Williamsburg Winery Review
Address: 5800 Wessex Hundred Williamsburg,Virginia 23185.
Phone Number: 757-229-0999
Tasting Hours: Mar-Dec: 10:30-5:30; Jan-Feb: Mon-Fri 11:30-4:30, Sat-Sun 10:30-5:30
Reviewer: Jim Finley
Review Date: 7/12/2014
Reviewer: Jim Finley
As you travel towards Williamsburg Winery, you’re reminded why the Williamsburg area is such a popular tourist destination. In addition to Colonial Williamsburg, the area is home to Water Country USA, Busch Gardens Williamsburg, and numerous resorts and golf courses. My first thought was, “What a great destination for the whole family.” Unfortunately, the tasting experience indicates that there may be a few too many tourists entering through Williamsburg’s doors.
Williamsburg Winery is located on the historic Wessex Hundred farm, and the winemaker is Matthew Meyer. Meyer studied at UC Davis and worked at both Grgich Hills Estate and Heitz Wine Cellars in Napa Valley before joining Williamsburg Winery in 2002. In addition to the winery, visitors can enjoy a meal at either the Cafe Provencal or The Garbriel Archer Tavern and stay at Widmere Place, a European-style country hotel with 28 rooms.
After passing through a typical suburban neighborhood that had me questioning whether or not I was going in the right direction, I arrived at the entrance gate to Williamsburg Winery. The approach to the winery is long and beautiful. The tree-lined road proceeds through the vineyards and eventually takes you to Williamsburg’s European-styled grounds. I had previously tasted a few Williamsburg wines during a #VAWineChat session and was impressed with their quality. If I enjoyed them at home, I was sure they would only be better when tasted at the winery.
The first thing you’ll notice when you enter the winery is a wide selection of gifts. The abundance of gift items and lack of anyone pouring wine made me think I had entered the wrong building until the employee, at what I’ll refer to as bar #1, asked if she could help me. I asked if I could do a tasting which resulted in a barely audible, somewhat syncopated, stream-of-conscious monologue mentioning “tours” and “is available?”. Fortunately, the employee at the other bar, I’ll call it bar #2, asked if I would like to do standard or reserve tasting. When I asked which wines were included with the reserve tasting, neither employee knew and one of the employees left to find out. After receiving the list of reserve wines, and wanting to compare the wines on the reserve tasting list with those on the standard list, I was directed to a wine bottle display at bar #1. I decided to go with the reserve tasting and indicated so to the employee at bar #1 who then asked if I had already purchased a tasting ticket. I indicated that I had not (since I had just determined which tasting I was going to do), and she directed me back to bar #2. In retrospect, I think bar #1 must have been “wine and gift buying bar” and bar #2 was the “buy your ticket for tasting bar.” Because the employee at the “buy your ticket for tasting bar” was on the phone dealing with an after-hours tours request, the employee from the “wine and gift buying bar” tried to help out. The result was utter confusion. After eventually purchasing my tasting coupon for the reserve tasting, I was led to the tasting area concealed behind a heavy, wooden door.
The tasting area itself is fairly plain but spacious and well lit. The tasting bar consists of wood tabletops mounted on wine barrels. It’s obvious that the area is configured to deal with the large crowds that likely visit frequently. The server on the day of my visit was very pleasant but had limited knowledge of the wines being poured other than a list of flavors associated with each.
As the tasting menu indicated, the two whites, the 2012 Viognier and the 2011 Acte 12 Chardonnay, were both food friendly with bright acidity. Where Williamsburg shines, though, is with their reds. The 2010 Merlot Reserve ($32) is full bodied with cherry and chocolate flavors. The medium-length finish adds a note of black pepper making the Merlot one of Williamsburg’s most interesting wines. The 2010 Gabriel Archer Reserve (32% Merlot, 29% Petit Verdot, 20% Cabernet Franc, 19% Cabernet Sauvignon) and 2009 Adagio (69% Petit Verdot, 25% Cabernet Sauvignon and 6% Cabernet Franc) are both elegant, well-balanced Bordeaux blends with dark fruit, earth and spice flavors. While the nose on the Gabriel Archer Reserve is impressive, I preferred the Adagio with its fuller body and more pronounced pepper and licorice flavors. Just so you don’t experience sticker shock, the 2009 Adagio sells for $95, and the 2010 Gabriel Archer Reserve is $42.
The benefit to a winery of being near large tourist destinations is that it usually increases the number of people in the tasting room. The curse is that the winery needs to ensure they can handle the large, often not wine-focused, crowds and not lose too much money doing so. Unfortunately, that often includes harried employees, a focus on the gift shop, and scripted, shallow, wine presentations. Regardless, Williamsburg Winery is making some very good wines, and if you’re in the area, I recommend you stop by to taste them. Since it seems that Williamsburg focuses most of its attention on its tours, I would skip the standard or reserve tasting and try either the “Tour and Tasting” for $10 or the “Extensive Tour and Reserve Wine Tasting” for $36.