Yesterday I had the pleasure of visiting with the folks at Lovingston Winery in rural Lovingtson, Virginia. Far South on the Monticello Wine Trail, they are set off of a back road, nestled into a hill deemed “Josie’s Knoll”. To say that they are on the Wine Trail is a stretch, they are quite a bit away from their surrounding wineries and that’s okay, it works for their business model. Their model is completely different from any other winery I have visited here in Virginia. Instead of focusing on tourism, events and traffic through a tasting room, or attending festivals, their primary source of sales comes via the wholesale market in retail shops and restaurants. Not to say they don’t welcome visitors to their winery, they are more than happy for you to make an appointment. It’s an interesting concept for a Virginia winery and one that comes with an adjustment to their pricing structure. Honestly when they handed me their tasting/price sheet I thought it was the wholesale version. They are pricing their wines to be competitive on a global scale, with their most expensive wine selling for $19 retail, the Reserve Merlot, and the rest from $12-$14. Their Cab Franc is very tasty and retails for $12, pretty amazing considering the amount of hands on production they have. (gravity flow, double sorting, seed removal during fermentation, etc.)
Being in retail wine sales for my day job, I appreciate the lower prices as a lot of times comments regarding Virginia wines are negativity towards the pricing. I do hope they can afford to keep pricing wine this way, as they are pretty small. At around 2K cases, I imagine it’s hard to absorb the chunk that the distributor takes, especially at the low retail prices they are shooting for. In addition to the fact that this is the primary means of their sales vs. most VA wineries, where wholesale is a small percentage.
Both Stephanie and her dad visited with me and gave me the full spiel on their wines and impressed me with their knowledge of wine and wine making. I didn’t get to meet the winemaker, Riaan Rossouw who is South African, a shame because I hear he is a hoot to talk with.
Some notes on a couple of favorites from my tasting…
2007 Cabernet Franc ($12) – (10% Merlot) – full of earthy notes (especially on the nose) black currant, sauteed green pepper, and raspberry. Juicy in the mid-palate but still maintained a nice “leanness”, with a medium to full body.
2006 Reserve Merlot ($19) – load of fruit up front, highlighted by black cherry and pomegranate, with leather and a hint of cigar box provided some nice earth tones at the back of the palate. Full bodied and well structured – nice effort (from a non-merlot fan)
2009 Petite Manseng ($13) – (2% RS) – very rich, ripe apricot and mango, very tropical. The slight sweetness is very balanced as the wine had some good back end acidity.
Cheers to Lovingston for a nice visit and some tasty juice!
Love the Lovingston crew. Nice report, I’ll have to make the trip.
Very interesting. I think that price is a big reason that VA wine has a hard time gaining mainstream adoption. The Quality/Price Ratio that Gary Vaynerchuk so often talks about just isn’t there for a lot of the wines from the state. I’m willing to pay more for the “experience” and to support local wineries, but not everyone can afford to make that choice.
Will have to check Lovingston out next time I’m in the Charlottesville area. I’ve heard a lot about them recently and need to try the Rotunda Red since I’m a UVA grad. 🙂