With this Vineyard: Planning a Western Albemarle Wedding

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The Ceremony Lawn at Pippin Hill Farm and Vineyard is set against a Blue Ridge Mountain backdrop. Photo: Jen Fariello.

So you’ve proposed high above Crozet at Humpback Rock, in the Boar’s Head balloon, or at the Rooftop Skybar. You’ve bought the ring, set the date, shared the happy news with family and friends, and—now comes the somewhat intimidating task of choosing a venue for your ceremony and/or reception. Everyone wants their wedding day to be a perfect, magical celebration that reflects the beauty of their love for each other, creates memories to last a lifetime, is relatively stress-free, and doesn’t break the bank.

But how to make that happen? Western Albemarle, with its idyllic settings and sublime mountain views, has become an award-winning location for weddings, bringing big business to many vineyards and resorts in the area. Let us get you started by surveying a few of the main contenders, each of which is within about ten miles from Crozet (give or take). All prices given are for weekend weddings in 2018 during the prime season of April through October, with lower weekday and/or winter rates.

The Carriage House at King Family Vineyard features wooden beams, a towering stone fireplace, bistro lights, and French doors leading to the patio and mountain views. Photo: Stephanie Yonce.

Crozet’s own King Family Vineyards was chosen both Best Wedding Venue and Best Local Winery in the 2017 Best of C-ville awards, a list of local favorites compiled by C-ville Weekly based on popular vote (www.c-ville.com/best-2017).  A family business owned by David and Ellen King, King Family has been hosting weddings for over a decade. “What makes our venue special is the beauty of the landscape, the opportunity to take photos with horses, and the friendliness of our staff, who go the extra mile,” said events coordinator Kelly Bauer. “Our detailed, overall planning means that the couple can relax and enjoy their special day.”

Wedding packages include chairs and tables for a wedding of up to 200 guests, a facilities manager who coordinates with the vendors, and wood for the fire pit; the caterer provides linens, dishes, setup, and take-down, and enjoys use of an industrial-sized kitchen from noon on; the ceremony should not begin until 6 p.m. or later. The wide, level Ceremony Lawn is set against views of Bucks Elbow and Calf Mountain, as well as the stables housing the horses used for polo on summer Sunday afternoons. The spaces are glorious, from the bistro lights and dangling flowers of the chocolate vine (akebia) overhanging the paved patio, to the picturesque carriage house reception hall complete with stone fireplace, stable doors, and stacked wine barrels, to the stone foyer where the bar is set up and couches encourage comfortable conversation. Charming bridal suite and groom’s room and a recently built second, 50-seat tasting room for additional events such as the rehearsal dinner round out a comprehensive but intimate wedding venue. Bauer recommends a wedding planner (and based on experience, so do I!), and asks the couple to choose from a provided list of tried and true caterers who know the venue well.

The horse stable at King Family Vineyards is a favorite photo backdrop for wedding couples. The Kings also host polo games every Sunday afternoon from May to October. Photo: Clover Carroll.

For 2018, the basic cost of a Saturday wedding at King Family Vineyard is $9,000, with Fridays and Sundays reduced to $6,500. For holiday weekends such as Labor and Memorial Day, all days cost the same Saturday rate, and there is a discount for active military personnel. As with all vineyards, ABC law dictates that the venue provide all the wine and other alcohol consumed.  (www.kingfamilyvineyards.com)

Pippin Hill Farm & Vineyard, just east of Batesville, earned Best of Cville 2017’s Honorable Mention in both Wedding Venue and Local Winery categories, as well as Best All-Around Venue from Borrowed and Blue in 2016. Owners Dean Andrews and Lynn Easton purchased the former Albemarle County fairgrounds in the early 2000s and designed the facilities with weddings in mind, making for ideal logistics, easy access for vendors, and elegant spaces with fabulous views. Considering themselves a “culinary vineyard,” Pippin Hill specializes in farm-to-table cuisine and artisan catering directed by chef Ian Rynecki. “Besides our view, what makes this venue special is the culinary experience and how it pairs with the wine,” explains director of sales Brianna Sumey. The Ceremony Lawn with its panoramic view of the Blue Ridge Mountains is only a short walk from the roomy stone veranda, which is decked with bistro lights and used for cocktail hour or the ceremony in case of rain. The granary has an elegant, country-style ambience, with the bride and groom’s head table facing the mountain view and a new, sturdy dance floor that absorbs sound. The wedding package includes exclusive use of the property for six hours, allowing time for the guests to play lawn games or walk down to kitchen and wildflower gardens. “It’s as if the couple is entertaining in their own back yard,” suggests Brianna.

The Pippin Hill Granary and ballroom has an elegant yet still country style ambience. Photo: Katie Stoops.

