Winery anchors New Kent project

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The process of producing wine is more than just a vocation or a business. It’s also a lifestyle. And nothing illustrates this more than New Kent Vineyards, a new residential development anchored by a high-end grape-growing and winemaking operation in New Kent County.

The 2,500 acre project plans to offer a neo-traditional village with such upscale amenities as a Rees Jones championship golf course, shops and boutiques, polo grounds, walking paths and luxury home sites in its Viniterra section. The neighborhood also will boast a decidedly European feel, thanks to the presence of New Kent Winery.

The operation opened in May with 25 acres of vineyards and a 17,000-square-foot winery styled to look like a Colonial-era building. It will supply wines to a farmers’ market and bistro-style restaurant and cooking school that are planned for the community.

“Having a vineyard and a winery really lends itself to keeping the area in a rural-type setting, which was a key goal for us,” says Pete Johns, a partner in the project, who was also instrumental in the development of nearby Colonial Downs. “We look at this winery as the cornerstone, the centerpiece, of the project.”

Johns and his partners — Boddie-Noell Enterprises Inc., a Rocky Mount, N.C.-based company with restaurant and land development dealings, and real estate developer Nathan Shore — expect the winemaking operation to be a major player in the Virginia wine industry.

Their winemaker is Tom Payette, who in 1999 was named U.S. Winemaker of the Year. New Kent has six wines for sale, including an unusual White Norton (all other Nortons are produced as red wines). And they plan to nearly double the size of their vineyard and wine production capacity during the next several years to reach a goal of producing 20,000
cases of wine each year.

Johns says New Kent Winery will self-distribute 80 percent of its products, priced at $15.95 to $22.95 per bottle, through on-site sales and events, festivals and over the Internet. The winery also will produce private label wines for restaurants and other companies.

Located just a few miles from Interstate 64, it’s likely to be a draw for tourists. Designed to be as “green” as possible, the building is made almost entirely from reclaimed materials. These include pre-Civil War, handmade bricks and 107-year-old heart pine trusses from a Southern Railroad Depot in Richmond.

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