Wednesday, April 10, 2024

Re-discovering Oakencroft Farm & Winery

After perhaps a 15-year hiatus we finally returned to the 250-acre Oakencroft Farm & Winery as the winery has re-opened and still making wine from some of the oldest vines in the Commonwealth of Virginia. The property is located just outside of Charlottesville and is a relaxing destination with estate and other wines available for purchase along with spreads and charcuterie. The winery first opened in the early 1980s under the ownership of Felicia and John Rogan -- who are considered one of the founding families of the modern Virginia wine industry. The winery closed in 2008 when Mrs. Rogan retired after 25 years in the industry. Over that period she worked with viticulturist  Lucy Morton to transform the Rogan farm into a Vineyard and Winery.  And most importantly, she spearheaded the effort to establish the Monticello AVA, started the Jeffersonian Grape Growers Society, and was chairwoman of the Virginia Wine Growers Advisory Board for a several years.  

Even though Oakencroft Vineyard and Winery had officially closed, the farm continued to operate and the original grape vines were maintained.  A decade later Dorothy Batten purchased the farm and championed many of the sustainable practices currently implemented. One practice is the continued use of hybrid grapes (Seyval Blanc, Vidal Blanc, Chambourcin, De Chaunac, and Merlot Kanthus) which provides broader genetic diversity and requires less pesticides and other chemicals. Former winemaker Phil Ponton spent 40 years maintaining the estate's vines and still shares his wisdom with current Farm Manager Logan Collins. This wisdom included combatting pests by using an integrated pest management system of beneficial plants, animals and insects as well as compost to reduce chemical sprays and industrial fertilizers. Jessica Trapeni is the current winemaker and came to Oakencroft after completing the UC Davis Winemaking Certification program and working at Virginia Wineworks where she was both Lab Manager and Production Manager. 

During our visit we dabbled into two of their estate releases, their 2021 Albemarle County White Wine and 2020 Albemarle County Red Wine. Both were very pleasant expressions of Seyval and Chambourcin and easily pass as more traditional vinifera wines. The Seyval Blanc was fermented under cool temperatures and on its lees, which both preserved the fruit characters and added texture to the body. Lots of racy acidity and minerality. Production of the red wine was more complicated as it is a blend of 64% Chambourcin co-fermented with 11% Vidal Blanc, and the remaining 25% a combination of Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Petit Verdot, and Cabernet Sauvignon. This wine also has bright acidity and ripe cherries leading to very approachable tannins and a long finish. An easy sipper with charcuterie.

The winery also offers several Virginia and international wines and ciders. On our next trip I would be interested in sipping the White Wine next to an Austrian Gruner Veltliner and the Red Wine with a Provence red. 

Finally, the Monticello Wine Week runs from April 26th to May 3rd. Check the Monticello Wine Trail for specific events. 

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