On a recent trip to the Graves Mountain Lodge Apple Festival we snuck into nearby Christensen Ridge, located a few miles south on Route 231. While driving to the winery, you pass through rolling hills of cattle pasture and even drive through a working farmyard – before reaching the secluded winery and guest houses. Yes, guest houses – each rentable for weekends, weddings, business retreats, etc. During our visit, there was a steady stream of people who had navigated their way up the driveway, many returning home from the Apple Festival or from sightseeing in the Blue Ridge Mountains.
Christensen Ridge offered four wines during our tasting; but they plan to offer a larger selection as the winery expands. Their vineyard includes some of the oldest vinifera vines in Virginia as well as newer plantings of Viognier, Petite Verdot, Petite Manseng, and Norton. The first wine was the 2002 Viognier, the Virginia specialty. This wine is very good with an apricot flavor and a refreshing, slightly acidic finish. Next we tried their 2002 Chardonnay, which we liked more than the Viognier. Normally, we pass on the Chardonnay, but this wine is good. It was even better drinking on their patio. The reds did not have an effect on us as much as the whites. Their medium bodied 2002 Merlot has a nice cherry flavor and a smooth finish; whereas their 2002 Proprietors’ Tuscan Blend is stronger with a spicier finish. This wine is a blend of Sangiovese, Merlot, and Cabernet Sauvignon – primarily because a few years back a vineyard owner visited Christensen Ridge trying to sell these grapes. Feeling sorry for the man, the winemaker purchased the fruit and a wine was born. A few years in the cellar should really bring out the cherry flavors.
Christensen Ridge is not far from Route 29, so we plan on making the winery a stop on our trips to Charlottesville, particularly if they continue to serve their homemade barbecue on the weekends. The winery closes from late November to early February – so you don’t have much time to visit this year.