Early Mountain Vineyards is destination winery

By Posted on Jul 26 2014 | By

Guests encouraged to relax and savor Virginia

Here’s an unlikely question: Have you ever relaxed in a 3,500 square foot living room?

If not, then head down to Early Mountain Vineyards in Madison. Its expansive tasting room is one of the largest—and most comfortable—in the Old Dominion.

Comfy couches, oversized chairs, a fireplace and artfully placed tables produce an atmosphere conducive to lingering over a wide selection of Virginia wines. Management won’t encourage you to drink up and move on. Your task here is to settle in and sip.

“We want you to come in and relax. Here you are able to truly taste through a variety of wines and contemplate the nuances that each presents,” said General Manger Dave Kostelnik. “So maybe it’s a two or three hour trip to Early Mountain rather than the traditional winery visit.”

Early Mountain Vineyards

Early Mountain Vineyards

The success of that goal is reflected in the numbers. “We’ve seen attendance increase 30 percent over last year. It’s a big, comfortable but very elegant tasting room,” said Kostelnik.

The overall winery itself is an expansive 19,000 square foot mansion-like home that sits on 300 acres dedicated to all things wine; 27 acres are under vine.

A separate production facility covers 28,000 square feet, producing 4,500 cases annually. It’s best to suspend any previous ideas of what a typical Virginia winery looks like when visiting Early Mountain. The place is huge.

What further separates the winery from the rest of the state’s industry is wines from across Virginia are served in addition to its own lineup. Swing by Early Mountain and they’ll include “visits” to other top producers. It’s more than just a twofer; up to a dozen other wines from top producers are available daily.

“Quality has increased in Virginia. It’s been dramatic. We wanted to find a way to make a contribution to Virginia wine,” said Kostelnik. “We are constantly scouring the state looking for wines we feel are the best representations of Virginia; unique wines, wines of place.

“That’s why we are serving wines in flights. A flight allows you to compare and contrast and integrate some cheese and charcuterie and see how they interact together,” explains Kostelnik.

Of course, if you already know what you want, it’s available by the glass or bottle.

The vision of an over-the-top winery showcasing the state’s industry belongs to Steve and Jean Case. Steve Case was founder of AOL and today is chairman and CEO of Revolution, a Washington, D.C. based investment firm.

His wife Jean has taken the lead in turning the winery vision into reality. The Cases were impressed with Virginia’s wine ascent and had an opportunity to purchase the former Sweeley Estate Winery in 2011. After a six month renovation, the facility opened as Early Mountain in 2012.

More than wine
In keeping with its theme to entertain, the winery hosts live music Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays. “Friday evenings the tasting room is absolutely full,” says Kostelnik, which speaks to the success of creating a club-like atmosphere for both locals and out-of-towners.

Tasting room nook

Tasting room nook

A consulting chef from DC, Jenn Crovato, oversees the kitchen menu that serves soups, sandwiches and similar light fare.

Other Virginia made products are also available including ham, charcuterie and artisan cheeses; products that go nicely with a glass of wine.

The facility includes a large main hall for special events and weddings. Over forty weddings a year are hosted at the winery and include the use of a cottage on the property, primarily for use by the bride in getting ready for the ceremony. It’s also where the Cases stay when visiting and is available for rental for romantic getaways.

With the summer months upon us, there is a patio that seats forty and a terrace area with picnic tables and picturesque views of the vineyards. “The goal is to allow you to come out, relax, enjoy the scenery, have something to eat, bring the kids and dog, and appreciate the wine,” says Kostelnik.

Early Mountain Vineyards is open six days a week and closed on Tuesdays. For information on upcoming events visit: http://earlymountain.com/


John’s Pick of the Month

“For The Love Of Whites” wine flight


Rather than select a single bottling this month, you be the expert and evaluate the white flight selections and make the call yourself. The flight includes a sparkler, a Sauvignon Blanc, a Chardonnay and a white blend.

The flight concept allows you to engage in the “compare and contrast” fun of wine evaluation. After you’ve picked a favorite—and they’re all good—your purchase decision will have been made. Cheers!

Published in the July 24, 2014 edition of the Culpeper Times.


Categories : WINE ARTICLES