Villa Appalaccia Winery Review
Address: 752 Rock Castle Gorge Rd. Floyd,Virginia 24091.
Phone Number: 540-593-3100
Tasting Hours: See website for wine tasting details.
Region: Rocky Knob AVA, Virginia
Reviewer: Brian Yost
Review Date: 9/9/2014
Reviewer: Brian Yost
The Rocky Knob American Viticultural Area (AVA) straddles the Blue Ridge Parkway in Southwestern Virginia. It is smallonly 9000 acresand ranges in elevation from 1600 feet to over 3500. So most of it is inhospitable to viticulture. Nevertheless, there are two wineries located in this lonely AVA. One of these is Villa Appalaccia.
I’ve visited Villa Appalaccia more then once. The tasting room is just off the parkway on a small gravel road. Signage is not allowed on the parkway, which can make the winery and tasting room hard to find, but it’s between the Meadows of Dan and Virginia Route 8. GPS cannot be relied on completely, but don’t be discouraged. It’s there, and it’s worth looking for.
A red, white and green Italian flag flutters in the breeze at the top of the drive, as a clear sign that you have reached your destination. Looking down the hill at the winery buildings, the tasting room has the distinct look and feel of a Tuscan villa, with its arched windows and well-kept gardens. The grounds offer a beautiful mountain view, and there is ample seating under the veranda or in the garden.
Now it’s just my opinion, but I believe that Villa Appalaccia is making the best wines in the Blue Ridge region. I might even take that a step further and say that they are making some of the most interesting wines in the state.
Steven and Susanne, a husband-wife team, run the winery and tasting room. They began planting vines in 1989 with an eye toward bringing Italian varietals to Virginia. I don’t mean to imply that this is the only winery in the state growing Italian grapes. That is certainly not the case, but they have introduced varieties that are unique to Villa Appalaccia. You will find Cabernet Franc and Vidal Blanc on the tasting menu, but the varietals are predominantly Northern and Southern Italian.
Nearly all of the fruit is estate-grown. The vineyard is far down the mountain from the tasting room at an elevation of about 1600 feet. There are a total of twelve acres under vine in soil composed chiefly of slate. The growing season may be shorter in the mountains, but this area escapes the heat and humidity that is typical in the rest of the state. The conditions are about as ideal as you can get in this mountainous region.
Stephen and Susanne share most of the labor, but Susanne is really the winemaker. Her degree in microbiology positioned her to easily transition into that role. Sampling the wines is proof enough that she understands the science of winemaking.
I tasted ten wines during my visit. Among the whites were a Pinot Grigio, Vermentino, a white Primitivo, and a Moscoto-Pinot Grigio blend. All were expertly crafted, but the Vermentino really stood out. I have not encountered this varietal at other Virginia wineries, and I found this sample to be bright, crisp, fruity and well-structured.
The reds included an interesting Cabernet Franc, Sangiovese, and Primitivo blend. In addition, there was an Anglianico and a Corvina. Villa Appalaccia grows the only Corvina in the United States and I thought this example was extraordinary, with its big berry notes on the nose and palate. I also tasted a Sangiovese, which was not on the tasting list. Finally, I took home a bottle of Primitivo, which is not offered for tastings; because it is so popular it can barely be kept in stock.
Stephen was pouring wine, but on a previous visit Susanne was also behind the tasting bar. Having an owner conducting tastings is always a nice touch. It insures that the tasting will be informative and nearly any question posed by a visitor can easily be answered. On both of my visits, I’ve been very impressed by the informative and casual nature of the tasting. I must give high marks for customer experience.
So let’s see beautiful venue, great wine and an excellent experience. Check, check and double check. This seems like a no-brainer. If you’re anywhere near this part of Virginia, make the stop.