Chateau Morrisette Review
Address: 287 Winery Rd. SW Floyd,Virginia 24120.
Phone Number: 540-593-2865
Tasting Hours: Mon-Thurs 10:00-5:00, Fri-Sat 10:00-6:00, Sun 11:00-5:00
Region: Rocky Knob AVA, Virginia
Reviewer: Brian Yost
Review Date: 9/1/2014
Reviewer: Brian Yost
In the late 1970’s, the first Virginia wineries were getting their start, and the reigning school of thought was that only French-American hybrids could be cultivated in the state. David Morrisette planted thirteen acres of Niagra, Concord, and Muscadine and began producing wine under the Woolwine label.
The winery is known today as Chateau Morrisette, and it is still growing some French-American hybrids, but the vast majority of their wines are made from traditional French varieties. Incidentally, the winery has also grown to become the largest production winery in the Commonwealth, producing between sixty and seventy thousand cases each year.
One of the curious things about this winery is its location. It sits just off the Blue Ridge Parkway in Southwestern Virginia amid one of the most rugged and mountainous parts of the state. At an elevation of nearly 3500 feet in the Rocky Knob American Viticultural Area (AVA), the views from the winery are spectacular. Just in case you were wondering how grapes are able to grow in such a place, the vineyards are further down the mountain at closer to 1600 feet.
Finding the tasting room can be tricky. There is no signage allowed on the Blue Ridge Parkway. Chateau Morrisette has worked around that limitation by placing large billboards well off the parkway but easily visible from the road. Another useful little navigation aid is to remember that the winery is located between mile markers 171 and 172. If nothing else, this will help reduce the search window.
What you will find next to the parkway is more of a visitor complex than a simple tasting room. The grounds are landscaped and manicured. As you step through the doors, the tasting room looks and feels a little like the entrance to a convention center. The high cathedral ceiling is draped with banners, projecting an event-like aura. As you pass into the tasting area, however, you enter a much homier space with low lighting and more intimate tasting bars.
Chateau Morrisette is a regional tourist attraction and pulls in visitors who are exploring the Crooked Road, which winds through Southwestern Virginia’s bluegrass music country. Floyd is not far away and is home to Floyd Fest and many small clubs which feature bluegrass on any given weekend. Of course the parkway is also an attraction, and the winery is one of the many worthwhile stops along the way.
One of the complaints I frequently hear is that Chateau Morrisette is a large winery churning out marginal and primarily sweet wines. I have to say that this is significantly overstated. Certainly there are a handful of sweet wines being made, but these are the crowd pleasers. The majority of wines I tasted on my most recent visit were dry or off-dry and very well crafted.
A new winemaker recently signed on, and this almost certainly had an impact on the wine quality. Brian Cheeseborough has a reputation for consistently producing exceptional wines. He came to Virginia after making world-renown wines in Argentina, California and St. Emilion in Bordeaux, so he brings a lot of experience along with his reputation.
There are typically ten wines featured on the tasting menu, and the offerings change weekly. Among the wines I sampled, Sweet Mountain Laurel was the single sweet wine. It’s a blend of three French-American varieties and is one of the winery’s oldest and most popular wines. I also enjoyed a well-made, dry Rosé, and a couple of red blends. The Bordeaux-style Archival I is one of the premier wines, and I found it to be of particular note.
If you’re staying in the area or just passing through, but inclined toward fine dining. Chateau Morrisette operates a restaurant that describes itself as maintaining a “Tradition of Rustic Southern Elegance.” I’ve eaten there in the past and I can say that the experience was first rate and the foods paired well with the Chateau Morrisette wines.
With a well-trained staff, exceptional views, and quality wines, Chateau Morrisette is a first-class wine tasting destination. If you’re in the area, this is one winery worth checking out.