Darling is on the trail - the Monticello Wine Trail, that is. Our first stop: King Family Vineyards for an afternoon polo picnic in the Blue Ridge Mountains. James King shared with us the history of King Family wine and Roseland Polo, a Sunday tradition for many locals. Read more in the Q&A below.
Consider these pictures a teaser for the styled shoot on location at KFV coming to the blog next week!
Q&A with James King
We love the strong family dynamic of King Family Vineyards. Give us a brief history of King Family Vineyards.
After moving from Houston, Texas, we purchased the original 327 acre farm in 1996. In late 1998, a young man named Tom Vandenberg, knocked on our door and asked if he could lease ten acres for a vineyard. Sparked by his curiosity and research, we did our homework, and soon hired a vineyard consultant. A nursery in California had a few extra vines, so six months of hard work later, our first eight acres of vines had been planted.
Initially the plan was to simply sell the fruit, but in the interest of learning as much as possible, we decided to make wine with a portion of the harvest and sell the rest. 480 cases in 2000 became 1,050 cases by 2001, and it all sold! After a quick visit to California for ideas, we designed our winery on the back of a napkin and by October 1, 2002 opened our real, honest-to-goodness winery. Since then both the vineyard and the business have grown.
When and why did your family decide to found a winery here in Virginia? What about Cville and the surrounding area makes it ideal for wine-makers?
We actually produced our first vintage back in 2000 at Afton Mountain Vineyards, in Afton, Virginia. Back then we didn't have our own winery and they graciously opened their doors to us to help us get into the wine industry. We picked our grapes on our farm, loaded them up into a cooling truck and drove them to Afton Mountain Vineyards for processing. While this worked fairly well, it was challenging from a logistical standpoint and we quickly realized that in order for this to be sustainable, we'd need a facility of our own. We visited California and looked at several wineries for different design ideas and ended up drawing the design on the back of a napkin. We broke ground in 2001 and by October 1, 2002 we officially opened our doors.
Let's talk King Family wine. Describe the types of varietals grown, and the winemaking philosophy, under the direction of winemaker Matthieu Finot.
We grow seven different French varietals including Viognier, Chardonnay, Petit Manseng, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Petit Verdot & Malbec. With these grapes, Matthieu Finot makes 11 different wines. Predominantly, Matthieu makes dry, traditional and Old World style wines whose production is lead by terroir, or "sense of place," rather than on science in the winery or the winemaker. Matthieu would describe himself as a “non-interventionist.” His role is to supervise how the fruit expresses itself as it is made into wine. This style encourages greater complexity and balance, and results in wines that best reflect the importance of the terroir.
In 10 words or less, describe KFV wine. Be creative!
Our wine is made for sharing with family & friends!
What are 5 things people don’t know about the wine-making process?
- The hours are long and difficult... 16-18 hour days!
- You're typically wet and cold most of the time.
- It takes a lot of beer to make wine!
- Weather can impact each day dramatically.
- Winemaking is about 60% science and 40% art.
How have you seen the local wine scene grow over the past years?
The local wine scene has grown tremendously over the past decade. When we started there were about 70 wineries in the state of Virginia. Today, there are over 270 licensed wineries across the Commonwealth. Agritourism succeeds in clusters, so we encourage and support other wineries and those who are entering the wine industry by sharing equipment, knowledge and staff. A rising tide, raises all boats!
Roseland Polo is a Sunday tradition for many in the area. What came first - polo or the winery?
Polo! My Dad, David King, who founded King Family Vineyards in 1998, has played polo since 1980. When we moved from Texas to Virginia in 1995, he was looking for the flattest piece of land in Albemarle County so that he could build a polo field. At that point, growing grapes and making wine weren't part of the plan. Polo is his hobby and passion and something that he enjoys sharing with others.
Talk about the family's polo history, and the beautiful concept of creating "a country place where we could all live, work, and play."
Even though grape growing and winemaking became the focus of the family business, polo was still a hobby and passion that my dad wanted to pursue. Once the polo field was built and he started practicing on it during business hours curious customers would watch from the tasting room and ask, "What is going on over there?" Before you know it, people were bringing their lawn chairs out to drink wine and watch polo practice. Practice morphed into matches and lawn chairs morphed into cars, tents, and full-scale tailgating. The rest is history.
As far as creating a "country place where we can all live, work, and play" goes, we all feel very blessed to not only live here in Crozet within a half-mile from one another, but we also get the opportunity to work together and raise our children here. It's a very rare opportunity.
What is your most popular wine? Why?
While Meritage is our flagship wine, I'd have to say that Crosé is our most popular wine. It's light, crisp and refreshing...perfect for summer! It's only 11.9% ABV so it's easy to drink and very versatile with food pairings and goes well with almost anything off the grill.
Suggest one of your wines for the fall season ahead. What makes it perfect for the change of seasons?
I'd recommend drinking Cabernet Franc. It's our lightest red wine by far, which makes it great for both red and white wine drinkers. As the weather cools, most people prefer to transition from white wines to reds. Along that same line, many dishes prepared in the fall tend to be heavier than summer dishes...you start to see more Italian food, lamb, pork, and turkey. Cabernet Franc pairs well with all of these making is a great transitional wine going into the fall.
Share a recipe or favorite dish to pair with one of your wines.
I'd make Roast Pork Loin with Apples and pair it with our Cabernet Franc.