Williamsburg Winery Review
Creating fantastic wines since 1985, a visit to Williamsburg Winery, a leading Virginia winery, is well worth a visit.
Williamsburg Winery History
Wine making in Virginia is as old as Virginia. During the early years of the Jamestown Colony, people worked to find a way for the colony to succeed. In 1619, a law was passed that all farmers had to grow grapes and make wine. At first, wine making in the colony was hard, since the European grape varieties they were growing suffered from an insect phylloxera. They found a way to graft phylloxera resistant American roots with the European vines and began to successfully produce wine.
By 1890, Virginia was the fifth largest wine producing state. And then, the temperance movement and prohibition prevented the production of alcohol. Virginia adopted prohibition before the rest of the nation and enforced prohibition severely, burning grape vineyards to take them out of production.
It took a long time for the wine industry to recover in Virginia. But, things were starting to look up when the Duffelers purchased 320 acres of land to start the Williamsburg Winery in 1985. This was the land where colonist Gabriel Archer thought Jamestown should have been settled. The first wine was sold in 1988 and the winery has grown substantially since then. There are now over 260 wineries in Virginia and it is once again the fifth largest wine producing state. Williamsburg Winery produces 25% of all of the wine in Virginia, making it the largest winery in the state.
The Williamsburg Winery Tour
Williamsburg Winery has several tour and tasting options.
The Introduction to Wine Tour and Tasting is intended for someone who doesn’t have much experience with wine tasting. It is an approximately 80 minute tour that will give you the basics and enable you to taste a variety of wines.
The Extensive Tour and Reserve Wine Tasting is about 2-2.5 hours long. A large part of this tour is the opportunity to taste some of their premium wines. I took this tour and really enjoyed it.
You’ll gather for the tour inside the gift shop. Just note that there is no place to sit while you wait for the tour to start. A few benches or rocking chairs might be a nice addition .
If you prefer to do a tasting without a tour, there are tasting standard and reserve tasting options.
The Williamsburg Winery Vineyard
Williamsburg Winery has 100 acres of vines. They also partner with vineyards across Virginia to help ensure a successful harvest and a good flavor profile. Several grape varieties are grown in Williamsburg including Albarino and Petit Verdot.
The vineyard is oriented to enable breezes that blow from the James to York rivers to flow through the vines. Since the area has high heat and humidity, that helps ensure a cooler climate.
Pressing Juice at Williamsburg Winery
Once harvested, the grapes are pressed on site. 4,000 gallon tanks temporarily store the juice. For the white wine, the seeds and skins are removed and then the juice is placed into a tank which can keep it cool. For red wine, the skins are kept with the juice for several days to help ensure a darker color.
Williamsburg Winery Cellars
The juice is then transferred to barrels which can be made of oak or acacia wood, stainless steel, or even concrete. Since the soil in Williamsburg doesn’t have a strong mineral presence, using the concrete barrels can help add minerality to the wine.
Williamsburg Winery Reserve Cellar Tasting
During the reserve tasting, we tried nine samples. We started off with a Voignier, a white wine, which we enjoyed during the tour of the wine cellar. After that, we moved to the cellar tasting room. A table for twelve is set with nice baskets of crackers and plates of cheese. Fresh bread is served along with a lingonberry jam.
You are surrounded by bottles of some of the oldest and best wines the winery has produced. Lighting is low – for the benefit of the wine of course.
At the table, the next sample was a series of vintages of a Petit Manseng. We were able to taste and appreciate the difference in the same wine from 2016, 2017, and 2018. The different taste for each year was pretty amazing.
Red wines came next and we had the chance to sample a Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot, the Gabriel Archer Reserve, and a Petit Fleur. Several of the wines were a blend. For example, the Gabriel Archer Reserve is a combination of Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot, and Merlot.
At the end of the tour, you’ll head up a spiral staircase where you can check out the Williamsburg Winery gift shop. Adjacent to that is a nice wine shop. Almost 30 wines are available for purchase. If you choose to buy six or more bottles, there is a discount ranging from 5%-30% depending on the number of bottles or cases you select.
Don’t forget to bring your souvenir Riedel wine glass with you. That way you’ll be all set for continuing your wine tasting adventure at home or on the road.
Dining at Williamsburg Winery
Williamsburg Winery has two restaurants on site. Williamsburg winery maintains a large garden so you can get a farm to table experience.
The Gabriel Archer Tavern looks like a great spot for lunch. You could choose from a soup such as a roasted corn & crab bisque. Or you might prefer a sandwich like a chicken panini. Several delicious looking salads are also on the menu. You can pair lunch with a tour and tasting.
Cafe Provencal looks like an incredible dining experience. I’m looking forward to trying it for our next special occasion. Swordfish, scallops, steak or pork tenderloin are some of the options. For dessert, the strawberry and goat cheese cake sounds tempting.
If you are coming just for the wine, Williamsburg Winery recently added the 1619 Wine Pavilion. Its a two level deck and wine bar overlooking the vineyard.
Williamsburg Winery Cycling Club
On many Sundays, a cycling club meets at the winery to begin their ride through the historic triangle area. There are 25 and 42 mile options.
Wedmore Place Hotel
The Wedmore Place is a 28 room boutique hotel. Each room is uniquely decorated. Breakfast at Cafe Provencal is included. You can add packages to your stay including dinner at Cafe Provencal, massage treatments, winery tours, and more. The Taste The Trail package includes not only a winery tour but also tours of the Alewerks and Virginia Beer Company breweries.
The Wedmore Place at Williamsburg Winery looks like a romantic place to book an Anniversary stay.
Visiting Williamsburg Winery With Your Dog
For the most part, dogs aren’t welcomed at the Williamsburg Winery. They can be with you at the picnic area. Only service animals are allowed in any of of the buildings.
Visiting Williamsburg Winery With Children
People under 21 are allowed to do the winery tour. However, they aren’t allowed to participate in the tasting experience. Under 21 tour tickets are available on their site for no cost.
Visiting the winery with kids might be OK. However, you may want to consider alternatives like a visit to park or playground. On the Virginia Peninsula, consider these great options: Waller Mill Park, Newport News Park, Busch Gardens Williamsburg, or the Living Museum.
Before You Go
Wine tasting can be a fun experience. You’ll have the chance to learn something while finding what you like or don’t like. A little knowledge can be helpful. Here are a few recommendations to help you better enjoy your winery visit experience.
Virginia has over 260 wineries and is the fifth largest wine producing state. What’s the history behind great Virginia wine?
When people get really serious about wine, they sometimes work toward becoming a Master Sommelier. This is a fun and informative look at that journey. One of my favorite quotes is about what makes a wine good. “One sip leads to another. That definition of quality, of what made a wine “good” seemed so obvious. So simple. So … true”
The right glass can make a big difference in your tasting experience. On the tour, Williamsburg Winery used Riedel glasses. You might like to pick up a set for yourself. Consider this starter set of red and white glasses along with Champagne flutes.
At the end of your winery tour, you might be tempted to pick up a bottle of wine, or two. They’ll pack it in a cardboard box to provide some protection. However, if you are traveling, you may want to consider some additional protection for the bottles. You can buy inflatable wine bottle protectors. Or, consider using an insulated wine tote.
Williamsburg Winery is located at 5800 Wessex Hundred in Williamsburg VA.
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