Stinson Vineyards is a new, family run boutique winery (1500 cases) located in White Hall, nestled in the foothills of Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains. When Scott Stinson moved there from Maryland in 2008 he wasn’t really expecting to be a vintner. But the already existing vineyard was just too tempting. The vineyard is an historic one by Virginia standards, having been first planted by Gabriele Rausse over 40 years ago. Unfortunately, those old vines suffered from leafroll virus, so the Scott and daughter Rachel replanted the vineyard in 2010 and expanded it to 12 acres of vines. They will soon be able to harvest their own estate grapes. The wines reviewed here were made with fruit purchased from local growers. The father and daughter team make the wines. As our notes show, the wines are well made. Our evaluations of these new wines are positive and we would expect them to be even more so once their estate vineyards come on line. Stinson Vineyards is off to a very promising start.
As our tasting at the Governor’s Cup Competition showed, the 2011 vintage was a difficult one, wet and rainy. It ended with a tropical storm delivering four inches of rain at harvest time, requiring some quick picking of not always fully mature fruit. Even seasoned winemakers found it to be extremely challenging to make good wine. Winemaker Rachel Stinson did an admirable job with the Chardonnay given the circumstances. The 2010 vintage was the polar opposite of 2011 with beautiful, warm dry weather that produced high sugar levels before the autumn rains hit. Growers had to manage canopies to delay ripening and obtain phenolic ripeness while trying to preserve acidity. Some winemakers ended up with astringent tannins, but Rachel’s Meritage is velvet smooth.
Stinson Vineyards 2011 Chardonnay Monticello ($20) 89 This is a nicely balanced Chardonnay with light, buttered oak and orchard fruit aromas and flavors. Done in an easy drinking style, it makes for a pleasant aperitif wine as well as a good accompaniment to subtly seasoned white meats and fowl. We recommend this wine. Judiciously matured in 25% new French oak.
Stinson Vineyards 2010 Meritage Monticello ($32) 89+ Beautifully fragrant with scents of dark red fruit with notes of earth, violets and toasted French oak. This Meritage has an impressive, delicious fruit forward attack that isn’t fully sustained through the mid-palate and finish. Still, the wine is flavorful and nicely structured. A blend of 40% Cabernet Franc, 15% Petit Verdot, and 15% Cabernet Sauvignon and spends 18 months in French oak barriques. 14.7% alc.
Stinson Vineyards 2012 Rosé Monticello Virginia ($17) 90 This is a Bandol style, pale salmon pink rosé made of 100 percent Mourvèdre sourced from Horton Vineyards. With a pretty nose of fresh field strawberries, this very well made rosé is brightly flavored with pure fruit and mineral notes that carry through to a dry, crisp finish. The grapes are soaked on the skins for 72 hours and fermented and aged in stainless steel. Harvested in early October at just 18 Brix with a pH of 3.3. The best Virginia rosé we’ve tasted this year.
Mike Potashnik and Don Winkler