Kluge Estate Winery and Vineyards
Virginian Elegance, Bottled
Virginia’s winemaking tradition stretches as far back as 1607, when Jamestown colonists made wine from native grapes. A century later, Thomas Jefferson, who traveled extensively in Europe during his Ambassadorship to France (1784-1789), developed a passion for wine and imported over 24 varieties of vine clippings back to his home in Monticello, Virginia. Unfortunately, the European vines were destroyed by American diseases and pests, and died before they could ever produce any wine.
However, later in history, grafting techniques (combining European vine stock with American roots) made viticulture a reality. In the last 25 years, Virginia’s wineries have grown from 6 to 75, making it the fifth largest wine producing state in the nation.
Kluge Estate founder and Chairwoman, Patricia Kluge, is a native of London, England but feels Virginia (where she has resided for 20+ years) is her true home. A life-long wine enthusiast, Patricia believed her land in Charlottesville, with soil similar to that of Bordeaux with red-clay, sandy-clay, limestone and gravel, could be prime vineyard material. In 1999, she made that dream a reality. Charles Gendrot, a16 year winemaking veteran from a well-respected oenological family, joined the Kluge team. Consultant for over a hundred chateaux in the Bordeaux region, including Margaux, St. Estephe and Pauillac, Gendrot believes in using the latest technology to create high quality wine.
I recently had the deliciously pleasant experience of sampling the Kluge Cru, a unique New World aperitif wine. Naturally sweet Chardonnay grapes are fortified with Virginia-distilled brandy then aged for six weeks in Jack Daniel barrels, developing complex and spicy aromas. Layered with notes of pear, peach, vanilla and almonds, I served the Kluge Cru with cheese, pate and crackers. I can only say I was sad to empty the bottle – that stuff is addictive!
I also sampled their bubbly, the Kluge SP 2003 “blanc de blancs.” Using the methode traditionelle with Kluge’s best hand-picked Chardonnay grapes, the first press (or cuvée) is fermented in stainless steel tanks and added for 21 months. Vibrant and zesty, with a creamy mouth feel, this Virginian sparkler was a happy surprise.
Patricia Kluge’s husband, William Moses is Kluge’s CEO and her daughter, Kristin Moses Murray is Kluge’s Director of Marketing and PR, keeping the vineyard’s success “in the family,” Mr. Moses sums it up best, “Not only are we making wines of high quality that showcase the uniqueness of the Albemarle region, we literally see the fruits of our labor becoming a family business that will last for generations to come.” Judging by the Cru and SP 2003, I can see why they are optimistic about the future.