In Jefferson Country, New Winery Brings in French Talent

Virginia's Kluge Estate is aiming high, with consultant Michel Rolland providing guidance.
Feb 9, 2003

Bordeaux expertise has come to Virginia wine country. Globetrotting French winemaker Michel Rolland -- whose clients include some of Napa's hottest cult wines -- is consulting for one of the newest entrants on the state's burgeoning wine scene, Kluge Estate Winery and Vineyard.

Winery founder Patricia Kluge, who runs her own venture capital and money management firm, wanted to help raise the winemaking bar in Virginia, starting in her own backyard. In 1999, she began planting vines on part of her 1,200-acre estate in Charlottesville, in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains.

Kluge, and her husband, William Moses, who is now CEO of the winery, are making a substantial investment in the project. They have planned for 150 acres of vines; contracted with architect David Easton of Rammed Earth Works to design a winery, tasting room and gourmet-food shop; and brought Rolland on board, which took a persistent courtship.

"It's another project for me," Rolland said, laughing. Rolland, who owns Pomerol's Château Le Bon Pasteur and other Bordeaux estates, estimates that he already consults for almost 100 wineries in 12 different countries.

But after visiting Charlottesville two years ago, Rolland determined that there was potential to succeed in the region. He said he was drawn to the area because it is "Jefferson country;" the former U.S. President, a wine lover who is still embraced by the French, made his home in nearby Monticello, where he tried his hand at growing winegrapes. Today, Virginia is the fifth-largest wine-producing state in the country and has about 80 wineries.

So far, Kluge has about 40 acres of Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Merlot -- French clones from California nurseries.

"What we have seen in the last two years, certainly, Cabernet Franc is going very well," said Rolland, who selected the rootstock. "Merlot is going well." He emphasized that he is carefully monitoring the yields to keep them under control. He will visit Kluge thee times a year, and an assistant will make three trips as well.

Making the wines are longtime Virginia winemaker Gabriele Rausse, who oversees the reds, and Emmanuel Fourny, from the Champagne region, who is responsible for the sparkling wines.

Kluge is releasing its first commercial wines this month: the New World Red 2001, which is a Bordeaux-style blend, a 2001 sparkling wine made entirely of Chardonnay; and a fortified aperitif called Late Harvest Chardonnay "Cru." Kluge's tasting room is scheduled to open next month. For more information, visit www.klugeestate.com.

# # #

Read more about Virginia wines:

  • Dec. 10, 2002
    American Way of Wine
  • News

    You Might Also Like

    Turning Tables: Caterina’s by Tim Love Brings Old-School Italian Fare to Cowtown

    Turning Tables: Caterina’s by Tim Love Brings Old-School Italian Fare to Cowtown

    Acclaimed Fort Worth chef’s new outpost puts classic wines—and good manners—at center …

    Sep 22, 2022
    Wine Industry Iconoclast Fred Franzia Dies at 79

    Wine Industry Iconoclast Fred Franzia Dies at 79

    The co-founder of Bronco Wine Company was known for launching "Two Buck Chuck" and for his …

    Sep 13, 2022
    Wine as Liquid Asset: Do Wine Investment Funds Deliver?

    Wine as Liquid Asset: Do Wine Investment Funds Deliver?

    Investment funds in wine are increasingly popular in the U.S., but do they offer safe …

    Sep 13, 2022
    Washington Winemaker Ross Andrew Mickel Dies at 47

    Washington Winemaker Ross Andrew Mickel Dies at 47

    The young vintner, who went from sommelier to boutique winery owner, was lost in a seaplane …

    Sep 9, 2022
    Jean-Georges to Open a Restaurant in New Midtown Manhattan Tower

    Jean-Georges to Open a Restaurant in New Midtown Manhattan Tower

    Chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten is expanding to 425 Park Avenue next year, two Momofuku Ko …

    Sep 8, 2022
    Ste. Michelle Wine Estates Goes Big in Oregon

    Ste. Michelle Wine Estates Goes Big in Oregon

    Washington wine giant acquires A to Z Wineworks and Rex Hill, making it the dominant player …

    Sep 7, 2022