On our second day in the Charlottesville area, we headed towards Afton Mountain. First on the agenda for the day was a new winery, Pollak Vineyards which is currently conducting a “soft opening” prior to their grand opening on May 17th. The winery, owned by David and Margo Pollak was in full effect though, with tasting room manager Nick Dovel running us through the full line of Pollak’s first vintage of wines. Pollak has 25 acres of planted vines that were put in the ground in 2003, and currently has about 2200 cases in production with plans to ramp up to no more than 5000 cases in the future. Winemaker/vineyard manager Jake Busching utilizes a ballerina style trellis system in the vineyard. The lower trellis wire is 4 ft off the ground vs. the typical 3 feet, which allows for better airflow and more resistance to frost and/or mold damage. The trellis system gets its name because it allows for some of the shoots to be positioned upwards, leaving the remainder to fall open like a ballerina skirt. This type of system maximizes the amount of sunlight that is exposed to the canopy and fruit, with the hope of maximizing the grape quality– by the way the wines tasted, I think it is working.
All of the seven varietals that make up the wine collection at Pollack are grown on site under the watchful eye of Jake.
Here is what we tasted –
2007 Pinot Gris – round body, different from most Pinot Gris I have had, apple, lime and big mineral finish
2007 Viognier – beautiful lush mouthfeel, apricot, honeysuckle on the nose with loads of fresh peach and citrus notes on the palate
2007 Estate Chardonnay – medium body, toasty notes followed by starfruit, oak, pear and almond flavors
2007 Virginia Chardonnay – (due to the frost in early spring of ’07 they did not have the crop they needed to make only the Estate chardonnay so Pollack bought some grapes from Breaux vineyards in Loudon County to help supplement this wine) – crisp wine with citrus and green apple notes, bit too much oak on the finish for me
2007 Rose (Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot and Merlot)– medium to full bodied Rose, strawberry and watermelon notes, with fresh cranberry towards the finish, soft mouthfeel on the palate with a crisp refreshing finish
All the red wines are Unfiltered
2006 Cabernet Franc (extended 45 day maceration) – full round mouthfeel, solid weight in the mouth, raspberry, black pepper, currant with long finish
2006 Merlot – full body, black cherry, mint, and blackberry flavors, long finish with a hint of floral (maybe rose), extremely smooth
2006 Petit Verdot – plum, green pepper, and blackberry very smooth and round mouthfeel
2005 Meritage (44% Cabernet Franc, 43 % Merlot, 13% Petit Verdot) – Cedar, caramelized bananas, raspberry reduction sauce, and a mushroom fungus finish. Nice medium to full body with soft dusty tannins
I am always nervous trying out new wineries because they sometimes are still just getting their feet wet, such that the wines and the tasting process may be a bit awkward. Not the case here though—all of the wines were extremely well crafted, and with the exception of the non-estate Chardonnay, I truly loved all of the wines. Now this glowing review is coming straight from the heart and the palate- unfortunately I am not getting any kick-backs from Pollak, although they can feel free to send me any wine they want me to review. Haha!
As I said earlier, the tasting was conducted by the tasting room manager Nick who answered every wine geek question I could throw at him, barely blinking before he gave me the answer. In addition to Nick, Jake stopped by the tasting room so I was able to chew his ear off for a good 20 minutes, learning about his philosophy on wine-making and vineyard management, which was quite impressive. Jake follows the principal of crafting wines in the vineyard and not in the winery, handling the juice as little as possible and allowing the grapes to fully express themselves. Jim also got me excited about the newly bottled but not yet released Cabernet Sauvignon, which he said will knock my socks off and definitely bring the thunder- I can only imagine this prediction is true on the basis of the wines I tasted.
As you can see from the pictures, the winery is beautiful in both form and function, with a beautiful wrap-around porch overlooking the lake for enjoying wine and a picnic while you take in the majestic views of Afton Mountain. After we had made our rounds to the other wineries of the day, we reconvened at Pollak to enjoy the afternoon sun and to share a bottle of Rose with my sister Elizabeth and her husband Jeff.
John, Megan and Elizabeth
Make sure to check them out on your next trip to the Afton area, you won’t be disappointed.