a light Mountain Red, a robust, rosé-like American Red and a traditional, German-style Riesling. The couple hopes that their sweet and acidic Riesling, which pairs exceptionally well with grilled chicken, will ultimately win Virginia Governor’s Cup.
All JBR wines are available for purchase and personalized tastings at JBR’s Virginia Farm Winery tasting room, located at 8205 Little River Dam Road, Radford.