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Friday, November 20, 2015

Virginia Wines Would Make Thomas Jefferson Proud

Chateau Morrisette is located in rural Floyd County, Virginia
We were amazed to learn that the state of Virginia is ranked tenth nationally in commercial grape production and grape bearing acreage.  It turns out that English settlers who first came to Jamestown, Virginia in 1607 were required to cultivate 10 grapevines each.  The intent was to create a thriving wine industry in the New World.  Close to 200 years later, Thomas Jefferson himself pursued this mission, convinced that Virginia would one day be capable of producing world-class wines.  By the 19th century, Virginia winemaking flourished.  During Prohibition it all but disappeared.  It wasn't until the 1970s that Virginia winemaking was reestablished.




The Morrisette family may not have realized that they were playing a part in the reestablishing of the Virginia's wine industry when they planted the first vines in 1978 on their property in the rural Virginia countryside.  What first started as a hobby become a more serious business idea when David Morrisette enrolled in a brand new program offered by Mississippi State University in enology and viticulture.  Among the first class to earn a degree from the program, David then did a brief stint working for classmate Bob Burgin's winery in Mississippi before coming home to Virginia to become Chateau Morrisette's first official winemaker.

In 1982, the first commercial wines were produced--a modest 2,000 gallons.  In 1994, the fledgling winery saw the first black ink on its balance sheet, and wine production has increased rapidly each year since.  Production is now in excess of 70,000 cases, and Chateau Morrisette has established its reputation as an industry leader in quality wines.  By the way, David is now President of Chateau Morrisette, and his friend Bob Burgin is Executive Vice-President & CFO. In addition to the grapes produced from its own vineyards, Chateau Morrisette is one of the largest buyers of grapes in the state. Chateau Morrisette houses over 160,000 gallons of stainless steel tanks, 50,000 gallons of capacity in French and American oak barrels, a 22 ton press and state of the art bottling line.

 In the dry white category, we were particularly impressed with the Viognier.  In the reds, the Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon were surprisingly complex and enjoyable. The character and distinction of its wines are enhanced by the beautiful ambiance of the winery and its restaurant.

In 1999, the family expanded and modernized all aspects of the winery, building a new wine production facility and spacious hospitality center.   The building was constructed from salvaged timbers from the St. Marie River and from a Seattle warehouse to create one of the largest salvaged timber frame building in North America: 32,365 square feet with over 132,000 board feet of recycled Douglas fir timbers.  The restaurant incorporates the finest regional ingredients including organically grown produce and game and fresh seafood from the coastal waters of North Carolina.


 It's location near "America's Drive," the Blue Ridge Parkway,  has helped introduce thousands of visitors to premier Virginia wines.  But Chateau Morrisette is not only great day drive destination for tourists, but also an event destination for residents of nearby Roanoke.  A drive to the Chateau is  tradition for many during the holiday season, on Valentines Day, to celebrate birthdays and anniversaries, or on their annual trek to view the autumn colors.  

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