Luke Trainum, Hazy Mountain’s winemaker, asked me what made start writing about wine. I haven’t answered that question in a while. I never think of myself as a “Social Media Influencer.” I’m not blond and I don’t post pictures with my head thrown back, wine glass in hand in front of the mountains. I don’t write so I can get free stuff, (trust me, I love free stuff, but that’s not the point of this blog). Rather, I write because I enjoy wine and learning from winemakers and growers about their process and goals and seeing how its reflected in the wine. I really believe winemaking is an intersection of art and science and a labor of love. Especially in a place like Virginia. I write about things that I try to understand better and want to share with others. So here we are.
I stumbled on this invitation via an Instagram post they had, suggesting that wine social media influencers reach out to them about a tour. I took a chance on it, and when a certain other Va Wine Blogger told me had done it previously I was in. Turns out this was a good call, as I was the only one who showed up!
That means I basically got a 4 hour tour and talk with winemaker Luke and Estate Vineyard Manager Jason Hayman. That made plenty of time for questions and insights into what they’re doing.
I’ve been to Hazy a bunch of times, and love grabbing lunch with a bottle there, especially their flatbread pizza. Tasting menu favorites include their Gruner Veltliner, Rosé, Chenin Blanc and Pinot Noir. I love going before it gets crowded and crazy. I never cease to be amazed by the influx of young parents with toddlers going to wineries. Granted, I probably would have done exactly that not that long ago, I need some volume control around me in my old age. Get off my lawn, kid.
So, we walked for a bit among the vines, which due to early Spring heat have been growing quite a bit. Luke pointed out the four distinct growing areas (blocks) on the estate property, all of which seem to have different soil types, and even when the same varietal is planted on different blocks, will produce different wine. It was interesting to walk and see some of the different types of rock underfoot — but everywhere we went the ground was dry after yesterday’s 2 inches of rain. Clearly the natural drainage is outstanding. I mean, it’s on an incredible slope, so there shouldn’t be an issue at all.
They are growing many varietals for the Hazy Vineyard. On site we looked at Cab Franc, Merlot, Petit Verdot, Petit Manseng, Blaufrankisch, Albarino, and from a distance Nebbiolo, and Chardonnay. Their materials say they also grow Malbec on site. I didn’t see any of that, and you know that is one of my fave’s. Nebbiolo is a recent addition that will be interesting to watch, as it is challenging to ripen in Virginia.
All these vines are young too, and only some on this site are producing wine currently. As these vines mature and produce good fruit, Hazy Mountain will dramatically increase production volume and the quality of wine produced.
Even within the main property where the tasting room sits, they are careful to attend to unique attributes of soil and climate in each block. They’ve paid close attention to the frost line and planted more vulnerable varieties above it to protect them. They told stories of watching summer rain storms go around the mountain and past their winery on the way toward others nearby. In fact, the Swoope vineyard also seems to be in an interesting spot where big storms get cut in half by North Mountain and don’t impact the site, but do drench everything around it. They may not have been able to observe this prior to clearing and planting and use the information to choose the site, but they certainly benefit from these unique features of the weather there.
The team here is doing a great deal of experimentation – focusing on different varietals in their Swoope location they’ve got Saperavi and Schioppetino — but also on growing methods. The Hazy Vineyard has a very densely packed planting system – with vines three feet apart in their rows, and rows 8 feet apart. The team will keep focusing on pruning throughout to reduce each vine’s yield, and the competition between vines will be fierce. It will be interesting to see how this experiment goes, and as they said, “If it doesn’t work out, it’s not that hard to pull out a vine!”
Like the rest of Virginia they are seeing accelerated budbreak this year, which causes some real worry in terms of late frosts in the Spring and how the rest of the growing season may go.
Hazy Mountain has struck me as a venue, a place to go for your big fancy wedding or corporate event, or bring your busload of bridesmaids on your whirlwind winery tour. I do not mean to disparage any winery or people with that, there is a need for those places, and people enjoy those experiences. Twenty years ago I may have also. What I didn’t expect to see in this visit was the depth of thoughtfulness around the growing process, varietal selection and matching to terrain and winemaking process. Luke and Jason take their craft quite seriously -they’re clearly having fun, but they also have gone deep into what their Virginia forebears have learned and intend to push the knowledge further. A great example is the way Like is utilizing concrete tanks in the cellar. We sampled ’22 Cab Franc from barrels from the same vineyard block, one aged in barrel and one aged in the concrete. Both wines are young of course, but they’re developing in very different ways. I’m used to seeing the huge concrete eggs in a few places. Luke is being intentional about which grapes to put in these tanks for what purpose – to get the extra trickle of oxygen and whatever minerality or other qualities it picks up, and not have the impact of oak in the wine.
We sampled and compared some other varietals – comparing wine being made from different vineyards and methodology and how that impacts the wine itself. I feel very lucky to have been by myself on this tour and get exclusive access to these two and get insight into what they are doing.
Hazy is great for time with a group of friends, some wine and a bite to eat. I especially love their rosé or white wines on the covered patio as it warms up outside. The Pinot Noir is not available right now except to club members, though Luke said that will hopefully shift in the future. I have yet to take anyone here who hasn’t loved it, and so I strongly suggest you check it out.
Hazy is much more than a venue, and judging by the barrel tasting, the best is yet to come!