Vintner triple threat creates one of a kind vintages.
Photo by Jack Looney
(L to R) Jake Busching, Emily Pelton and Mattieu Finot.
Let’s say, for argument’s sake, that three is your lucky number. And let’s say you’re a winemaker who has two buddies who also are winemakers. And so you get this idea of mixing one of each of your wines with the others’, slapping a mutually acceptable label on it, and selling it for, say, $33.33. Would you then release it at 3:33 p.m. on March 3? Yes, you would.
‘3’ is a labor of love among three close friends who share an ardor for arbors (grape arbors, that is). When they met a dozen or so years ago, Emily Pelton (winemaker at Veritas Winery in Afton, pictured above, center), Jake Busching (of Grace Estate Winery in Crozet, above left) and Mattieu Finot (of King Family Vineyards, also in Crozet, above right) were all novices in the Virginia wine industry.
“We are all of the same age,” says 37-year-old Pelton, “and we became fast friends.” Working just “spittin’ distance from each other,” as Pelton puts it, the three made a habit of getting together over beers at Brew Mountain Brewery during harvest. “One day, Matthieu said, ‘We should make a wine together,’” Pelton recalls. And they did, in 2009, 2010, 2012 and now a fourth vintage, 2013. (The trio took off 2011 while Busching moved from Pollak Vineyards in Greenwood to Grace Estate.)
Each year, each vintner contributes one-third of the juice (which is determined year to year). In past years, the red blend has mixed merlot, petit verdot and cabernet franc. This year’s creation is white, for which Pelton supplied two barrels of viognier; Finot, a barrel each of chardonnay and viognier; and Bushing, a barrel of chardonnay and one of petit manseng. But unlike the blend, the name never changes: It is always 3.
The resulting wines are sold only at the wineries. The annual production run of 135 cases is divided evenly between the three, so it doesn’t matter what your lucky number is; if you wait too long to get yours, you’ll be out of luck. KingFamilyVineyards.com, GraceEstateWinery.com, VeritasWines.com