Annefield Vineyards is a boutique wine grower near the village of Saxe in Southern Virginia that was founded in 2005 by Stephen M. Ballard and Michael T. Leary. The estate vineyards are in the Staunton River Valley on the southern edge of the Virginia Piedmont — a region appreciated for its moderate climate, long growing season and deep, fertile soils. Our objective is to produce wine that is expressive of our unique geology, site and climate — those special characteristics that are embodied in the French word terroir — “a sense of place.”
Our Winemaker: Michael Shaps
Our winemaker is the world renowned Michael Shaps, who makes outstanding, award-winning wines that rank on an international scale with some of the best wines in the world. The wine is produced in a traditional old-world style; the white wines focus on varietal intensity and the retention of natural acidity, while the red wines are balanced, highly extracted and crafted to be age worthy and require cellaring. In addition to winning the prestigious Virginia Governor’s Cup wine competition, Michael Shaps’ wines have earned gold medals in numerous competitions and have been reviewed in publications such as Saveur, Wine Spectator, Wine Enthusiast, Wine Advocate, Washingtonian, The Washington Post and many others.
The vineyards are planted in soil that is classified by the US Department of Agriculture as Georgeville series, which consists of deep, well drained, moderately permeable soils that formed in material mostly weathered from fine-grained metavolcanic rocks of the Carolina Slate Belt, deposited on gently sloping uplands. We have selected rootstock that does well in this type of soil, namely 3309 Couderc (a cross of Vitis riparia and Vitis rupestris), because our soils tend toward acidic and this rootstock has a low tolerance of limestone, and 101-14 Millardet Et De Grasset (another cross of Vitis riparia and Vitis rupestris), which thrives in heavy clay.
We benefit from a slightly hotter climate than the rest of the Commonwealth, which, when coupled with our long growing season, allows for better fruit ripening than other regions. Our bud-break is among the first in Virginia, and we typically harvest our crop about two weeks before growers to the north and west. Another advantage our site enjoys is a geographic and meteorologic quirk that causes late-summer storms to track along the Blue Ridge Mountains from the southwest to the northeast, bypassing our region and depriving us of rain at the best possible time: when the fruit is reaching maturity, thereby allowing for better flavor concentration in the grape berries. This lack of rain allows us to hang fruit longer when necessary with minimal disease pressure. Consequently our wines offer mature fruit, good concentration, and excellent tannic extraction. We use just enough oak to help the wine develop and age, yet maintain the flavor characteristics of each varietal. The resulting wines are food friendly, full-bodied and very expressive.
The estate vineyard was planted in 2006 and lies on the southeast corner of Annefield at an elevation of 5oo feet above sea level. We chose varieties that thrive in Virginia — Viognier, Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon. In 2011, we expanded the vineyard and planted Pinot Gris, the Italian varietal Vermentino, and the French-American hybrid Vidal Blanc. An expansion planned for 2014 will include additional Viognier, Cabernet Sauvignon and Petit Verdot.
William Jameson (1745-1785), a Scottish merchant, planter, and soldier of the American Revolution acquired this land in 1770 and, presumably in honor of his wife, Anne Read (1748-1815), named his plantation Annefield. We know the name from his last will and testament of 1784, in which he devised to his wife Anne “my manor plantation and mansion house of Annefield.”
Jameson’s “mansion house of Annefield” is now lost, but today the property is graced by an Italianate plantation house and outbuildings built in 1858 for planter and politician Hillery M.L. Goode (1815-1900). Architectural historians attribute the house to antebellum housewright Jacob W. Holt (1811-1880), a master builder admired for his distinctive, vernacular buildings in North Carolina and Southern Virginia. We completed restoration of the house in December 2008, and the following year the house, outbuildings and grounds were placed on the Virginia Landmarks Register and the National Register of Historic Places. The grounds and public rooms at Annefield provide a unique setting for enjoying our award-winning wine, whether in the tasting room or on the terrace.
We are open to the public on weekends from April through October, 11 am to 5 pm on Saturdays, by appointment on Sundays. We are closed weekdays and from November through March. Tasting appointments may be made on our website. Find us at 3200 Sunny Side Road, Saxe, Virginia 23967.