The year 2014 brought plenty of opportunities to expand our knowledge and palate in wine. One such opportunity was our honeymoon to Burgundy, which gave us a greater appreciation for the region and the Burgundian style of wine. While Burgundy is a bit of a trip, there is an incredible opportunity to regularly experience Burgundy right here in Virginia. Subsequently, we have taken multiple visits to Ankida Ridge Vineyards to visit with the Vrooman Family and their “Little Burgundy” venture as consultant, Lucie Morton, likes to put – and we certainly agree.
Since first appearing on the scene in 2010, the Vrooman family, a wine loving duo keen on Burgundian style wines, have made a giant footprint on the wine scene in the state of Virginia and the world, for that matter. Many may not be familiar due to the tough regulations and unfair quantity standards of the much publicized Virginia Governor’s Cup competition, but gems like Ankida Ridge exist as legends and cult followings.
The first planting of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay on about 2 acres of land in the Blue Ridge Mountains began back in 2008, with their first vintage coming a couple of years later in 2010. The land is very unique as it shows a rocky granite soil with a split portion of red clay on the steep vineyard site with tightly placed rows at 1,800 foot elevation. The vineyard site is also unique in that it is much cooler during the day on site than other local vineyards and offers excellent air flow to accompany the rocky soil. The unique soil is significantly different than most vineyard sites around the state. Sure, plenty of vineyards show red clay, but none with the consistency of rocky granite that this vineyard also has to offer. The vineyard clearing was no small task as the Vroomans cleared out 2 acres of land that were completely covered with trees, drainage ditches and no roads. In the end, it transformed into a perfect microclimate with impeccable terroir to produce some of the best Virginia wine I have tasted in the state. The Pinot Noir and Chardonnay rivals many of the White and Red Burgundies we experienced on our honeymoon
The first visit to Ankida Ridge happened to be during the summertime with my good friend and current General Manager of Caldwell Vineyards in Napa, Bryan Toy. The second visit was during late Fall with our visiting friends from Australia. Both times I headed out on a three hour drive down route 81 from Northern Virginia, exiting in Amherst and navigating around some winding remote roads to the entrance gate to the vineyard. After pulling off the paved road onto the dirt road, you are immediately relieved of that concrete jungle you left behind. You are greeted at the front gate by sheep and dogs that wander around the gated field to your left. You will make your way up the steep incline to the gorgeous chalet style tasting room that acts as a lookout halfway up the mountain. The deck on warm days is populated with people sitting back and enjoying nature’s gift of peace and quiet. As you make your way into the tasting room, you will be taken back by the rustic elegance. A small tasting bar with smiling faces and the world’s kindest people greeting you as you walk in. On most days, it’s Christine Vrooman’s smiling face with her family bustling around helping guests.
When you visit Ankida Ridge, it isn’t like visiting a winery. It’s like being a guest into the Vrooman’s home. The accommodating, cheerful, kind and humble family always seek to make sure their guests are satisfied and enjoying the gift that they are sharing with the world — their winery. The tasting room is floor to ceiling gorgeous woodwork that is highlighted by photographs and artwork from around the property. Glancing to your right, you will notice a staircase that heads down into the production facility. Straight through the tasting room is the the deck that contains multiple patio sets with umbrellas and a comfortable L shaped couch in the corner that is backed by the incredible views of the Amherst countryside all shown below. On certain days, food is available to patrons, along with live music.
One thing to note about Ankida Ridge is the vineyard itself is only open the first Saturday of every month with the exception of special season events they hold. If you intend on visiting, make sure to stay informed via their website for upcoming events or openings.
On both occasions (our Summer and late Fall visits), we were able to visit the vineyard that is seated at the top of the mountain. The same gravel roadway we entered from continues up the mountain side to the 1,800 foot elevation where their gorgeous, fenced in vineyard resides. The goal is to have a vineyard as close to biodynamic as possible. Sheep and their vineyard dogs hustle around the vineyard, and chickens are pecking away at the insects. This year, as we learned on our last visit, the additional property leading up to the existing vineyard containing close to 3 acres has been cleared, and more of the same varietals will be planted. There are no further plans to extend the vineyards any further as that will put them at a comfortable production level to sustain their quality.
As unique and beautiful as the vineyard is, what excites me every time the words Ankida Ridge roll off my tongue is the wine. Ankida Ridge in all it’s “Little Burgundy” glory produces high quality Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. They also have a second labeling line known as the Rockgarden Cellars series, which are wines that are vinted and produced by Ankida Ridge with fruit sourced from neighboring Virginia vineyards. Both series are excellent representations of what this little gem has to offer, but nothing steals the show like the Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.
Let’s begin with the Chardonnay from 2012. Tablas clone vines yield ultra-high quality fruit to produce this meticulous single varietal white. Extremely aromatic with smooth vanilla crème brûlée notes accented by toasty almond nuances, this white Burgundian-style Chardonnay exhibits a clean, medium weighted palate highlighted by juicy, ripe apple notes and vibrant acidity that are touched up with hints of lemon zest and finishes clean with crisp minerality. Elegant, seductive and flat out delicious.
The other rockstar of this unique vineyard is the Pinot Noir from 2012. A perfect Burgundian interpretation as its medium bodied and spice, dark fruit and nuances of light wood soothe the nose. The palate is packed with plenty of spice and oak up front that tapers off mid palate as it dries out and incorporates plenty of vibrant cherry flavor backed by earthy undertones and intensifying spice. The finish is lengthy and leaves behind a nice, toned down coating of cherry on the palate while concluding with a balanced elegant structure. A true gem from Virginia’s “Little Burgundy” and can go to battle with many Burgundian classics.
Clearly, winemakers Nathan Vrooman and mother Christine are knocking it out of the park with the wine production. The feeling of this winery is summed up properly in one word — home. It’s warm, welcoming and downright relaxing. You walk in and immediately feel as if you have known the family for ages. I honestly cannot capture any image or describe how beautiful and welcoming this place is so I urge you to visit for yourself. If you visit Ankida Ridge, be sure to make it your last stop or risk not going anywhere else because, to be honest, there is not much like it in this area. Be sure to visit Ankida Ridge and mention to the Vrooman family you read about them on Virginia Pour House while giving them our best.
Ankida Ridge Vineyards
State Rte 632
Amherst, VA 24521