Gazing across the serene reflecting pool and rolling vineyards at Afton Mountain from Septenary Winery’s tasting room veranda, sipping a glass of crisp Viognier or dry Summer Kitchen Rose, one can easily shake off the cares of the week and let the quiet, calm ambience of western Albemarle’s newest winery soothe your soul. “What sets Septenary apart are the views, the quality of the wine, and our cozy, intimate atmosphere,” explained owner Todd Zimmerman. We now have another option for sharing wine with friends in an idyllic, natural setting in sight of the breathtaking views for which Greenwood and Crozet are famous. And if you’re feeling peckish, the tasting room also offers cheese and charcuterie boards prepared by Fardowners.
SEPT-en-ar-y Winery at Seven Oaks Farm, pronounced with the emphasis on the first syllable (think January rather than centenary) opened in December, 2017 on the historic Seven Oaks estate right down the road in Greenwood, a short five miles from downtown Crozet’s Square, and just ½ mile up Greenwood Station Rd (Rt. 690) from Rt. 250 West. Or you can take the “scenic route” along Jarman’s Gap Rd. (Rt. 691), with a left turn at the Greenwood Post Office. The 109-acre farm, vineyard, and winery lies just across the fields from Mirador, the childhood home of Nancy Langhorne Astor, who married Viscount Waldorf Astor in 1906 and became the first woman to sit as a Member of Parliament (MP) in the British House of Commons. Both she and her sister Irene Langhorne—considered the original Gibson Girl—were neighbors and visitors at Seven Oaks in the early 20th century, and the Langhorne family even owned it for a short time. Both Mirador and Seven Oaks were added to the National Register of Historic Places in the 1980s, and more recently Seven Oaks was declared a Virginia Historic Landmark as well.
But the farm’s history began much earlier than that. Its original owner, Reverend Samuel Black (1700-1770), emigrated to Pennsylvania from Northern Ireland in 1735, and was called to Virginia by the Mountain Plains and Ivy Creek congregations to become the first Presbyterian minister in Albemarle County. Rev. Black welcomed Thomas Jefferson, George Rogers Clark, and other notables to Black’s Tavern, a log cabin that sat at the front of the property along Route 250. This historic tavern was moved to neighboring Mirador in 2001. Black’s sons, after one of whom Blacksburg is named, sold the property to Alexander Garrett, who became Bursar of the new University of Virginia. His son Dr. John Garrett, one of the first students enrolled at the University of Virginia who went on to graduate from the Medical College of Virginia, built the Seven Oaks manor house c. 1847. In the early 1900s, the Harris/Peyton family purchased Seven Oaks and added the Greek Revival portico with two-story Ionic columns and two octagonal side rooms. Many of us remember picking strawberries on the Peyton property in the 1980s. They also planted seven white oaks on the south lawn, each named for a Virginia President (Washington, Madison, Monroe, Jefferson, Harrison, Taylor, and Tyler). According to legend, in 1954 Hurricane Hazel destroyed all but one of the oaks, and as if by fate, the lone survivor was the tree named for Charlottesville native Thomas Jefferson—which stands proudly on the property to this day. After nearly a century of ownership, the Peytons sold the estate to Dave Matthews Band manager Coran Capshaw around 2000, who planted seven acres of Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot, Syrah, and Viognier grapes that comprise the current Estate Vineyard of mature vines.
Enter current owners Todd and Sarah Zimmerman, who met in graduate school at the University of Virginia and went on to raise a family and lead successful health care careers in Denver; their son is a recent U.Va. graduate. But, like so many of us, they had fallen in love with Charlottesville and Albemarle County, and vowed to someday return. After a 1½ -year search, and especially drawn to the beauty and climate of the Crozet/Greenwood area, they found this perfect location, already planted with 15-year-old vines, to establish a winery. Purchasing Seven Oaks from Capshaw in 2014, they supplemented the Estate Vineyard with an additional 26 acres in Essex County, Virginia, near the Rappahanock River and the Chesapeake Bay, which had 30-year-old vines of the traditional Bordeaux “noble” red grape varieties—Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Malbec, and Petit Verdot—as well as Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, and Viognier. “The terroir of our Estate Vineyard—its soil and topography—produces excellent fruit,” explains Todd. “[Vintner] Sebastien is particularly taken by the Merlot on this site. A steady breeze and nice elevation changes protect the vineyard from frost and drain some of the moisture. It provides a great complement to our Essex vineyard toward the coast.” Beginning this fall, Septenary will produce all their own wines on site.
