From the very beginning, Jamestown was set up to be a trading colony where imports from the New World sent to England were expected to make the investors of the Virginia Company very wealthy. Even though tobacco eventually became the bumper crop that fulfilled that early destiny, there were high expectations placed on wine made from the bountiful grapes growing in the region at the time.
In 1619, at the first representative assembly in the New World, the burgesses passed “Acte 12,” which, among other things, required all male landowners in and around Jamestown to plant 10 vines of imported vinifera grapes for the purpose of making wine that would be suitable for export. One of the first people to comply with this “Acte” was a man named John Johnson, who planted 85 acres of vineyard in an area known as Jockey’s Neck.
Today, a large portion of what was Jockey’s Neck 400 years ago is now a part of The Williamsburg Winery’s vineyards. And while the early attempts at producing wine from native Virginia grapes were unsuccessful as the wine was deemed undrinkable, the wines produced from grapes grown there today are gaining national and even international acclaim.
As a tribute to the legislation that eventually turned Virginia into the birthplace of American wine, Williamsburg Winery introduced their signature Acte 12 Chardonnay in 2015, made from 100 percent Virginia grapes. These grapes have been cultivated to produce a well-balanced wine with notes of green apples, pears, nectarines, dried apricots and honeydew melon, along with tropical grapefruit and pineapple, with just a touch of lemon rind and creamy vanilla notes that round it all out.
“Even though the early attempts at growing wine here eventually failed, the spirit lived on and inspired some Virginia wine pioneers to continue those efforts several hundred years later,” says Michael Kimball, vice president of marketing for The Williamsburg Winery. “The wines we’re making here today are a testament to that character.”
In addition, in order to celebrate the quadricentennial (400th anniversary) of Acte 12, The Williamsburg Winery will open the 1619 Wine Pavilion on their property this spring. It will be located adjacent to the Gabriel Archer Tavern, across from the Tasting Room & Retail Shop. This will be an outdoor, covered, multi-level area where people can come, grab a bottle of wine and sit outside overlooking the vineyards. The terrace area will provide tables with comfortable seating, firepits and mood lighting.
“This is a big deal for us and not only from the 400th anniversary perspective,” says Kimball. “This is something that we haven’t previously been able to offer guests, which is a large venue that’s not a restaurant, where visitors can just casually enjoy wine, either as a flight or by the bottle."
Through their efforts to offer consumers a unique wine and culinary experience, The Williamsburg Winery has evolved from humble beginnings in 1985 to a wine and culinary destination with a 28-room boutique hotel (Wedmore Place), two award-winning restaurants (The Gabriel Archer Tavern and Café Provençal), and one of Virginia’s most acclaimed wineries.
The Tasting Room is the starting place for a number of tours and tastings, including two new additions “Introduction to Wine Tour and Tasting” and “Virginia Wine Experience Tour & Tasting.” Other tours include “Extensive Tour and Reserve Wine Tasting,” “Fine Wine Tasting,” “Reserve Wine Tasting" and two lunch options that only offer tickets online: “Fine Wine Tasting with Lunch” and “Reserve Wine Tasting with Lunch.”
After your tour, the Retail Shop offers a number of wines and wine-related products. You can purchase by the bottle or case, then enjoy your purchase at the new 1619 Wine Pavilion. Wines are also available for purchase online if you’d like to ship an exquisite gift to friends and family, so they can also celebrate “Acte 12” and the foundation it laid for all American wines.
For dining or tour reservations, or for directions to The Williamsburg Winery, visit WilliamsburgWinery.com. To keep up with all of their most current offerings, follow them on Facebook, YouTube, Instagram and Twitter.