First Colony Winery Review
Address: 1650 Harris Creek Rd. Charlottesville,Virginia 22902.
Phone Number: 434-979-7105
Tasting Hours: Mon-Fri 10:00-6:00, Sat-Sun 11:00-6:00 and by appt.
Region: Monticello AVA, Virginia
Reviewer: James Houston
Review Date: 7/13/2012
Reviewer: James Houston
There are little places at the end of the road, and then there is First Colony Winery.
Just southwest of where County Road 627 is absorbed by State Route 20 in Albemarle County, an easy-to-miss turn sits, almost secretly, beckoning you down Harris Creek Road. As you slowly pass small, elegant cottages and shacks, the road gets narrower and grittier until you hit a bent white sign declaring: END STATE MAINTENANCE.
Wherever your home may be, its hard not to feel far from it this far down the trail.
But then you hang a right and suddenly emerge into a sun-drenched grove of vineyards, and dont feel so lost anymore. One more right turn and you are pulling into the lot of First Colony, a modern house attached to what was presumably a barn and is now the winery.
As you approach the main door you are flanked on both sides by a Technicolor array of impeccably-groomed marigolds, gladioli, and other seasonal flowers. The red door creaks as you open it into the warm, close tasting room, where a black and white tile floor contrasts tastefully with wood-paneled walls. Merchandise is arranged, or maybe strewn, in one corner, and near the rack holding bottles for sale are a stack of kid-friendly board games. There is indoor seating, but the patio is clearly the choice location for whiling away a summer afternoon.
First Colony was established by Randolph McElroy, Jr., a descendant of Edmund Randolph, George Washingtons Attorney General. McElroy, a farm-raised native of Goochland County, VA found success in the construction industry and purchased the property motivated by his growing love of wine and lifelong connection to Virginia agriculture.
My tasting was poured by General Manager Martha Hayman. As the wife of winemaker Jason Hayman she is knowledgeable about the product, and paces the tasting well – having studied hospitality at James Madison University and then managing the dining services program at Virginia Tech.
The best First Colony wine I tasted was the Cabernet Franc 2010. Cabernet Franc is, in my estimation, Virginias standout red varietal. With ripe, rich red berry flavors and a hint of Chinese five-spice, all supported by a firm but generous tannic structure, this wine speaks very well of the quality of First Colonys vineyards and the skill of Jason Hayman. Of the whites, I most enjoyed the Chardonnay Reserve 2009, which had a lovely balance of tropical and stone fruit characteristics, with toasty, well-integrated oak.
I would like to see First Colony focus more on their dry wines. Over half the wines I tasted were sweet and for the most part forgettable. While these are presumably popularand the bottom line can never be ignored for the sake of lofty winemaking idealsthese stickies ultimately distract from the best expressions of First Colonys terroir.
Which is not to say they are all badI did enjoy the Port-style wine made from Touriga Nacional, the essential grape in authentic Douro Valley Port. But the Sweet Shanando and unfortunately-named sweet red Claret could disappear at no cost to First Colonys reputation.