Home on the Farm – Weston Farm Vineyard and Winery
Between the sleepy little town of Louisa and The I-64 corridor, Weston Farm Vineyard and Winery is a quiet oasis where wine growing and hospitality meet. Weston is the home of Bobby and Penny Martin and their beloved French bulldogs Charlie and Suzie. The rolling hills of the over three hundred acre estate is just a stone’s throw from Louisa Courthouse Square.
In 2005, the Martins planted ten acres of vines. The first planting included Norton, Viognier, Petit Manseng, Petit Verdot, Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon. In 2007, they planted an additional two acres of Viognier and Petit Manseng. Originally they thought they would grow and sell the fruit to the many wineries in the Central Virginia region. As they tended the fruit through the early, nonbearing years, the Martins found themselves at a tipping point – they then decided, “Let’s go all in with a winery and tasting room”.
Working with Virginia viticultural veteran Gabriele Rausse, Penny began her winemaking career. Under Rausse’s guidance, Penny has established an understated winemaking style that focuses on the fruit flavor profile producing a more elegant, food friendly wine. While Bobby assists in the wine making tasks, it is clear as he waves from the seat of the tractor, he is most at home working the land in the vineyards.
Walking into the tasting room nestled near the rear of the property, one is struck by the Circa 1790 Farmhouse just to the right. The house, remodeled in 2002, now serves as a Bed & Breakfast also operated by the Martins. With its open front porch facing the vineyards, the B&B provides four different room options. Considering its central location, it is no wonder the B&B has served as host to a number of weddings, family reunions and weekend getaways since opening earlier this summer.
Working with a local wine touring company, Be Grapeful, the B&B can serve as a home base for a day while touring many other wineries located in the central Virginia region.
History buffs love staying at the B&B as well. Looking at a map one can anticipate the strategic import of Louisa in both the Revolutionary and Civil Wars. Patrick Henry lived in and represented Louisa in state government from 1765 to 1768. The Virginia Central Railroad ran through Louisa County and during the Civil War, it was an important supply line for Confederate armies. As I stood in the tasting room, the train’s whistle was audible across the vineyards.
As the newest addition to the six member Heart of Virginia Wine Trail, Weston Farm works with Cooper Vineyards, Lake Anna Winery, James River Cellars, Grayhaven and Mattaponi winery to host fun events throughout the year. December 7th and 8th they will be a part of the holiday themed Jingle Bell Wine Trail where each winery will be decked out in their festive finery and visitors purchase a HOVA passport that is honored for tastings at all of the wineries.
A tasting at Weston Farm is often accompanied by the melodious snoring of Charlie the Bulldog sleeping behind the bar. While some might find such noise disturbing, I clearly found it comforting as Penny walked me through Weston’s impressive wine portfolio.
A true boutique winery, Weston produces about 2,000 cases annually. The 2010 Chardonnay is an excellent example of their generally fruit forward style. Fermented in stainless steel, this chardonnay presents light almost amber in the glass. The nose is filled with apple and tropical flavors. The sharper than average attack includes elements of pear, honeysuckle and fig. The finish is brief, crisp and clean.
Viognier is Virginia’s official wine grape and Weston Farm’s 2011 Viognier is a good example of the versatility and flexibility of this grape. Stainless steel fermentation means the attack is bright with a great deal of fruit right up front. The mid-palate expands slightly to expose pink grapefruit and honeydew melon tones. The finish is light and speedy.
The red wine portfolio is unique at Weston Farm because all but the Cabernet Franc and the Meritage are absent any oak influences. Similar stylistically to the stainless steel fermented white wines, the reds tend to be less tannic and more fruit forward due to this winemaking decision.
The 2011 Petit Verdot is as dark and inky as most Virginia Petit Verdot tends to be but the comparison stops there. Petit Verdot is classically a blending grape from Bordeaux. Generally aged for 18 to 24 months in oak, the wine usually provides tannic structure and color to blends. In this iteration, the lack of oak accentuates the strawberry undertones of the grape. A slight smokiness remains on the finish but the bright finish is neither long nor tannic.
The 2009 Norton was picked early to avoid the onslaught of the rains from a powerful Nor’easter. Norton is such a dark grape to begin with it is not surprising the wine retained its full color. What is surprising, considering the early harvest, is the well-structured body and expansive mid-palate. The finish lingers nicely with a hint of leather. Tasting the 2010 Norton after the 2009 showcased the differences a year can make. The 2010 is much fruitier with an increased level of complexity across the flavor profile.
Of the two red wines that do receive oak treatment, my preference is clearly to the 210 Meritage. A blend of 41% Merlot, 38% Petit Verdot and 21% Cabernet Franc, this wine presents beautifully in the glass with a nice ruby hue. The nose is somewhat closed on first pouring but within 5 minutes of swirling the sweet aromas of plum and anise reveal themselves. Subtle on the attack, this medium body red really hits its stride in the mid-palate with cascading flavors of stone fruits and an undercurrent of raspberry. The finish is shorter than anticipated but will extend with proper cellaring. This wine will age well particularly in the next 12 to 24 months. I anticipate significantly increased complexity in the end of the mid-palate and the finish.
The sweet wines of Weston Farm are truly a delight. The non-vintage Peach has almost a schnapps nose but without the viscosity of the higher alcohol cousin. The nose softens on the attack leading to a gentle mid-palate filled with over ripe summer peach notes. One can anticipate serving this with a slightly spicy dish, perhaps tomato based barbeque or on the other side of spicy – a rich cheesecake.
I hesitate to write about my favorite fruit wine as Penny informed me that she had just eight bottles when I tasted (she only had 7 after I left J). The nose on this wine is so full one almost expected to see seeds in the bottom of the glass. Delightfully light in body and structure this wine makes an excellent aperitif or parting wine.
Penny and Bobby Martin have made their passion for agriculture and wine into their livelihood. Working with some of Virginia’s finest viticulturalists, they are making fine wine home on the farm.
Penny and Bobby Martin, Weston Farm Vineyard and Winery
Hometown: Charlottesville, VA
Item that is always in your fridge: A bottle of Peach wine
Most challenging wine pairing: Everything goes well with something!
Best thing about the Virginia Wine Industry: All the wonderful people
Worst thing about the Virginia Wine Industry: Bad weather that we can’t control
Favorite Bumper Sticker or saying: Virginia Makes Wine, Napa Makes Auto Parts
Comfort Food: Chocolate
Most embarrassing moment: Penny – Accidently spilling a customer’s glass of red wine down the front of my white shirt in the tasting room
Favorite Wine (yours or anyone elses): Viognier
~ Written by: Neil Williamson
Neil Williamson is the Chairman of the Virginia Wine Club Tasting Panel and Editor of The Virginia Wine Journal. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org