After turning off the main roadway, a back road winds around an embankment, hugging the steep aspect. Again, the landscape changes. Those sharp hilltops give way to rolling fields of wild grasses that roam free in the wind, rustling in lackadaisical hypnotic waves to the point where it seems as if the very soil itself has a soul.
And indeed, it does, which brings us to the winery. A pond, with the surface half-frozen, waits for spring in front of the main structure. In the distance, patient vines rise up from the clay, dormant sticks now, but stoic with the promise of Spring's budbreak. These are some of the steepest-incline vines I've seen so far in Virginia.
A practical space with the vineyards behind it, the winery has a tank room in the lower entryway. Climb a few stairs, and you'll come to the tasting room-- a dark wood table in a nook just off the elevage area, with tidy rows of barrels in the background. The whole place is very much like the wines: charming, straightforward, and without pretension.
The entire space is on the smaller side for a winery, which is ultimately a relief to the wine drinker. So often 'tiny family wineries' are actually huge operations behind-the-scenes. But here, you get the feeling that every grape berry is under the watchful eye of the Puckett family. As you might guess by the size of the winery, production is limited and focused at around 1500-1800 cases per year, 95% of which comes from their estate fruit. They have about 10 acres planted, with perhaps some expansion in the future, but nothing too grandiose.
How did it all begin? Ed & Janet Puckett got their grape start in Georgia, where, admittedly, 'we learned what not to do.' They moved to Virginia, determined to set up a small, high-quality winery. In 2002 they purchased land here, from a family who had owned it for about a century. Perched above the winery, the Pucketts live in a house built in 1906 by a woman named Josie & her husband. Out front, on what was once 'Josie's Knoll,' vines grow. It makes a difference when you live right next to your vines; they become intertwined with your life, and the wines become as much a part of the story of the Pucketts, as the Pucketts are a part of the wine.
The main vineyards were planted in 2003, named 'Josie's Knoll' after the previous steward of their land. The winery rose in 2005. 2005 was also their first vintage, which marks this coming September's harvest as their 10th anniversary bottling. The vines are still young, but they yield incredibly interesting fruit even at this young age. On Josie's Knoll, a few blocks stand out. 'Janet's Block,' and 'Gilbert's Block.'
Ed & Janet's daughter, Stephanie, keeps track of the details, and works closely with winemaker Riaan Rossouw.