New Kent Vineyard

Interview by Savannah Potter
Issue 68 • October 2018 • New Kent

These family vintners are cultivating an uncommon variety of the native Norton grape—and continuing the unlikely success story of Virginian wine.

Located half an hour outside of Richmond, New Kent Winery is part of the exclusive private living community of Viniterra. Surrounded by over 30 acres of cultivated vines, the 17,000-square-foot winery is a sight to behold. Constructed of hundred year old timber and reclaimed Civil War-era brick, the tasting room and porches beg visitors to relax and enjoy pristine views of the surrounding grounds.

Joe Dombroski, Owner of New Kent Winery

The vineyards, established in 2001, have flourished under the care and supervision of the New Kent staff. The family-owned business has been run by the Dombroski family since 2014. From marketing to harvests, the family takes part in every step of the winemaking process. Jake Dombroski, Vice President of Winery Operations, has been involved with the family business from the beginning. A graduate of Virginia Tech, his speciality in grape growing has ensured that the New Kent vines consistently meet the high standards of the Dombroski brand.

Guided by winemaker Tom Payette, New Kent is one of only two wineries in Virginia that produce a white Norton wine. This unique rosé is described by Dombroski as being acidic and sweeter than its red Norton counterpart. The biggest challenge faced by grape growers is maintaining a consistent quality of grape year after year. Dombroski explained that while consistency is important, so is the recipe of the final product. Subtle changes between vintages is entirely normal and New Kent takes pride in creating “more artfully crafted products” than mass produced bottles.

The winery has struck an impressive balance of expansion, production, and consistency. Focused on craftsmanship rather than commercialization, New Kent’s products are a result of a hands-on “old world” approach. The vineyard currently produces around 6,500 cases of wine, but with additional acres being planted each year, the family hopes to reach a production goal of 10,000 cases in the near future.

What is Dombroski’s go-to recommendation? In his words, all of them. His personal favorite is a brand new vintage being publicly released this month: a cabernet franc developed by Jake and his mother. Heavy and dry, this popular variety will be released during the first week of October, just in time to kick off Virginia Wine Month.

October is Virginia wine month and vineyards all across the state are hosting events to celebrate. Home to 285 wineries, Virginia is ranked fifth in the country for wine grape growing. The state’s top varietals include Chardonnay, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot, and the native Norton grape. Virginia wines are successful due in part to the variety of climates found throughout the state. From tidewater regions to low-lying mountains, vintners have many choices in where to set up shop. The differing areas result in an excellent, if challenging, environment for grape growing. Virginia’s history of wine involves the settlers of Jamestown, Thomas Jefferson, Italian entrepreneurs, and trade secrets surrounding the creation of the native Norton varietal. After 400 years of determined experimentation, the Commonwealth’s wines are now exported internationally.

The Virginia wine scene has thrived in recent years, attracting over two million “wine tourists” in 2016 alone. What makes Virginia wineries so unique, though, are the innovative approaches used to attract clientele. Indian Summer Guides offer a horseback tour through Charlottesville vineyards and orchards. Chatham Vineyards welcomes guests arriving on kayaks paddling up Church Creek. Veritas Vineyards hosts a four-day yoga retreat designed to help relax and invigorate participants. Stopping by a Virginia winery isn’t just a visit; it’s an experience.

New Kent Winery will host a two-day, family-friendly Harvest Festival on October 6 and 7 from 12–5 PM each day. The event includes hayrides, pumpkin picking, games, and live music by country rocker Chase Payne. The full range of wine selections will be available along with beer and food vendors. A commemorative limited edition Virginia Heritage blend will be making an appearance as well. In celebration of Virginia wine month, dozens of wineries are hosting events with unlimited tastings, food vendors, live music, and family-friendly themes. Admission to the festival is free, with parking available for $5 per vehicle. From Harvest Celebrations to polo and bocce nights, these wineries have something for everyone.

Learn more about New Kent Winery at newkentwinery.com. For a full list of Virginia Wine Month events, visit virginiawine.org/virginia-wine-month.

Photography by Brian Brown

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