Wisdom Oak Winery Review
Address: 3613 Walnut Branch Lane Charlottesville,Virginia 22959.
Phone Number: 434-984-4272
Tasting Hours: Apr-Nov: Thurs-Sun 12:00-6:00; Jan-Feb: by appt.
Region: Monticello AVA, Virginia
Reviewer: Anthony Marocco
Review Date: 10/19/2013
Reviewer: Anthony Marocco
As you spot the new Wisdom Oak Winery sign, planted where the former Sugarleaf Vineyards sign stood, you will find yourself traveling up a gravel, single lane road that appears to be the road to nowhere. As the trees clear and the farm house converted to tasting room, outlined by the 4 acres of vines in the background, appears, you instantly release a sigh of relief and can truly take a step back to admire the beauty of the Wisdom Oak grounds.
Owner Jerry Bias purchased the property over a decade ago then under the Sugarleaf banner, but changed the name early in 2013 to commemorate the opening of the new tasting room. The property sits at the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains and presents guests with gorgeous views and the opportunity to take in some of the most relaxing tranquility that Abermarle County has to offer. The terroir offers great slopes and mountain shade that helps cool the grapes from the sweltering temperatures of Virginias intense summers. The four acres of grapes that sit on the property consist of Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, and the recently added Viognier; they all contribute to Wisdom Oak’s estate bottled selections, while Petit Manseng, Petit Verdot, and Vidal Blanc sourced from local vineyards help round out the lineup. Vineyard manager and assistant winemaker Chris Harris and winemaker Romulus Pascall handle the winery’s day-to-day operations.
Since the opening of the new tasting room was announced, Ive been dying to stop by to see the replacement for the old, tiny cottage tasting room that was located further up the property just a year or so earlier. When you finally park and take it all in, you will notice a normal looking house, but what lies inside is much more than a standard house. Now granted, yes, it is a house, but the conversion into a tasting room is certainly unique. As you enter the front door, you sense an instant warm greeting by the soothing color tones, unique living room layout with a plush living room setup, and tasting bar. To your right, you will notice the former kitchen bearing the main tasting bar, along with a small gift shop, and patrons gathered around the tasting bar. Through the doorway directly across from the entry way tasting bar, an additional area for visitors to sit, relax, and unwind stands with scattered tables and chairs that appear to be a former dining room setup. If you are trying to paint a picture in your mind, imagine your typical ranch style home that has just been converted to a welcoming environment for a wine and cheese party.
The same employee that poured for us a year ago was again there to greet us, and for the nominal fee of $7, we were able to taste two whites, a Rosé, and three reds. The first on the tasting menu was the 2012 Chardonnay ($17), which was not overly aromatic, but what did come through was oak and spice wrapped pear. The flavors were mineral-driven with accents of spice and citrus and backed by fresh acidity, a light body, and dry, crisp finish. Following the Chardonnay was the 2012 Petit Manseng ($21). The wine includes about 15% Vidal Blanc to balance out the heavy apricot presence on the nose and add a nice, floral character. It’s a refreshing, flavorful and balanced wine with an off-dry finish. Next up was the 2012 Rosé ($21) showing a nice, pale salmon color and a touch of sweetness. The wine leads with herb and spice flavors and finishes with strawberry and raspberry notes and a slightly tart finish. Turning the corner from the lighter wines, we move onto the 2011 North Garden Red Blend ($18). Consisting mainly of Cabernet Sauvignon with smaller portions of Petit Verdot and Cabernet Franc, the North Garden Red Blend is very aromatic with copious amounts of cherry, currants, and chocolate that seem to dominate both the nose and palate. Sadly, the curse of 2011 kept the body on the lighter and thinner side, and the wine finishes with hints of herb and oak. Its not a bad wine by any means, but it simply doesnt have the bold character one would expect from this blend. It can easily enjoyed by itself with a slight chill on a hot day. The 2010 Cabernet Franc ($23) carries a much bolder presence showing dark fruit, leather, and herb aromas that give way to a bone-dry plethora of currants, white peppery, and nuances of black cherry. The finish caps off this steak dinner companion with a toasted oak and peppery lined finish. Not one to disappoint! The last wine of the tasting is the 2011 Petit Verdot ($24), which if there was any hope for red wine in the 2011 vintage, this is the savior (also see Tannat). A deep ruby color sets the stage for wafty aromas of spice, cherry, and blackberry that is swiftly whisked away by the spice and cherry notes. Super dry, medium to full bodied, and very flavorful, this Petit Verdot buries the curse of 2011 with a velvety smooth, medium length finish and makes a believer out of a non-believer. Overall, it was a pleasure to stop by Wisdom Oak under its new banner. Consider adding Wisdom Oak to your itinerary if you are looking for a break from hectic tasting rooms and over-crowded grounds.