AFTON — When wine enthusiasts Stan and Barbara Joynes decided to open a winery, they assumed finding land suitable for growing grapes would be easy. In 2015, the Richmond couple decided to combine their love of wine with their love for Wintergreen, where they had a winter home.
With the help of four other couples, they purchased land on Critzers Shop Road in Afton and began planting grapes that spring.
At the end of 2015, they opened Valley Road Vineyards. The tasting room, which features its sauvignon blanc, chardonnay, viognier, rose, pinot gris, merlot, petit verdot and sparkling wines, opened in August 2016. In 2017, Valley Road’s 2014 Petit Verdot won one of the 12 spots in the Governor’s Case during the annual Governor’s Cup awards.
Now the Joyneses have permanently moved to Nelson County, where the winery continues to thrive and their investors — the four other couples — remain on board.
Valley Road Vineyards sits on the former location of a.m. Fog, a farm and farmers market along Route 151 at 9264 Critzers Shop Road.
With the help of King Family Vineyards in Crozet and its resident winemaker, Matthieu Finot, Valley Road’s wines were made by King Family on a contract basis.
Last fall, Stan Joynes began taking the fruits grown at Valley Road to a new wine production facility in Albemarle County that is bottling the vineyard’s 2019 wines. It will be available in a few weeks.
The vineyard has about five acres of grapes and an additional seven acres of land. Stan Joynes said he plans to build a wine production facility on the land in about five years.
Along with wine tastings, during the warmer months vineyard tours are offered and this year the vineyard will begin hosting weddings.
“All of our wines are good, no matter what your palate is,” Joynes said. “People seem to enjoy the wine here quite a bit and we have a large patio outside the tasting room, a lake next door and mountains rising over the lake. People love to sit and chill and take in the view.”
Ginny Ward, a resident of Verona, has been visiting Virginia wineries with her friend for the past decade. She said ever since visiting Valley Road during the first weekend it was open, it has been one of her favorites — not just in the state but in the country.
“I fell in love with the place. The venue is beautiful, the tasting room is large and comfortable and the people are top notch,” she said. “Over the years, they have made it a welcoming wine venue. The wines are delicious and the environment is warm and welcoming. It’s a great place to go.”
Joynes said one of the best things about the wineries in the area is each brings its own vision and experience for its guests.
“There are no two that are alike,” he said. “Part of the whole Virginia wine experience is everywhere you go is different.”
Lindsay Dorrier, Nelson 151 president and director of new business development at Bold Rock Hard Cider, said the Joyneses and the team at Valley Road have been a positive addition to the area’s craft beverage community.
“They are engaged and informed business proprietors who really get it when it comes to collaboration and collective support for the mutual benefit of all our businesses,” he said.
Dorrier said he had the opportunity to work with their team directly on broader issues affecting the business climate as well charity events to benefit the Blue Ridge Area Food Bank.
“And I can tell you that we have a winner [on the northern side] on 151 that produces high-quality wines that provides for a high-quality guest experience and is definitely worth a visit,” he said.
Moving from Richmond to the Nelson area has shown the Joyneses there is a healthy agricultural community and the businesses help each other out.
“There is no competition,” Joynes said. “A rising tide lifts all boats. It’s a win-win and it’s wonderful to be a part of that and we want to pay it forward to the next person. Whatever success we’ve enjoyed is in part due to that.”