Prince Michel Vineyard and Winery

By Posted on Nov 14 2015 | By

Over three decades of successful winemaking

It’s fitting the original founder of Prince Michel Vineyard and Winery was a Frenchman; France has produced wine for over 2,000 years. Jean Leducq and his wife Sylviane established the winery in 1982 when Virginia was in its wine infancy.

But in 2002, Jean Leducq died and his wife sold the winery to Kristin Swanson Holzman. Together with winemaker Brad Hansen, the pair has grown Prince Michel into the fourth largest winery in the Old Dominion, producing 45,000 cases annually.

Brad Hansen

Brad Hansen

“I have been with Prince Michel for 16 years. I couldn’t imagine a situation arising that would make me jump away from this,” Hansen said smiling. “We have kind of a family relationship. It goes beyond just showing up. We are all looking out for each other even out of the work place.”

The family-like atmosphere may well be the basis for the quality wines produced at the Leon facility, located on Route 29 south of Culpeper. Karma goes into every bottle coming off the bottling line.

The winery produces two brands: Prince Michel and Rapidan River Wines. The former are traditional drier wines and the latter sweeter and fruit wines. The branding employs market segmentation providing customers a wide spectrum of wines to choose from.

Proprietor and vintner
Holzman and Hansen have a long working relationship that dates to when she sold grapes to Prince Michel over 15 years ago. Holzman farmed Ivy Creek Vineyards in Ivy, a respected vineyard that consistently produced quality fruit. Hansen established a long-term contact with her that eventually led to her buying Prince Michel.

Prior to grape growing, Holzman was a successful interior designer specializing in luxury yacht interiors. Her success led to establishing her own design company in Florida and eventually purchasing a historic property in the Charlottesville area.

The land was producing Viognier and Merlot grapes and set the stage for her next career as winegrower. The serendipitous purchase of her grapes by Hansen led to her buying Prince Michel in 2005.

As a young man Brad Hansen earned a degree in Botany and a Master’s Degree in Enology. He worked at Chateau St. Michelle and Columbia Crest in Washington State before returning East and to the eventual position as winemaker at Prince Michel.

In 1990, he married his wife Lydia and together they raised two “winery children” at Prince Michel, Christian and Isabella. “Both of our children grew up in the winery with me. I have lots of great stories of them helping me clean barrels, tanks, and doing other winery work,” Hansen said.

The hard working winemaker and family man has earned more than 400 medals for his wines.

Vineyard strategy
When Leducq established the winery 33 years ago, he grew his vineyard to 500 acres under vine; an exceptionally large planting even by today’s standards.

But it was also an era when vineyard managers were struggling to decode the secret behind what grapes to grow where. The “somewhereness” of a grape’s soil and climate is critical to sussing out the best properties of the fruit.

One grape that failed to fall in love with Virginia was Riesling; Leducq had planted 150 acres of the varietal that eventually had to be abandoned. Like many pioneers he left a legacy useful to future grape growers. Riesling is not widely grown in Virginia today.

As a result, in 2002 Hansen began sourcing fruit from quality vineyards from around the state. The strategy offered two advantages. First, it created a diversity of flavor profiles and secondly mitigated the dangers of a given seasonal crop failure by eliminating the “all eggs in one basket” approach to farming the delicate Vitis vinifera grape.

“I cherry picked the better Virginia vineyards and developed long-term relationships with the owners,” Hansen said.

Prince Michel WineryToday, the original Prince Michel vineyard has been reduced in size to six acres under vine; Pinot Grigio and Chardonnay are the two varietals grown on site. The majority of fruit is now sourced from six premier vineyards scattered across Virginia.

Ask a winemaker what wine he or she is most proud of and you’ll likely get a hedge answer such as “all of them”. But of course.

In reality, a handful of beauties will truthfully come to mind for most winemakers.
Acknowledging that crisp, white wines are his summer favorites Hansen says, “When the weather turns, I’m in love with Symbius.”

Explaining modestly that the red blend “makes itself”, the effort in creating it belies that opinion. “We take all of the reds from a vintage and Kristin, Lydia and I blind taste them. We will taste 300 or 400 glasses and come up with the best of the best,” Hansen said.

Out of the seemingly endless number of potential red blends comes Symbius. “If I am not satisfied with that vintage blend, I will not make the wine that year,” Hansen emphasizes.

Typically, the final product receives four to six years of barrel aging before it is released to its waiting followers.

Prince Michael Vineyard and Winery is opened seven days a week. For information on hours of operation, events and more visit

                                            John’s pick of the month

Prince Michel Vineyard and Winery

2010 Symbius


A rich blend of Bordeaux varietals, the wine displays a deeply colored red in the glass with aromatics of black fruits and currants. On the palate, full-bodied flavors of blackberry and currant dominate followed by a long, silky finish.

Pair this red beauty with a petite filet mignon and Yukon Gold mashed potatoes. To further enhance its enjoyment, add a gently crackling fireplace.


Published in the October 15, 2015 edition of the Culpeper Times.

Categories : WINE ARTICLES