Thanksgiving Wine Find with Blue Ridge Wine Excursions

Hello Friends,

This past Friday I took in the last of the gorgeous fall colors and toured the Monticello wine trail with Blue Ridge Wine Excursions. The touring service recently partnered with local wine expert, Richard Leahy, to provide enjoyable and informative guided wine tours for those who not only desire to sip, but to learn more about the wineries, the area, the producers, and of course – the wine.

Blenheim Vineyard (Tasting Room)

Our media tour’s theme was “Virginia Wine for Thanksgiving.” We paid visits to three Monticello AVA producers with the goal of finding wines that would best suit the traditional Thanksgiving dinner. Virginia wines are versatile and a great match for a wide variety of foods, so finding the right Virginia wine is not an arduous task. While you will experience some vintage variation from one growing season to the next, Virginia wine, both red and white, is generally harmonious and supple with good food-friendly acidity.

Tasting with winemaker Kirsty Harmon

Thanksgiving dinner lends itself to a wide variety of flavors, textures and aromas. The key is to find a wine that will complement your meal and not overwhelm it. For this reason, Pinot Noir and Riesling are popular picks. The overall hot and humid climate here in Virginia doesn’t quite roll out the red carpet for cool climate varieties like Pinot Noir and Riesling, but there are some nice alternatives like Viognier, Petit Manseng, Cabernet Franc, Chambourcin, Petit Verdot, Norton, classic style Chardonnay and Merlot – all of which do well here in Virginia.

Beautiful Vineyard View at Montdomaine

Virginia also produces some nice sparkling wines, and bubbles are a good way to kick off Thanksgiving Day festivities. Don’t forget about the summer Rosé wines you may still have in the refrigerator. These wines are best enjoyed young and are good opening acts for any dinner party; including Thanksgiving.

Enjoying Montdomaine's 2008 Merlot

During our wine tour, I found several Virginia wines that could be at the center of your Thanksgiving Day dinner. Our first stop was to Blenheim Vineyards, a beautiful winery and tasting room owned by rock-star Dave Matthews and family. Dave has a rock-star wine-maker in Kirsty Harmon, who is producing some very nice, well-balanced, easy drinking wines. Blenheim Vineyard’s well-made 2009 Viognier was one of my top picks for Thanksgiving. It’s dry and fresh with good acidity, a kiss of toast, and could be enjoyed with anything from appetizers to the main dish.

Richard Leahy and Michael Bowles

Our next visit was with Michael Bowles, founder and owner of the pioneering Virginia winery, Montdomaine. Montdomaine recently resurfaced as a label after more than a fifteen year absence and boasts some of the oldest vinifera vines in the state. Being a fan of Virginia wine history, visiting with Michael was a treat. Montdomaine planted their vineyard in 1977, one year after Barboursville planted theirs.  Montdomaine’s wines garnered numerous awards, including the esteemed Governor's Cup, for their 1990 Cabernet Sauvignon. Proof that [some] Virginia wines can get better with age, Michael uncorked a Montdomaine 1987 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon that still had a lot of life, wonderful fruit complexity, good structure, and other pleasing charms that only come from patience and proper cellaring.

Well Hung Vineyard label

Michael’s wife, Loree, was kind enough to prepare delicious appetizers for us that paired perfectly with Montdomaine’s Chardonnay, Viognier, Merlot, and Cabernet Sauvignon – all of which were very nice wines. The 2008 Merlot, produced from some of the oldest Merlot vines in the state, is my Thanksgiving Day pick. The 2008 Merlot is smooth, with a soft texture and offers cherry and plum aromas with hints of spice. Its easy going and unpretentious character complements Thanksgiving fare and should be in your glass when the turkey is being carved and served.

Well Hung Vineyard Manager - Amy Steers

Our last stop of the day was to Well Hung Vineyard. We had the pleasure of meeting with vineyard manager Amy Steers, her husband Bill, and their son Colin, who does a very good job running the label's social media accounts. Well Hung’s name and logo is marketing genius. I have seen their name and logo repeatedly in social media circles but hadn’t tasted their wines. Clearly, the catchy name attracts you, but it’s the wine in the bottle that hooks you. Michael Shaps, a well-known Virginia winemaker and part owner of custom-crush facility Virginia Wine Works, makes wine for Montdomaine as well as Well Hung Vineyard. That said, each producer has a unique style, uses different fruit, but both are equally as good.

In the vineyard with Amy Steers

Amy spends much of her time in the vineyard and the family is very passionate about growing high-quality wine grapes to produce good quality Virginia wines. Their vineyard was established in 2000 and they sold their fruit to nearby wineries. In 2009, Well Hung produced their first vintage under their unforgettable label. For your dinner guests seeking a Virginia wine with a little more heft, I selected the Well Hung 2008 Private Select. The Private Select is a 50/50 blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Petit Verdot and offers brambly dark fruit, earthy qualities, baking spice, and has a solid structure with a long lingering finish. This wine presents an opportunity to show off your beautiful decanter to dinner guests. I would suggest decanting this selection for at least three hours prior to dinner.

Beautiful Sunset at Well Hung Vineyard

For the sweet ending, Virginia produces a number of Late Harvest dessert wines and several off-dry Port-style wines to complement popular Thanksgiving Day favorites: pumpkin and pecan pie [yum]. In the end, there are no hard rules for what you should or should not have on your table. The food and wine should complement one another and not overwhelm or overpower. The right pairing will bring out nuances and enhance the flavors and characters of both the food and the wine. Enjoy the food and wine pairings, family and friends, and have a Happy Thanksgiving Day.    

Have a question about this post, friends? Feel free to leave a comment or send me an e-mail at, and as always, Happy Sipping! Stay tuned friends ...More to come!

INFO: CLICK HERE to follow Blenheim Vineyard on Twitter.

INFO: CLICK HERE to follow Montdomaine on Twitter. (NOTE: Open by appointment only)

INFO: CLICK HERE to follow Well Hung Vineyard on Twitter. (NOTE: Open by appointment only)

Tour Service Info: Blue Ridge Wine Excursions, E-Mail: or call 434 531-5802.

CLICK HERE to visit Richard Leahy's wine website.

Buy a half-case or more of wine and get half-off shipping with promo code "vine44"

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