Granite Heights is one such producer that is new to me and delivered the goods. Located in Fauquier County in Virginia’s Northern Region, it’s the project of owners and partners Luke and Toni Kilyk. Luke got his bachelor’s in chemistry and began winemaking as a hobbyist in 2001, and transitioned in commercial winemaking in 2008.
The couple’s 12-acre farm (planted to a high-density 2,000 vines per acre) is home to Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Petit Verdot, Cabernet Franc, Barbera, Chardonnay and Vermentino. The term “hand-crafted" is used thrown around way too much in the wine industry, but it sure seems to apply to Granite Heights. They pick, press and do most of the other work by themselves, and with the help of a few friends. “We do not want to watch someone else do the job, if we can do the job ourselves or with them,” the Kilyk’s say.
In a recent iteration of Frank Morgan’s Virginia Wine Chat (#VAWineChat on Twitter), I tasted through four different offerings from Granite Heights, and found a lot to like.
2014 Granite Heights Vineyard Petit Manseng - Virginia, Northern Virginia, Fauquier County
Light gold color. A floral spray note kicks off the nose, but then I get these honeyed white tea and peanut aromas. A creamy, waxy texture but the acidity springs this wine to life and keeps it lasting and fresh on the finish. Peaches, pineapple, drizzled with lime A bright floral presence, but a richness with these candle wax, honey, hints of peanut shell and white tea. An underlying vibrancy (like chalk, minerals). I love the chewiness of this wine mixed with that ever-present signature of brisk acidity. Off-dry style, but the acidity makes it work. (86 points)
N.V. Granite Heights Vineyard Rosé - Virginia, Northern Virginia, Fauquier County
A very pale salmon color. Smells a bit like strawberry short cake topped with clover and cut grass – interesting. A sweet but fresh wine with flavors of white cherries, strawberry shortcake, pineapple juice.. some sweet herbs and white pepper notes. Slightly off-balanced with sweet but funky-spice elements. I really want to love this wine, but it's just a bit strange for my palate. An off-dry blend of Barbera, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot, Dornfelder and Petit Manseng. A blend of 2013 and 2015 vintages. (79 points)
2012 Granite Heights Vineyard humility - Virginia, Northern Virginia, Fauquier County
Vibrant purple color . Dark, saucy fruit on the nose with plenty of clove, pepper and cedar. Vibrant acidity, moderately sturdy tannins, this medium-plus-bodied wine has a lovely and silky presence on the palate. Tart black/blue fruit, a dense but vibrant structure to the fruit. I get a lot of cedar, spiced coffee, anise and eucalyptus Bold but elegant - this really unwinds with air and has time to evolve in the cellar. They call it humility, but I would have a hard time being humble about this wine. A blend of 75% Cabernet Sauvignon, 22% Merlot and 3% Cabernet Franc. Aged 15 months in mostly American oak. (88 points)
2010 Granite Heights Vineyard Lomax Reserve - Virginia, Northern Virginia, Fauquier County
Medium ruby color. Smoky nose with dark berry compote, leather and musk. Quite nicely structured with bright acidity and dusty tannins, the concentration and youthfulness of this wine is surprising and impressive. Plummy, tart berries, crunchy red fruits and luscious black cherry, there are a lot of different fruit elements going on here. I get some tobacco, pepper, vanilla and earthy notes, too. A bit young and tight but stays vibrant, this has plenty of time in the cellar to go. 41% Merlot, 27% Cabernet Franc, 14% Cabernet Sauvignon, 9% Petit Verdot and 9% Barbera, aged 20 months in French and American oak. (87 points)