The luxurious bridal loft overlooking the reception —“designed to make her feel like a princess”—has a balcony ideal for bouquet-tossing, while the groom’s room in the wine cellar has its own mounted TV and private patio. Pippin Hill leaves nothing to chance, requiring a professional wedding planner from the preferred vendors list and in-house catering, complete with tables, chairs, cream crinkle linens, glassware, and place settings for up to 200 guests as well as setup and takedown. They offer a three-tier bar package with per-person pricing that can include wine, beer, and cocktails as desired. Internationally known events planner Lynn Easton also runs the Easton Porter luxury hospitality group, which owns Red Pump Kitchen on the downtown mall and Cannon Green in Charleston, SC, among others.

The bridal loft at Pippin Hill features a balcony overlooking the reception hall that is ideal for bouquet-throwing. Photo: Aaron Watson.

A Saturday wedding at Pippin Hill costs $10,500 or $9,000 for Fridays and Sundays, with holiday weekends priced at the Saturday rate. Required catering costs $112-138/person (depending on the number of courses), with a $31,500 food and beverage minimum or $24,500 on Fridays and Sundays. Passed hors-d’oeuvres are also available for $22/person. (www.pippinhillfarm.com)

The Ceremony Lawn at Veritas Vineyard, backed by verdant vines and Afton Mountain, has electric power for lights and music if desired. Photo: Alicia Lacey.

Veritas Vineyard & Winery, located off Route 6 in Nelson County, received the Wedding Wire Couples’ Choice Award for 2017. Veritas is a family affair, including owners Andrew and Patricia Hodson, winemaker Emily Hodson Pelton, General Manager George Hodson, and Assistant Winemaker Elliott Watkins—whose wife Chloe (Hodson) is a founding partner of Santosha Yoga in Piedmont Place. “We are an all-inclusive venue, so we do a lot of the heavy lifting for you,” explains event manager Jami Becker. “Veritas handles everything except the flowers, cake, entertainment, and photography.” The Ceremony Lawn, set against the imposing backdrop of Afton Mountain (among others), is wired for power to support amplified music. The lovely Saddleback Hall ballroom features a disco ball caged in a wrought iron candelabra, cream draperies on ceiling and walls, twinkle lights around the perimeter, spotlighting for the tables, and uplighting for the draped walls—sure to be quite lovely in action! “The space design is elegant, and carried out in a neutral palette that you can make yours,” Jami explains. The huge veranda with fireplace, bedecked with bistro lights, is used for the cocktail hour or for the ceremony if it rains (in which case the tasting room serves the cocktails). The mezzanine above the tasting room, which seats 40 people, is available for smaller, less formal receptions. The comfortable bridal suite and groom’s room are furnished with sparkling wine for the ladies and a bucket of beer for the men as part of the package. Veritas also requires a professional wedding planner, as well as in-house catering with chef Joel Walding, and provides tables, chairs, linens, full place settings, and setup/takedown for 250 guests. The wedding package provides exclusive use of the property from 6 p.m. to midnight, but the ceremony may not begin before 6:30 and amplified music must stop at 11:30. “My favorite thing about hosting weddings here is being able to go from the tour, to the booking, to the menu tasting, to being part of executing their perfect day,” Jami said.

The Saddleback Hall ballroom at Veritas features a caged disco ball, twinkle lights around the room’s perimeter, and filmy draperies in a neutral color that blends with any color palette. Photo: Katelyn James.

A 2018 Veritas wedding costs $8,000 on Saturday or $7,000 Friday through Sunday, with holiday weekends priced at the Saturday rate. There is a $15,000 food and beverage minimum, but the food cost per person varies depending on the selected menu. A selection of Veritas wines, as well as beer and cocktails is available if desired. (www.veritaswines.com)

The Ceremony Field and flower arbor at Montfair Resort Farm are set in front of Fox Mountain. Photo: Clover Carroll.

