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10th Anniversary Founders' Features, Week 3

Posted on 

November 3, 2022

The foundation for Early Mountain’s nationally renowned wine program came in large part through the hard work and contributions of our next Founders, Ben Jordan and Patt Eagan. Ben and Patt brought their passion for wines from around the world as well as Ben’s experience in Sonoma Valley winemaking and Patt’s family ties to Champagne to their time at Early Mountain. This expertise and knowledge in turn helped create wines beloved well beyond Virginia’s borders

Ben joined the Early Mountain team as head winemaker in 2015, a vintage that was a pivot point for quality both through his leadership and the addition of our mountainside vineyard, Quaker Run, tot he portfolio. Ben helped bring to bottle proprietor Jean Case’s vision to create wines that reflect the soils and climate of Virginia. He ensured our wines respect and represent our vineyards and shifted our winemaking towards elegance and finesse with the use of ambient fermentations, long lees aging, and an overall approach that captures the essence of place. And he gained us tremendous recognition including multiple 95+ scores from reviewer James Suckling, a nomination as American Winery of the Year (2018, Wine Enthusiast) and recognition from Wine Business Monthly as a Hot Brand.   Ben recently passed the reins to long-time Viticulturist & AssociateWinemaker Maya Hood White leaving his legacy in experienced and capable hands.

 

Patt joined the Early Mountain tasting room fresh from his undergrad studies at University of Richmond and an internship with theVirginia Wine Marketing Board. He quickly transitioned through an array of roles from assisting in the winery to leading our sales efforts.  Patt quickly became an indispensable part oft he team and helped establish many of the key relationships with wine writers, buyers, and enthusiasts that we still nurture today, building our distribution presence in Virginia, DC, and Georgia. He departed to pursue his MBA at University ofVirginia’s Darden School of Business but we knew it was only so long before he jumped back into the wine world!

 We are thrilled that they have partnered together with Ben’s brother Tim for a new project in the Shenandoah Valley, Common Wealth Crush.


Together, Patt and Ben have selected 4 wines that tell the story of their journey in Virginia wine. We hope you join us to have a taste and raise a glass to these two Founders.

 

From Patt Eagan:

Thibaut Janisson Sparkling Brut NV 

You know how people talk about their desert island wine? I.e., if they had to pick just one while stranded, what would it be? Well, sparkling is mine. My French cousins are champagne grower-producers in Epernay, France, and I credit them with first getting me interested in the wine business. To this day, I'm a sparkling fanatic and love exploring what different regions around the world have to offer in the style, especially Méthode Champenoise. That said, it may come as no surprise that one of the firstVirginia producers I gravitated towards was Thibaut-Janisson. In addition to the quality of the wines Claude Thibaut produces, the uniqueChampagne-Charlottesville connection represented here is a mirror of my own family's. Also, as coincidence would have it, my cousin John Charles, who currently runs the family champagne operation, attended wine school in France years ago with TJ co-founder Manuel Janisson - small world! 

Early Mountain Petit Manseng 2020: Stylistically, Petit Manseng produces the type of still white wines I love to drink - aromatic, textural, and high acid. My first introduction to the variety was at Early Mountain in 2012, and I recall never having tasted a Virginia white wine quite like it up until that point. I've always been intrigued by the mysteries of young wine growing regions - i.e.,what variety grows well, where, and why - and how those mysteries often only reveal themselves slowly over time through trial and error. The notion that this obscure grape variety from southwestern France would feel right at home inVirginia - and produce showstopper wines to boot - is fascinating to me. That said, I suppose my love for Petit Manseng is twofold - the wines it produces, and also the spirit of exploration and discovery that it represents for our region; not to mention the question it naturally tees up: "What else haven't we tried?!"

From Ben:

Midland Cabernet Franc 2019: I wanted to share a wine that my brother and I made at EarlyMountain to show how EMV's support of the industry has helped smaller projects get on their feet. Since Patt, my brother and I decided to build a company that aspires to incubate the next generation of creative producers, I wanted to pay homage to Early Mountain's collaborative spirit and how it inspired our team.

Linden Hardscrabble: Though I am from Virginia, it took a visit to Linden when I was making wine in California, to show me how far my home state had develop edits wine industry. Laura and I were welcomed by Jim Law as we drove from Dulles to Fort Defiance to visit my dad. Also tasting were Kirsty Harmon and Matthieu Finot, so it was my first time meeting folks who would eventually become friends and colleagues. It was inspiring, not only because of the high quality of the wines, but because I could see how collaborative, rather than competitive the industry was, especially compared to California. Speaking ofCA, I took a Linden Chardonnay back with me and shared it with some SonomaCounty winemakers, and they remarked that they wished they could make Chardonnay like Jim's. You don't hear that sort of thing pass a West Coast winemaker's lips that often! Hopefully these days they are getting jealous of our state's Petit Manseng!