Early Mountain Vineyards promotes Virginia wine
AOL co-founder Steve Case and his wife, Jean, didn’t set out to own a winery, but when the opportunity to purchase the former Sweely Estates presented itself in 2011, they couldn’t pass it up. “As 30-year residents of Virginia we decided to invest directly in our backyard and are big believers in the quality and future of this region’s wines,” Jean Case said in an email.
A year after opening Early Mountain Vineyards in Madison County, the Cases are committed to Virginia wine. Early Mountain Vineyards has, after overhead, production costs and salaries, vowed to donate all proceeds to the industry.
Early Mountain’s 18,000- square-foot tasting room serves not only its wines, but also other Virginia wines and food. Its Best of Virginia program includes partner wineries such as Thibaut-Janisson in Charlottesville, Chatham Vineyards on the Eastern Shore and Linden Vineyards in Northern Virginia.
Early Mountain’s wines include a merlot, pinot gris and petit manseng, a wine known for intense fruit flavors, strong acid, slight sweetness and low tannins. Local food offerings include homemade hot pretzels and mustard and roasted surryano-wrapped asparagus. More is on the way. “We are always going to have new wines coming out, if it works the way it’s supposed to,” Jean Case says. “We are in harvest right now; it’s an exciting time at the vineyard.”
The Cases also tapped local talent to handle Early Mountain’s 2012 renovation. Two Richmond-based firms, 3north and Janie Molster Designs, handled the architecture and interior design, while ILEX Construction & Woodworking in Charlottesville was the contractor.
Jean and Steve Case currently reside in McLean. In addition to Early Mountain, they also run the Case Foundation, where Jean is CEO and Steve is chairman. Steve also is chairman and CEO of investment firm Revolution.