The founder, William Morrisette, started the winery with a few acres of vines and bottled the product for fun and friends who started pestering him to make some to sell.
Then David Morrisette, his son took the first viticulture class at Mississippi State and started down the path that has led the winery to become Virginia's oldest and largest, producing 60,000 cases a year, of 19 different wines.
After 20 years in California, with all the wine snobbery inherent in West Coast wine making, I was fascinated to see this massive and very successful winery tucked off the Blue Ridge Parkway at Mile 172. I had never previously seen a crushing operation integrated into the main building and operated as a public spectacle:
I love that idea of having a wine based picnic while watching actual winery operations. I want to go back in September.
Mike was our animated and cheerful guide on the brief tour, showing us the vast fermentation vats cooling the bubbling wines, and rows of oak barrels awaiting their next load.
The winery, all 32,000 square feet of it, is built from salvaged timber found in Washington State. We tasted a dozen of the wines on offer, and though they do produce a couple of gruesomely sweet Mogen David type wines the bulk of the production we found to be sophisticated and very drinkable.
I am rather tired of heavy dark reds and though there was a very dry earthy Merlot the other blends offered a lighter touch and interesting fruity taste. There was an astonishing variety and I could see a red or a white or the crisp rosé on my table for any occasion. I was quite surprised.
Chateau Morrisette Web Page
The winery is located in rural Floyd County to the west of Roanoke.
It is classic mountain terrain, deep clefts, woods and homes scattered alongside the roads.
I found the people we met to be charming and cheerful as usual, in defiance of all the movie stereotypes of surly inbred country folk fearful of outsiders.
Land is abundant and cheap, winters on the high plateau are harsh I am told, though a one bedroom cabin on three acres with a deck and all modern conveniences a few miles outside Floyd itself, was offered at $78,000. Hmm...
The scenery is pastoral in the extreme though 20 miles away there is a movie theater showing Art films not yet seen in Key West.
The roads wind and twist through forests and fields in some most delightful driving.
Who knew Virginia made wine or looked like this?
This isn't high priced California or Key West and all the better for it!
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