12 Ridges Vineyard

Where: 24981 Blue Ridge Pkwy, Raphine, VA 
Tasting Fee: $18 for a Signature Tasting of six wines + your glass
Don’t Miss The: Views, Malbec, VERY CUTE DOGS
Food: There’s a small selection of charcuterie board items or you can bring your own cooler

12 Ridges is one of Virginia’s newest vineyards–so new, in fact, that their vines aren’t quite ready for harvest yet. However, in the meantime, they’ve recruited Charlottesville sommelier legend Erin Scala to curate them a tasting room menu that truly reflects their end goal–to become Virginia’s premiere cool-climate winery.

Two years ago, 12 Ridges planted 12 acres of grapes evenly divided between Pinot Gris, Pinot Noir, Riesling, and Chardonnay. Sitting at a 3,300 ft. elevation, they’re uniquely positioned to create wine that Virginia rarely gets to see. They look forward to having a small harvest next year to kick start their in-house wine making, and once the vines are ready, 12 Ridges will be 100% estate grown. Personally, I’m looking forward to their sparkling wines, since they plan on making them in the traditional champagne style. Am I the only one who thinks Virginia is sorely lacking champagne cellars?

However, for now, think of 12 Ridges as a very lovely international tasting room with big things on the horizon. While definitely worth the visit now, I cannot wait to compare it in a few years once their wines are ready. I had the pleasure of doing my tasting with Craig Colberg, the founder, who has a clear vision for what 12 Ridges can be.

While the tasting price at $18 is definitely on the higher end of average, the wines do reflect the more premium price tag (and the pours are pretty generous). All are grown in cool-climate, high elevation vineyards and mirror 12 Ridges’ future wine making goals. I started with a French Brut made in the blanc de blanc style–something I can’t wait to see replicated with the Chardonnay grapes here in the future. Following my sparkling sipper, I moved on to an Italian Pinot Grigio. Fruit-forward, but dry, I would easily drink this on a warmer fall day, sitting in a rocking chair.

From there, we tried a German Riesling. Though normally the sweetest wine on their tasting menu, we were subbed in a 2017 Clemenbusch that was only .05% residual sugar. To me, this was a Riesling done right–still full of fruit, but a great acidic finish. If you’ve avoided Rieslings because you tend to think of them as sugar bombs, this is your new gateway into German wine.

For the reds, we had a fantastic light-bodied Italian Pinot Noir, followed by a Spanish Tempranillo. The Pinot Noir gave me some hints of pepper, but if you prefer an oakier red, the Tempranillo would easily be my pick for you. Ending our tasting was my personal favorite–the Argentinian Malbec. Unfortunately, the Blue Ridge climate likely won’t lend itself to growing Malbec at 12 Ridges in the future–it gets waaaaay too cold here. However, that didn’t stop me from drinking the bold, full-bodied goodness while walking the grounds.

Speaking of the grounds… They are stunning. Even on a gloomy day, there were panoramic views of the mountains all around me. My escorts were Chakra and Nala, two very lovable labs that I’m now obsessed with. Unfortunately, I have few good pictures of the dogs because they were always moving in for more pets. And let me tell you, those two dogs deserve all the pets in the world.

A lot of people have asked me if 12 Ridges is worth visiting now, while still in their beginning stages. I would respond with a very loud YES THEY ARE. Virginia wine is becoming a movement and starting to demand international attention. But in order to keep that momentum going, we have to support our local vineyards that are getting started. Luckily, supporting 12 Ridges is easy when you meet their team and hear their vision. It’s even easier when you get to do it while sitting on top of a mountain off the Blue Ridge Parkway.

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