Sip, savor and stay a while at this Central Virginia gem

Story and Photos Melissa M. Stewart

Early Mountain Vineyards isn’t the type of winery you simply stumble upon during a lazy afternoon of sauntering and sipping. If you do, consider yourself lucky. Most people, like me, make reservations at this must-visit Madison treasure way in advance and then spend ample time anticipating much more than a tasting alone. Here, it’s about the experience — wine is just one (very notable) part of a cuisine-vino-scene trifecta. On a recent visit, I was ready to drink it all in.

Vineyard Vibe: A home at the foot of the Blue Ridge Mountains guarantees great views at Early Mountain’s 350-acre property, but the interior aesthetic is nearly as charming—picture rustic elegance including warm wagon wheel chandeliers and all of the exposed beam glory you could ask for. Aforementioned reservations are recommended for both tasting room and patio seating to enjoy the Virginia Table, a marriage of juice from elite Virginia winemaker Ben Jordan and seasonal eats from executive chef Tim Moore.

Tasting Notes: For my sampling du jour, I opted for the current selections in both the Taste and Spring flights, both a mix of mainly Bordeaux-style varietals made with grapes varieties grown on two vineyard sites (55 acres in all). While all my glasses easily fit EMV’s “accessible yet accessible” motto, I was particularly drawn to the Foothills 2019 and Five Forks 2020. They complemented menu mains of Pan Seared Halibut with Mushroom en Brodo, spring peas and lemon and Veal Tenderloin with confit young potatoes, carrots, asparagus, morel mushrooms and morel cream sauce. All elegant flavors, but weeks later I still thought of the broth that covered my mouth in a soothing umami blanket until my taste buds were abruptly woken by fruity notes derived from noteworthy Petit Manseng.

Favorite Finds: Though four Early Mountain wines, including two Cabernet Francs and the Eluvium red blend, received gold medals in the 2021 Virginia Governor’s Cup, EMV doesn’t shun the competition. Instead, it embraces a range of standouts with the Best of Virginia Selections, including selections from Ox-Eye, Veritas, Flying Fox and Thibaut-Janisson. Though I focused on estate-grown pours on this venture, I love knowing that I can come back and find a rotating list of exciting choices from around the state. Also on my repeat visit list? The Meadow Experience, an opportunity to dabble in lighter fare (think sandwiches and shareables created with the help of local producers) in a secluded area set with picnic tables and sun umbrellas.

Hours and Events: Early Mountain Vineyard, on the Monticello Wine Trail, is open Monday 11 a.m.–6 p.m., Tuesday and Wednesday 10 a.m.–4 p.m. (pick-up only), Thursday and Friday 11 a.m.–6 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday 11 a.m.–6p.m. Can’t make the trip? Two different club membership options allow Virginia oenophiles to choose from seasonal shipments of Early Mountain varietals or a bi-annual selection of small-batch standouts from all over the commonwealth.


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Written By

Melissa Stewart