Pollak Vineyards: Yes, Jefferson Would be Proud

Hello Friends,

Our Next stop on the Monticello Wine Trail was to Pollak Vineyards. Pollak Vineyards, owned by Margo and David Pollak Jr, is located just west of Charlottesville in Greenwood, Virginia. Pollak Vineyards is a fairly new addition to the Monticello Wine Trail, opening its doors for tasting in the spring of 2008. This was my first visit to Pollak, but I was familiar with the name. In the short time they have been open for public tastings, there has been a fair amount of positive Internet & Blogger buzz about their wines and beautiful tasting room.

Arriving at Pollak Vineyards

The tasting room may have opened in 2008, but work began for the Pollak’s in 2003 when the 98-acre farm was purchased and 25 acres of vinifera vines were planted for the future bottling of estate wines. This was not the Pollak’s first brush with the wine and vine business, however - their passion goes back to the late 70’s with several California wine business ventures. It is a good thing that they saw the potential for producing high-quality wines in one of the world’s top five up-and-coming wine regions. And, yes, that would be Virginia, friends.

Pollak Vineyards Tasting Room

As we made our way to the tasting room, the spectacular scenery, vineyard views, and Virginia’s beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains were breath-taking. The new tasting room is comfortable and spacious with a step in the modern direction, offering tall ceilings, an abundance of natural light from oversized windows, a fireplace for the cooler months with comfortable furnishings, and a large tasting bar to accommodate the steady stream of Virginia Wine Lovers that visit. When it’s nice outdoors, enjoy vineyard and mountain views from the expanded front porch, or head to the rear deck that overlooks a serene pond and mature trees back-dropped by distant mountain views.

Tasting Room (Fireplace Area)

We were warmly greeted by the tasting associate as we approached the tasting bar and looked forward to tasting through Pollak wines and learning more about their operation. Looking over the tasting sheet, Pollak specializes exclusively in classic French varieties. Furthermore, upon second glance, Pollak wines are priced competitively. Before we could get to the first pour we were greeted by owner David Pollak Jr, and led to another private tasting area to go through Pollak’s standard wines and library wines that do not appear on the tasting sheet – what a treat.

Pollak Vineyards Tasting Bar

Joining us was General Manger Jake Busching who also oversees vineyard management and wine-making duties. Jake and David went over their wine-making philosophy with us, and as with any good Virginia producer who finds the success of their wines in consistency and quality, everything pointed towards the vineyard – for that is where high-quality wine is made. Backing up a bit, it all goes back to site selection, which is a very important decision considering the challenges faced by Virginia wine grape growers. Hey, we have clay, humidity, pest, and the list goes on. The Pollaks worked with Virginia viticulturist Chris Hill in finding the best possible site to produce high quality fruit from vitis vinifera grape varieties. Based on what I have heard about their wines, I think it is safe to say they were successful in their choice.

Tasting through Pollak's Wines

Pollak’s current offering consists of a Durant White 2008 (Viognier-based blend), Viognier 2008, Chardonnay 2008, Rosé 2008, Merlot 2007, Cabernet Franc 2007, Meritage 2006, and the Petit Verdot 2007. Their popular Pinot Gris 2008 and Durant Red 2007 (Cabernet Franc & Merlot blend) are both sold out. The reserve wines we tasted were the Cabernet Franc Reserve 2007 and the Cabernet Sauvignon Estate Grown 2007. While all the wines we tasted were delicious, expressing good varietal character from the grapes they were made from, my personal favorites of the lineup started with the aromatic Viognier 2008. The Viognier 2008 offers generous stone fruit (apricot & peach) and hints of tropical notes with moderate acidity and a round mouth-feel. The bright acidity and nice lingering and crisp finish keeps you wanting to swirl, sniff, and sip this one. My favorite in the red category was the Cabernet Franc Reserve 2007, which is one of the best I have tasted of the 07 Virginia vintage. The Cabernet Franc offers ripe red fruit (cherry) and mixed berry (blackberry & blueberry) fruit with a dash of cracked black pepper framed in lite toast with a smooth mouth-feel and silky lingering tannins.

Tasting what the future holds...

We were later led to the wine-making facility and were treated to barrel and tank samples. This is particularly fun and enlightening for me and something I’m fortunate to find myself partaking in so often with Virginia winemakers. Often times you hear about great Virginia Vintage years like 2002, 2005, and more recently 2007. But that can be tricky since Virginia has a wide range of soils and micro-climates. I have received a mixed bag of responses about the 2008 and 2009 vintage, but I can say that based upon the developing wines we tasted in barrel and tank I believe Pollak Vineyards can at the very least claim those to be good vintage years for their respective vineyard and wines. The 2009 Chardonnay (very tropical, touch of banana too) and Viognier (intense apricot and very aromatic) tank samples were promising, as were the two barrel samples of 2008 Merlot we sampled, and a young and beautifully scented (red fruit, faint floral note) 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon. We later moved to a Petit Verdot whose future “finishing act” is still being determined (remember, these are developing wines). This is a power-house wine, or what some may refer to as a “Big A^&^ wine”. It’s chewy, meaty, and assertive with streaks of dark currant and brambly fruit and pinches of cocoa – for sure, it’s destined to be a big tasty red meat wine. Lastly, we tasted a sample of what will be Pollak’s first dessert wine. It is 100% late harvest Viognier and offers ripe tree fruit flavors (pear & Asian pear), an unctuous and round mouth-feel, and adequate acidity to balance the sugars. Not sure when it will be released, but you if you are looking for a well-made and elegant dessert wine, I think this is what this is destined to be.

Enjoy the Beautiful Views at Pollak Vineyards

In closing, I can say that the internet and blogger buzz was right on target based on what I experienced during my visit. There is no doubt that Thomas Jefferson who aspired to grow and produce Monticello-grown wine would definitely be proud with the current state of the Virginia wine industry, and particularly, with producers like Pollak Vineyards, who along with select others are proving that Virginia can produce high-quality wines that are just as good as wines from other popular wine regions. For a fairly new winery, I left impressed with the overall operation. They have a friendly and knowledgeable staff, relaxing atmosphere, and offer delicious wines in a beautiful and picturesque setting. This is a strong “must visit” on the Monticello Wine Trail, friends. Trust me, you will not be disappointed. Cheese platters and other lite fare are available in the tasting room, so grab a glass of your favorite Pollak wine and waste the day away in the Virginia countryside. When you visit, tell the kind folks at Pollak you read about them on Dezel’s Vine Spot Wine Blog.

Winery Location: 330 Newtown Rd, Greenwood, VA 22943, USA , Phone: (540) 456-8844

Stay tuned friends ...Next winery review: King Family!

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