Rosemont of Virginia: Defining a New Region Near the North Carolina Border

Rosemont of Virginia is located just four miles north of the State’s border with North Carolina, and that puts it well off any of the Commonwealth’s wine trails. While there are a few small wineries in the area, Rosemont is producing 6,000 cases annually, putting it squarely into the state’s mid-sized tier of producers. Because of its location, it may be one of the least well-known Virginia wineries of its size. Most of its foot traffic comes from tourists visiting Lake Gaston and Roanoke Rapids Lake (two joined reservoirs), which allows it to produce at such a volume.

If you haven’t heard of Rosemont, though, you’re not alone. When a trio of samples showed up I had to turn to the Internet to make myself aware of the producer.

I spoke with Rosemont’s winemaker, Justin Rose, after tasting the wines. The winery and estate vineyards are on land that has been in the Rose family for more than 150 years, and Justin’s parents were looking for a way to do something productive with it. Although Justin hadn’t been on a winemaking trajectory coming out of college, he saw the value in working the family’s land went to Napa from 2005 to 2007 to learn winemaking, knowing all along that he’d be returning home to make his family’s wine.

Justin credits his time in Napa with teaching him the basics. However, when 2009 brought Justin his first wet vintage just three years into his return home, he realized that Napa could only teach so much. Challenges like excess rainfall, inconsistent temperatures and regional diseases were brand new to him.

In his first vintage in Virginia, he admits to over-extracting his wines and doing fermentation at disadvantageously high temperatures. Over the initial years, he used relatively high percentages of new oak, and has since dialed it back significantly. He’s extended hang time for the fruit, thinned the canopy less, extended maceration and is doing longer cold soaks to get the right kind of tannin development. He was formulaic post-Napa because he didn’t know anything different. Now, he’s vintage-by-vintage.

Since day one of Rosemont, all of the wine has been produced off estate vines, a pretty unusual reality for a Virginia winery. I asked Justin about a house style and whether having all estate fruit helps in defining it. He explained that the as the vineyards and his knowledge mature together, the winery is developing a style of its own. Though it has by no means found come into sharp focus, he’s optimistic about the trajectory that the maturation curve has taken as he’s shifted to doing more of the work in the vineyard, and less manipulation in the winery.

The reds, he says, are beginning to see cherry and spice undertones, while the whites are quite perfumed with a spicy minerality on the palate.

With only a few small wineries in their area, Rosemont has an opportunity to trailblaze and this excites Justin and his family.

I was sent three of their wines: the 2017 Rose, 2015 Kilvarock Bordeaux-style blend and the 2015 100% merlot. I enjoyed the rose, the Kilvarock won the day, and the merlot seemed unsettled. On the strength of the Kilvarock, though, I believe there’s reason to be optimistic about the winery’s future. I’ll be curious to see how Justin and the estate further refine their style and dial in what the southern-most part of central Virginia can do in the wine world.

2017 Rose (100% chambourcin, $17.95): Very pretty, floral nose with mineral, peach, strawberry and cranberry undertones. The light body has a soft feel and racy acid. There are surprising tangerine and Devil’s Club notes along with huckleberry and cranberry. A somewhat tart flavor set that fits the lean, racy body well. 88 points.

2015 Kilvarock (40% merlot, 36% cabernet franc, 24% petit verdot, $32.95): An expressive and pretty nose that opens with crushed gravel, extending to rose petal, tar, crushed vitamin C pill, red cherry, cranberry and lavender. The medium-bodied palate has elegant, integrated tannins and crisp acidity that fall into balance nicely. Flavors touch on cherry, blueberry, Acai, thyme and cocoa, while a bit of smoke peaks its head up on the finish. 90 points.

2015 Merlot (100% merlot, $20.95): Dark cherry, cassis, black currant, dried bark and violet perfume the nose. The body borders on full while the acid is quite bright and meshes well with the dusty tannin, though the alcohol does give off a bit of a kick. The palate is big on fruit with Bing cherry, strawberry and cranberry. There’s some dark, tar-y minerality and dusty cocoa laced throughout that really elongate on the finish. This one feels like it needs another three years to fully integrate and begin to flesh itself out. 87 points.

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