I had to visit this Early Mountain Winery after seeing it on line, and for wine and atmosphere, it definitely didn’t disappoint.
On a cold winter Friday my husband and I went while we were visiting the region, staying in Stanardsville, and hitting up Orange, Madison, etc.
It was late when we arrived, after having hiked Mine Run, an obscure, partially wooded Civil War battlefield in nearby Orange. We were cold, tired, and ready to chill.
Luckily we got a prime seat by the peek-through fire, with gorgeous views through the numerous and large surrounding windows.
The interior design and the materials choices by the architect, builder, and original owners is stellar — I’d say flawless. What a great date place!
I’d love to provide you with a link to their wine tasting menu, but I couldn’t find it on their website at all. Here’s their generalized wine page.
Wine tastings are on the higher-priced side as I recall, which is odd given that they are not more prominently placed in the Virginia wine pantheon. I’ve been to many, many Virginia tasting rooms, and it really is high priced (for Va., not for DC or LA denizens perhaps, but it’s a more unusual model for Virginia).
Still, of the various tasting options, which included both in-house wines and vintages from other wineries, we chose to pass on the tasting due to cost (it was the last stop on our trip and we already got dinged by not being able to eat our own food) and just wing it on a bottle.
We chose the 2014 Foothills which their website describes as,
A medium bodied wine with fine grain tannin structure, balanced by food-loving acidity. Light cedar notes from the oak underlie berry and thyme aromas. The wine’s acidity is lively on the palate and the soft tannins a mouth coating structure and finish.
We definitely enjoyed it, but didn’t buy another to take with as we had already stocked up at other wineries on this getaway.
A downside is that by having their own restaurant, unlike many other Virginia wineries you can’t bring your own food inside. My understanding is that in the better weather months, you can eat your own outside.
Unfortunately I didn’t know this from the otherwise beautiful and informative website, and we had just bought a bunch of food before arriving there (including from Strites Donuts food truck), and weren’t able to eat it, which bummed us out.
However, we didn’t want to leave, so we ordered from their menu and took our picnic and donuts home for later.
All I could say for the food is that it’s”okay.”
Don’t expect gourmet but neither is it unworthy. It comes off kind of a little corporate, like Starbucks’s pre-made sandwiches.
Early Mountains says they make the meals on site in the morning, but then package it for the remainder of the day. But to my palette, while made earlier in the day works for some things that gain flavor over time — soups, bean salads, cole slaw — for sandwiches it just usually takes the life out of them, and this was the case here.
This also makes it difficult to ask for substitutions or changes. To their credit they accommodated my requests, but sternly warned me not to expect it in the future because of that pre-made thing. Ouch!
And the menu is a few years behind the times — it could use a more vibrant re-imagining while still being simple and affordable. Still, they are awesome at sourcing a host of locally-grown and produced products, so kudos to them for a smaller carbon footprint and helping the local economy.
One high note was the mustard served with the hot pretzel my hubby ordered. He loved that mustard so much and was able to pick up a jar to take home in their little onsite store. Another time when we were passing through the area we made a point to stop in just to stock up on that mustard for homemade pretzels.
Big ups for sustainability
Early Mountain does feature a commitment to biodiversity and sustainable growing and land management practices, though they still do spray, albeit perhaps less than some other wineries.
I was thrilled to see bee hives on the vineyard and they may even offer their own honey in their store. (I hope those bees don’t suffer from the spray nor the honey from its residue!)
Their use of biodiverse orchard plantings surely will help keep the vineyard strong and appealing to the birds and bees who depend on and add to a more stable and dynamic agriculture practice. You can read more about it here.
Service, cost, style
Our service was more than excellent, attentive but not intrusive, and we were visited by both our wait person and managers for an extra touch. It is more like a restaurant experience with servers than a winery with tastings and/or a bottle, so along with the higher costs overall at Early Mountain you’ll need to budget for a tip.
Still, go here for a great gathering with friends (excellent seating options and beauty all around), or a romantic date. Plus, heavens, if you have an event and are in need of a space, its sheer gorgeousness and style would make it a top contender. I’d just say check on whether it has to be their food or what other catering options are available.
Overall, fairly highly recommended.
— Lindsay Curren, Girl Goes Virginia
Early Mountain Vineyards
6109 Wolftown-Hood Road
Madison, VA 22727