Owners Elizabeth & Tony Smith have deep roots in Central Virginia. They both grew up in nearby Charlottesville and attended Albemarle High School. They also went on to further their educations respectively at the University of Virginia and Davidson College, tying the marriage knot at the University’s Chapel. With a lifelong community of friends and family in the area, they were more than happy to return to living in the Blue Ridge Mountains after spending several years working and raising a family in coastal Virginia. With their purchase of Afton Mountain Vineyards in 2009, the vineyard and farm winery began a new chapter, led by the Smiths’ passion for growing grapes and producing wine.
~Elizabeth & Tony Smith
In 1978, vines were first planted at what we now call Afton Mountain Vineyards, making our farm one of the first vineyards in Virginia. In those days there were only six such farm wineries in the state. We are grateful that the original owners chose such a well-suited location for viticulture, allowing us to continue to produce top quality wines over 40 years later. Since 2009, we have doubled our plantings to include 26 acres of vines, planted with 11 different varieties of Vitis vinifera grapes: Albariño, Chardonnay, Gewurztraminer, Muscat, Pinot Noir, Merlot, Sangiovese, Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec, Petit Verdot, and Tannat.
Situated on the eastern slope of our namesake Afton Mountain, our vines start each morning with a front row seat to the rising sun, maximizing each plant’s daily solar exposure and ripening potential. Below the surface, here in the heart of Virginia’s Piedmont, our vineyard is rooted in what is known as dyke-loam soil; a unique mix of heavy clay and silt that formed from eons of erosion of the Blue Ridge Mountains.
At nearly 1,000 feet of elevation, we are generally able to avoid the risks of late spring frosts and we are sheltered from excessive rain by the surrounding mountain side. A prevailing breeze which flows through the nearby Rockfish and Humpback gaps acts as a natural dehumidifier, reducing the some of the challenging effects of our area’s humid climate. Growing grapes is never easy, but these features of our farm help us to produce wines that we are proud of year after year.
It is often said that great wine is made in the vineyard, and while it is true that well-made wines require well-grown grapes, there is no substitute for a skilled and passionate winemaker. Our Winemaker, Damien Blanchon, has been tending vines and producing wine in Virginia since obtaining a degree in viticulture and enology in his native France in 2006. Damien joined AMV in 2011 and oversees the winemaking and vineyard management operations of the business. He and his team work diligently to implement sustainable and environmentally respectful practices both inside the winery and outside in the vineyard. Born into a winemaking family, Damien relies on his deep experience and he approaches each new growing season with the goal of showcasing our terroir and balancing the unique character of every vintage.