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All podcast music: “Café connection” by morgantj / CC BY 3.0, ©2009 – Licensed under Creative Commons 
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Sep 9, 2019

Virginia, on the east coast of the United States, has much history with grape growing, but not all of it was good. Today, however, exciting producers have mastered their microclimates and are making some of the freshest, most nuanced, terroir-driven wines in the United States.


This week I sit down with Elizabeth Smith of one of the top wineries in this lovely state, Afton Mountain Vineyards. We discuss everything from Virginia history with grape growing, to terroir obsession, to the European flare of the region, and why the wines are so darn good.  If you don't know much about VA or you're an obsessive this podcast will be equally fascinating! 


Elizabeth and Tony Smith both grew up in Charlottesville and had lifelong ties the Blue Ridge Mountains. After working and raising a family in coastal VA, and even trying their hands at grape growing there (not quite the right terroir!), they decided to move back to their hometown for their second act – winegrowing and making. They bought Afton Mountain Vineyards in 2009 and in this show, Elizabeth shares their story and how they came to make some of the best wine in Virginia.


  • Elizabeth shares her background and how she went from investment management to property management to winery management (and rocked them all!)


  • Elizabeth gives us a true education on the Monticello appellation – what matters to quality wine, what is challenging in growing grapes here, and why she and Tony selected the most westerly site in the Monticello AVA to make their elegant wines


  • We dork out on microclimates, what makes Virginia so unique, and why elevation, and extremely attentive (obsessive) vineyard management is the only way to make great wine in Virginia and why sustainable viticulture is better than organic in a dicey climate like that in the Monticello area.


  • Elizabeth answers the question: Why does Damien Blanchon, their French winemaker, and so many other French winemakers find themselves in Virginia, and decide to stay (hint: challenge without restriction!)


  • We talk about the varietals that do well for Afton Mountain (Chardonnay, Gewurztraminer, and Albariño for the whites, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot, Tannat, and Sangiovese for the reds) and the flavors they yield from this land. We have an interesting side bar about how Petit Verdot can really suck if not handled well!


  • We wrap with Elizabeth talking about how far Virginia wine has come in the last 10 years and a BIG teaser on a project Afton Mountain is starting this fall!


Find out more about Elizabeth and her wines at and come to the Underground Wine Event on 11/9/19 in Washington D.C. to meet her and taste her beautiful wines!


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