GPS Note: we've heard that Google Maps may not like this winery's address, so you may want to MapQuest before you go.
Cow pastures interrupted by thick forests line the roads to Chateau MerrillAnne in Orange, about 30 minutes south of Culpeper. The small, friendly winery fills in the un-winery'd gap between the north-of-Charlottesville cluster to the west and Lake Anna Winery to the east, and - with any luck - will entice more wine lovers to weekend in charming (and thriving) Culpeper, an under-appreciated gem.
The Chateau MerrillAnne story is one that has become increasingly popular, as Virginia farm owners turn toward the growing wine industry for their futures. Owners Kenny and Emily White planted their first vineyards in 2010, eventually adding Chambourcin, Chardonnay, Viognier, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, as well as the unusual-for-Virginia Cayuga, an early-ripening, high-yield cross of the hybrids Schuyler and Seyval Blanc, developed by Cornell. (We've only heard of one other Virginia winery making wines from Cayuga: the tiny Bodie Vineyards in Powhatan.) Chateau MerrillAnne leases additional vineyard acreage in Loudoun and Albemarle Counties to increase capacity.
The first harvest was in 2012, with Hillsborough Vineyards winemaker Karem Baki crafting the first Chardonnay, and Michael Shaps of Virginia Wineworks coming on board to add to the wine menu.
The tasting room is set in a small, renovated barn with maximum character; rustic log beams and warm panel walls warm the space, while modern pendant lights over the tasting bar introduce a fresh feel. A wood deck for relaxing sits off to the side and overlooks another old, low-slung barn, with a nascent vineyard in between.
The reasonably-priced wines on offer during our visit included the Seyval/Cayuga blend, Palace White, a neutral oak-fermented Chardonnay, the Chambourcin/Merlot blend Palace Red, the rich red Governor Spotswood Bordeaux blend, and the fruity estate grown 100% Chambourcin Vin Gris.
No dogs (this is a cat house); kids welcome; private events welcome and can include use of a catering kitchen. Please call ahead for groups of 8 or larger. No buses! Limos are welcome, please call first and arrive before 1PM.
Excellent access for disabled guests, though note that while the bathroom is accessible via a small ramp and the door is wide, the bathroom itself is on the small side (may not accommodate a wheelchair).
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