A New Adventure on the Farm
Raising her family in the same farm house where she grew up Adventure Farm General Manager Andrea Matheson says the operation is all about the family farm and it always will be. This June, Adventure Farm of Albemarle County opened their winery Tasting Room and Farm Store but they are far from new to the area.
When Matheson’s grandfather, E. Morris Chisholm, acquired this Albemarle farm property in 1950, life in central Virginia was slow and people were scarce. The University of Virginia was a small state university (all men) and the entire town of Charlottesville had only 25 thousand citizens. There was no I-64, no airport and very little modern infrastructure. In those days the farm’s phone was on a “party line” with all the neighbors and the Adventure Farm was remote and “in the country”. Matheson’s grandmother, Mary Jane Chisholm, still retains ownership.
The land that now houses the Charlottesville-Albemarle Airport was once a part of the family farm. As the planes come in from west approach they fly directly over the vineyards of Adventure Farms. Wine made by Bluemont Vineyards from this vineyard’s fruit was awarded a Gold Medal in the 2013 Governor’s Cup Competition. Farm Manager Carl Tinder joked the plants liked waving to all the planes as they were coming and going.
Yes, over the past 60 years the town of Charlottesville has grown, but Adventure Farm is still the bucolic paradise it’s always been. The farm’s pastures are rolling and gentle. Naked Creek runs through to the South Fork Rivanna reservoir and the breathtaking Blue Ridge Mountains line the view to west. Numerous lakes and ample woods provide an abundance of wildlife such as geese, ducks, deer, fox, dove & quail.
Crop diversification and traditional farming practices have improved the land quality by increasing soil fertility and decreasing erosion. Crops such as grapes, hay, corn, soybeans, wheat and livestock such as beef, goats, eggs, pork are produced in their natural cycles, providing for the family as well as the surrounding community.
Matheson explained that the grapes were first planted in 2006. The vineyard site is exceptional and they have been adding to the vineyard acreage a little each year. Today, Adventure Farm has about twelve acres under vine with eight acres currently producing [longtime Grapevine readers know it takes three years (also known as third leaf) for a vine to grow from planting to full production].
After seeing their grapes do so well for other wineries in competition, Adventure Farm thought they should hold back some of the fruit and make limited production wines. Working with longtime Virginia Winemaker Michael Shaps at Virginia Wine Works, Adventure Farm was able to launch their own label.
Utilizing a converted plant nursery building as their Tasting Room/Farm Store, Adventure Farm feels miles away from the hubbub of the “City” despite being just a stone’s throw from the Charlottesville-Albemarle airport. It is all about the farm.
The wines of Adventure Farm tend to be more subtle in their flavor profile with a slightly understated winemaking touch. The wines lean toward more integrated palate with fruit elegance throughout. The 2012 Chardonnay features lighter than average hue and nice yeasty butter notes on the nose. The midpalate is expressive with undertones of green apple leading to a clean finish with vanilla notes.
The white wine that caught my fancy however is Adventure Farm’s 2013 Viognier with its bright floral nose highlighted by honeysuckle and summer melon. The midpalate has a cascading influence of honey, cantaloupe and light toast. The finish lingers nicely. This would make an excellent deck sipping summer wine.
The winery is currently producing one red wine under the Adventure Farm Label “Gigi” is named in honor of their grandmother. This 50/50 blend of Chambourcin and Cabernet Sauvignon is a great “house” wine. Exceedingly approachable with delightful cherry notes it has a moderate tannic structure and a lighter than average finish makes it a natural “Pizza and spaghetti” or “every day” wine. I paired this wine with my hearty spicy spaghetti with meat sauce and it performed exceedingly well.
The winery is also pouring a few bottles from their winemaker Michael Shaps’ label. The 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon is made from all Adventure Farms grapes and is a big red with subtle attack. The complex midpalate has well integrated cedar and plum notes leading to silky tannins on the finish that lingers with a hint of pipe tobacco and leather.
The winery is adamant about using only estate fruit and is not looking to be the biggest winery on the block. “The wine is a just one part of what we do here on the farm. In October, we have the pumpkin patch and we build a corn maze,” Matheson explained. For the Grand Opening, in addition to our wines they featured Argentinian chefs expertly preparing their farm beef slow cooked over wood fires in Asado style.
The Farm Store is a big part of the family’s plans for the operation. Adventure Farm is currently offering some of its premium beef for sale. The farm raises the Angus Saler cross which produces a superior animal. Steers are bred, born and raised on Adventure Farm. They are grass fed and grain finished for superb marbling. The cattle are raised entirely in open pastures. The steers are processed at Fauquier’s Finest Country Butcher Shop in Virginia, dry aged 2-3 weeks and flash frozen.
Beyond just their farm’s products, Adventure Farm also sells neighboring farmers’ eggs, chickens and on occasion garden produce. This fall, the Farm Store will be offering local turkey. In December, the farm sells Christmas Trees including visits from Santa. Charley’s Chili (made from AF Beef) is a local favorite served at all the AF events.
Matheson also indicated her eagerness to open the farm for weddings and private events that are seeking to have a more relaxed and rustic appeal. Working as a family, Adventure Farm is creating a sustainable, diversified agricultural operation in Northern Albemarle County.
Located just 6 miles North of Charlottesville, Adventure Farm is located about a two hour drive from Old Town.
Andrea Matheson, General Manager
Hometown: Earlysville, VA [Right here on the farm]
Item that is always in your fridge: Seltzer Water
Most challenging wine pairing: Artichokes [solved with sparkling wine]
Best thing about the Virginia Wine Industry: Friendliness and ability to come together
Worst thing about the Virginia Wine Industry: Regulation
Favorite Bumper Sticker or saying: Enjoy Every Day – Carpe Diem!
Comfort Food: chocolate chip cookies [Can’t resist them right out of the oven]
Favorite Wine (yours or anyone elses): 2010 Michael Shaps Cabernet Sauvignon (using our grapes)
Written by: Neil Williamson
Neil Williamson is the President of The Trellis Group, a marketing consultancy focused on Virginia wineries. He can be reached at Trellisgroup@earthlink.net.