“Nothing will grow on that heap of rocks,” warned an Angus farmer about his granite hillside in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains. But Rutger de Vink knew that his search for the ideal patch of land, the one with the promise to produce a truly great American wine on a par with those that had inspired him in Bordeaux, had come to fruition. That south-facing slope may not have appealed to a herd of grazing cattle, but the outstanding drainage those rocks provide is an attractive commodity for viticulture – especially to anyone wanting to create concentrated, balanced, world-class wine in Virginia’s challenging, rainy climate.
It’s not in Rutger’s nature or upbringing to be afraid of a challenge. His heroic grandfather hid downed Allied pilots in a secret room in his Amsterdam home during World War II. Rutger joined the US Marine corps after college and served in Somalia before abandoning a career in venture capitalism to nurture his love of wine and a spiritual connection to the land. He settled on Virginia after dismissing several opportunities in California because it looked “too easy” to make great wine there. He made his home in Virginia too – in an Airstream trailer behind his state-of-the-art winery, so he can spend every day in his vineyards.
It wasn’t long before RdV received some exciting professional validation. After having sent samples of wine made from his three year old vines to a friend in Bordeaux, Rutger received an email. Eric Boissenot, the famous oenologist for many great Medoc estates (including four first growths, Chateau Cos d’Estournel and Chateau Palmer) wrote: “C’est un vin de terroir. I (will) do your blend.” After blending the first RdV vintage, Boissenot joined the team in his full capacity as consulting oenologist.
Average yields are 35 hectolitres per hectare, the clusters are hand harvested into lugs and stored for 24 hours in a refrigerated room at 5C before the fruit goes through a rigorous triple sorting and is gravity feed into temperature controlled stainless steel tanks. All tanks are sized to the appropriate vineyard block (35-46 hl) enabling each parcel to be fermented separately. Fermentation and extraction procedures are adapted to vintage and phenolic ripeness. Malolactic fermentation is conducted in unison with alcoholic fermentation or completed in barrique. The lots are blended in the early spring following harvest to form RdV and Rendezvous and are then aged for approximately 18 months in 100% new French oak; after bottling, the wines age for an additional 6 to 8 months prior to their release.