Southwest Mountains Vineyards: A Newcomer Nurturing Virginia’s Terroir, One Sip at a Time

By Published On: December 5, 2023

Credit: Southwest Mountains Vineyards

Situated amidst the picturesque foothills of Virginia’s Southwest Mountains, Southwest Mountains Vineyards is a destination for discerning wine lovers, where history blends with culture and nature.

Founded by Paul and Diane Manning, who have restored the historic Castalia farm property, the winery stands as a testament to the region’s rich heritage and the Mannings’ deep-seeded love for their beloved estate as they recently opened their doors the last weekend of September.

Southwest Mountains Vineyards stands out among Virginia’s Piedmont wineries, not only for its excellent wines but also for its mosaic of microclimates. The vineyards are cradled within the Southwest Mountains, with distinct microclimates that favor a diversity of grape varieties. Each variety expresses the nuances of its specific site location, reflecting the soil composition, elevation, and exposure of the vineyard.

The winery’s soil types, Davidson clay loam and Manteo soil, are integral to shaping the character of its wines. Davidson clay loam, known for its strength and durability, provides a stable foundation for the vines, while Manteo soil, with its shallow depth and excellent drainage, ensures that the roots are not waterlogged. With 72 planted acres, the winery plans to expand to 100 acres in the near future.

To craft its wines, Southwest Mountains Vineyards has brought in Boela Gerber, a globetrotting South African winemaker with a passion for terroir. Gerber brings a wealth of experience and a unique perspective to the winery, having honed his skills in South Africa’s diverse wine regions. Since joining Southwest Mountains Vineyards, Gerber has immersed himself in the region’s terroir, conducting a thorough study of the vineyards and climate. 

Credit: Southwest Mountains Vineyards

Among the wines that Southwest Mountains Vineyards produces, two stand out for their distinctive expression of Virginia’s terroir: Petit Manseng and Petit Verdot. Petit Manseng, a white wine grape popular in Virginia, presents both challenges and opportunities to Virginia winemakers. Its propensity to accumulate sugar rapidly while retaining acidity, particularly in drier years, can result in wines with a razor’s edge of acidity. However, its small berries and loose bunches make it a resilient variety in challenging, wet vintages. When nurtured with expertise, Petit Manseng yields intense tropical fruit-driven wines with refreshing acidity. These wines exude charm and aromatics in their youth, but with a few years of bottle aging, they evolve into complex masterpieces.

Petit Verdot, a grape traditionally used for blending, has found a foothold in Virginia, producing stand-alone wines that showcase the region’s unique terroir. Boela Gerber, the head winemaker at Southwest Mountains Vineyards, has extensive experience with Petit Verdot from other countries, but he’s been particularly impressed by the Virginia expression of this grape.

“The Petit Verdots we see here are a very different animal,” Gerber remarks. “I was surprised by the number of single-varietal Petit Verdot wines produced in the region, but I quickly realized why Virginia winemakers love this otherwise blending variety so much.”

Southwest Mountains Vineyards a winery driven by vision, passion, and commitment.  A winery that celebrates the region’s history, culture, and terroir, and strives to create wines that reflect its essence. In the spirit of Thomas Jefferson, who proclaimed, “Wine is the blood of the earth. Let it flow,” Southwest Mountains Vineyards invites you to embark on a journey of discovery, where the essence of Virginia is captured in every sip.

The wines featured in the Wine Recommendations section were provided by the winery for the purpose of review. The selection and tasting of these wines were independently conducted. No compensation or incentives were provided for inclusion in the story. As always, the top priority is to provide readers with informative reporting.

Wine Recommendations

Credit: Southwest Mountains Vineyards

2020 Petit Verdot- it has a deep ruby color and a flavor profile of blackberry, plum, leather, and spice. The mouthfeel is rich with a firm structure of tannins and acidity that supports the fruit and spice flavors. The finish is long and peppery, with a hint of oak.

2020 Reserve Chardonnay- displays a light gold hue in the glass, revealing a complex and enticing bouquet of spiced apple, honey and caramel. The mouthfeel is rich and creamy, with layers of ripe orchard fruit, toasted nuts and subtle oak. The wine shows impeccable balance and finesse.

2021 Petit Manseng: A bouquet of pear, pineapple, and orange  The palate is rich with a creamy texture and a refreshing acidity.

About the Author: Joe Campbell

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Located out of the Sierra Foothills of California, Joe Campbell provides color commentary as well as insight within the wine industry both from the lifestyle consumer and business segments of the industry. He can be reached via email at : joe@winebulletin.net .