Virginia's climate is so unique-- it's one of the rare places in the world where petit verdot can fully ripen (in a good year!). The summer temperatures are hot and the humidity is high-- in deep summer the grape growing conditions can be literally subtropical. What saves the day in Virginia is the relatively cool spring and fall that encourage the grapes to maintain their acidity.
In fact, petit verdot can ripen so well here that many growers produce 100% petit verdot bottlings. In the late 1990s the winemaker at Jefferson vineyards was the first to do this, and many other producers have followed suit.
The petit verdot at Pollak is by far their most vigorous grape variety in the vineyards. They graft it on a very un-vigorous rootstock to try and slow it down, but it is still their biggest producer.
But vintage variation in Virginia is drastic and can affect the outcome of all their varietals: some years, Virginia will have a great growing season (2010). But there might be hurricanes (2011, 2012) or tropical storms (2008) that bring with them intense amounts of rainfall. Or their might be earthquakes (2011). There could be an extreme draught (2007). You just never know what the year will bring; and the contributing factors can range from pressure depressions over the Atlantic to tectonic plate movement, to spreading drought conditions in the Carolinas.
Pollak's logo imitates their vine training methods.
They make the wine underneath the tasting room. The tasting room staff is great (we loved Barry!).
Benoit Pineau is their winemaker; he took the reigns from Jake Busching who recently moved to Grace Estates.
Pollak Vineyards viognier 2011 (Monticello, Virginia)
95% steel, 5% neutral French oak.
classic viognier flavor & aroma, dried apricots, bright acidity
Pollak Vineyards pinot gris 2012 (Monticello, Virginia)
12 hour cold soak
great texture- the cold soak gave this some great flavor complexity and some light tannins.
Pollak Vineyards cabernet franc 2010 (Monticello, Virginia)
this is from a great vintage in Virginia, so is an example of what can be made in a great year
powerful structure, bold tannins, tart acidity
Pollak Vineyards petit verdot 2010 (Monticello, Virginia)
great vintage, lovely wine-- well balanced
Pollak Vineyards "Mille Fleurs" 2009 (Monticello, Virginia)
This is an interesting fortified late harvest viognier (17.5%) made in the style of a white port, but sweeter due to the late harvest.
They first ferment the late harvest viognier with native yeast, then they fortify this with estate brandy. Because of Virginia laws, you cannot have a distillery on site at a winery, so Pollak sends some chardonnay/viognier wine off to be distilled nearby.
sweetness from the late harvest, but balanced with acidity and a refreshing bitterness
Just outside the tasting room you can take a bottle or snacks on the lawn by the lake.
What I love about Virginia agriculture is the serious focus on the entire range of available agricultural products. Especially in the Charlottesville area (the Monticello AVA) there is a heavy focus on the environment, recycling, and waste reduction. This mindset carries over into vineyards, and many wineries make secondary products: honey, vinegar, jams, etc. out of vineyard waste and from the diversity of agricultural products that are available on the land.
<--Pollak makes these great vinegars and they also promote a range of local jams.
There are some fantastic farms, creameries, and beekeepers in Virginia, and it's great to see the array of locally made products in the tasting rooms. Pollak offered this McClure baby swiss from Mountain View Farmstead Cheeses (all made with raw milk from their herds in Fairfield, Va).
New Zealand and Oregon have hungry birds to deal with, Western Australia worries about kangaroos among the vines... in Virginia, deer are one of the biggest vineyard threats. If you look to the left of this pictured row of vines, you will see a 12-14 foot fence in the background. Its sole purpose is to keep deer from eating the grapes.
The high deer population is both a blessing and a curse. It's an indicator of the swaths of forrest land that make rural Virginia such a special place-- you can easily see a group of deer on a daily basis if you live here. They also are a great source of food-- lots of people here grow up on local venison.
But deer also destroy our gardens-- everyone who gardens must construct a huge fence, and those who don't try all sorts of tricks, like hanging deodorant-soap bars on your plants to keep them away, or spraying certain oil essences on your plants that deer find unattractive. Night driving is always a danger; I personally have had many close calls when it comes to hitting deer on the road, and deers are a common victim of roadkill.
I find it amazing that Pollak has constructed this tall fence around their vines to keep out the deer! It is a testament to how serious deer damage can be to a vineyard in this area. But the hard work and deer-proofing is worth it!