For a whole weekend of outdoor activities with your family and friends, Montfair Resort Farm is your spot. Managed by David and Leora Vincenti—an artist who has been featured on Crozet Second Saturdays—Montfair offers (among other options) a popular three-day, two-night “destination” package allowing for a Friday night rehearsal dinner, Saturday wedding and reception, and Sunday brunch—with plenty of time in between for guests to enjoy the tennis court, canoeing on the lake, or hiking and biking the three miles of trails. Montfair routinely hosts destination weddings from D.C., North Carolina, and even New York. The 129-acre resort boasts cabins that sleep 48 people, plus the six-person Beauchamp House and space for up to ten tents. Since it is private property, guests can fish without a license. Montfair is also available for just the wedding and/or reception with no overnight stays. “A lot of the vineyards are pretty fancy. We are more homey, laid back, and rustic,” explains events, sales, and marketing manager Katie Teel. The ceremony field with its flower arbor set against the stunning backdrop of Fox Mountain also features a giant, woven vine LOVE sign designed by Virginia Master Artisan Joe Sheridan for photos. The rustic lakeside lodge, with its path enchantingly lit with white lanterns hung among the trees, is decorated with twinkle lights and seats up to 200 (fewer if a dance floor is included). Montfair provides tables and chairs, but the caterer is responsible for setting them up as well as providing linens, dishes, place settings, and glassware. The lakeside area features picnic tables, a bonfire, and space to play bocce, corn hole, or volleyball. The couple has the option of a more informal lakeside ceremony, with Pasture Fence Mountain rising behind, and the large tented deck outside the lodge is available as a rain plan or cocktail hour. “One of the unique things is that we have both the mountain views and the intimate, private, woodsy feel of the reception lodge” Teel affirms. With its more flexible policies, couples can choose any caterer or wine and beer source they wish (liquor is permitted as long as the couple uses a caterer who has an ABC license), and quiet hour is 11 p.m. Montfair also offers vacation rentals during the week. If you’d like to see this unique venue in person, they are holding an open house November 12 from noon to 6 p.m.

White lanterns light the path to the Lodge where the reception is held at Montfair Resort Farm. Photo: Clover Carroll.

Montfair has a more complex pricing structure because of the opportunity to stay overnight on the property. For a Saturday wedding without overnights (including 12-hour, noon to midnight exclusive use of the property), the cost ranges from $5,400 to $6,810 (depending on number of guests 1-190) or $4,720 to $6,220 on Fridays and Sundays. For a 3-day weekend package (Friday through Sunday) without overnights, you will pay from $8,300 to $9,850. And for a destination weekend wedding including three days plus two-night use of the nine vacation cottages, the cost ranges from $12,398 to $13,948. The Beauchamp House can be added for $12,966-$14,516. Tent camping in up to 10 tents is also available for $24/night per tent. Montfair is co-owned by four Sheridan siblings: Leora Sheridan Vincenti, Rebecca Echols, Jon Sheridan and Joseph Sheridan. (www.montfairresortfarm.com)

White Hall Vineyards is your choice for a smaller, low key, quiet wedding in a cozy, intimate setting. My daughter’s first choice when we reviewed venues ten years ago, White Hall “caters to a smaller wedding,” explains general manager Lisa Champ, daughter of owners Tony and Edie Champ. “You don’t want to have a wedding in a huge space with only a few people. This size gives me a chance to get to know the bride and groom.”

White Hall Vineyards.

Ceremonies are held with a backdrop of vineyard vines or beneath the ancient oak tree, and an upstairs banquet hall (elevator provided) tastefully decorated with gardener’s décor seats 85 or 115 standing. Tony Champ, an avid naturalist, has selected native flowers to decorate the property—including the gorgeous entrance arbor decked with coral honeysuckle, wisteria, and Carolina aster. “We are a vineyard’s vineyard,” explains Champ. “We have a different philosophy than many other venues; we focus on the wine.” While weddings are only about 10 percent of their business, they also host bridal showers, rehearsal dinners, birthday/retirement parties, fundraisers, and the like. They schedule only one event per weekend, and don’t provide tables, chairs, linens, or dishes. No amplified music is allowed, and only wine and beer can be served. White Hall often provides the wine for Montfair weddings, which is right down the road. A wedding and reception in the banquet hall costs an affordable $1500 plus an additional $500 if using the tasting room for the cocktail hour. If the reception is held outside, the cost is $900. (www.whitehallvineyards.com)

All of the gracious events coordinators I spoke with agreed that their favorite part of the job is the relationships they develop with the bride and groom, and the joy of helping them to create the dream-come-true day they had envisioned. They all reported that the wedding business has grown exponentially since they began hosting, and that weddings provide a large portion of their overall business.

The major venues such as King Family, Pippin Hill, and Veritas recommended booking one to one-and-a-half years in advance of your target date—especially for a Saturday wedding. The less formal venues of Montfair and White Hall Vineyard recommend 8 months to a year of advance planning.

The price does not change if the couple opts for a church wedding with only the reception held at the venue. All of these venues welcome same-sex weddings.

These venue tours reminded me of college visits with my kids—I wanted to plan a wedding at each of them! No matter which you choose, you will have an enchanting, unforgettable wedding day.

 

Correction: The print edition of this article incorrectly names David and Leora Vincenti as the owners of Montfair. They are the managers. Montfair is co-owned by four Sheridan siblings: Leora Sheridan Vincenti, Rebecca Echols, Jon Sheridan and Joseph Sheridan.

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