The Zimmermans, who live in the estate’s manor house surrounded by towering boxwood hedges, renovated Capshaw’s pool house to become Septenary’s spacious tasting room, roped off the picturesque swimming pool (where swimming is prohibited), and replaced the hot tub with a fire pit filled with blue glass crystals. They added a large outer patio which will be covered with a South African stretch tent reminiscent of the Charlottesville Pavilion when needed. An outdoor grilling kitchen caps off the all-purpose winery that is ideal for events. Wishing to honor the history of the property, but leery of competing with the Seven Oaks Cabernet produced by J. Lohr’s Napa Valley, California Vineyard, they chose the name Septenary, defined as ‘of or relating to the number seven.’ The Roman numeral VII logo contains a nod to Virginia in its V, and shapes its two I’s like the Ionic columns of the manor house portico. “The Winery title refers to the production and sale of the wine, but Septenary also includes the vineyard and the farm—where we raise grass-fed beef and free-range Pekin duck, which we sell in partnership with the Free Union Grass Farm. The Septenary Farm Winery includes all three,” Todd explains.
Vintner Sebastien Marquet, a native of Burgundy, France, who earned his B.S. degree at the Lycee Viti-Oenologie de Beaune, has worked with vintages from across the world for 30 years and uses old world winemaking techniques. The Zimmermans met him when they purchased the Essex Vineyard, which he was managing for the prior owner. “We hit it off, tasted his wines, and we were hooked!” said Todd. With Septenary as his primary focus, Marquet also works on a consulting basis with other wineries. Many of the red blends he creates are named after the many historic support buildings on the property, such as Summer Kitchen Rosé 2017 (Syrah), Carriage House 2015 (89 percent Merlot and 11 percent Cabernet Franc), and Coleman 2014 (40 percent Cabernet Sauvignon, 33 percent Merlot, 27 percent Cabernet Franc, and 20 percent Petit Verdot). The Deacon 2014 vintage was recently retired. These and other houses were probably named for families who formerly lived and worked on the estate, including Hitt House for a long-ago orchard manager. Watch for possible Icehouse—perhaps the only hexagonal icehouse in Virginia—Smokehouse, Drivers, or Manor Reserve offerings in the future. Tasting Room Manager Andrew Ornée, Farm and Estate Manager Stephen Pulich, and Grounds Manager Travis Marshall round out the current Septenary team.
Septenary offers a wine club that includes 15 percent off all wine, complementary tastings for guests, exclusive access to the second story club lounge, deck, and self-serve wine station, and pickup parties for the quarterly trios, which cost $90 each. Seven Oaks may also be rented as a wedding venue, with ceremony set-up often taking place on the south lawn beside the Jefferson oak and enclosed by towering boxwoods. For a basic $8,000 fee, a couple has complete use of the grounds for a full weekend. “You can customize it as you wish, and we don’t schedule more than one event per week,” owner and events coordinator Sarah said, “which means a bride has the luxury of access from Friday through Sunday for setup and teardown without rushing.” “But this is not our main focus,” explained Todd, “which is on the farm and the vineyard.”
Whether for an event or just a relaxing weekend sojourn, a visit to Septenary lets you enjoy fine wine and soak up some of our region’s rich history while basking in the beauty of Greenwood’s fields and mountains. You might even feel transported back to the 18th century, when Black’s Tavern hosted travelers and Jefferson raised a glass! Septenary is open Friday through Sunday, 11 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. It is an adults-only facility (aged 21 and over), but dogs are allowed in a designated area. Musical events are planned on summer Sunday afternoons from 3-5, including Rob Cheatham & Company on June 3 and the Robert Jospe Trio on July 8. The new Fardowners food truck will be on hand Saturday, July 21 from 1-4. “We’ve been able to use all local suppliers, and the community relationships and support have been fantastic,” Sarah noted, adding, “The mountains, the water, the wine—that’s Nirvana!”