Started in 1989 to provide “A Taste of Tuscany” to visitors and wine connoisseurs, Villa Appalaccia’s new owners Tim and Julie Block hope to continue the Italian wine tradition.
Following his retirement from the corporate world, Tim Block said he and his wife Julie were looking for something to do.
When they saw the winery for sale, the couple made the trip from Lake Norman, North Carolina and fell in love. Block said the decision to purchase the winery in 2018 was first and foremost about the wine, as they enjoy Villa’s winery and its more than 30-year history of winemaking. “That was first because I’m not going to buy something that I’m not proud of,” he said.
Secondly, Block said the peaceful and quiet atmosphere of the mountains appealed to them, especially at that point in their lives.
Block said 12 different varieties of Italian grapes are grown on the winery’s 20-acre vineyard. Because of the villa’s 3,500-foot elevation, the original owners started the vineyard in the valley between Stuart and Woolwine at a lower altitude.
In addition to there being too much frost and rain at the villa’s elevation, Block said he also thinks the Italian varietals “need a bit more TLC” that the lower elevation provides.
Block said the winery makes 10-12 different wines in an average year, totaling anywhere from 2,500 to 3,000 cases.
“Really, that’s a sweet spot for us,” he said. “One of my goals was to not add additional vines or additional varietals to the vineyard. Our goal is to focus on the 10 to 12 that we have and make the best wine that we can,” he said.
Block said another goal is to provide memorable and meaningful visits for customers. “Wine’s a big part of their visit, but it’s not the only reason they come here,” he said.
Villa also does the entire winemaking process on site. During harvest time, Block said they will bring the grapes up the mountain, and then crush, press and ferment them.
Block added Villa still bottles its own wine. “I think a lot of wineries have gotten away from that. They have the big truck that comes and bottles for them, but we still bottle our own wine, and we enjoy doing that,” he said.
Block said that while the winery creates both red and white wine, more reds are made along with one rose each year. “We also do one prosecco style. So lightly bubbled, but not as many bubbles as a champagne. … Currently our prosecco style is a rose,” he said.
In keeping with the Italian wine tradition, Villa primarily creates and sells dry wines except for a semi-sweet dessert wine. People in Italy typically don’t like oaky red wines, so Block said the winery will use neutral oak barrels, “which means older oak barrels” as “brand new oak is going to be pretty strong on the oaky flavor.”
“We’ll pick up neutral oak, which means previously used. If there are wineries that want the heavy oak and they use it for two years or three years, they’ll discard those and we’ll pick those up,” he said.
Like other regional wineries and vineyards, Villa experienced a frost in 2020. “It wasn’t a total loss like others may have had, but it was significant,” he said, adding he estimates the vineyard lost 35-40 percent of its grapes.
While the previous owners entered some of Villa’s wines into competitions, Block said he and his wife have not done so since taking over. “When we bought the winery, they just didn’t have a huge inventory on hand, and so that’s one of our main goals that we’ve been working on for our first four years … to build that inventory,” he said.
As the couple have been successful in creating a large inventory, Block said he might enter a couple of wines into the Governor’s Cup this year. “We’re approaching our fifth harvest. I think we’re at a stage now where we’re comfortable and confident in entering some competitions,” he said.
A bonus the Blocks weren’t counting on was the family involvement in the winery. Block’s son-in-law, Heyward Smith, is the winery manager and his daughter-in-law worked as the event coordinator for a while. “So, just getting the family involved has been great,” he said.
Villa Appalaccia wine is distributed to Mr. Bill’s Wine Cellar in Roanoke, Vintage Cellar in Christiansburg, Concord Corner Store in Meadows of Dan, Harvest Moon and Republic of Floyd in Floyd, and several other local restaurants.
The winery is open for tastings Wednesday-Friday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., Saturday from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., and Sundays from 12-4:30 p.m. There will be live music every Saturday through October and pizza on Sundays.
For more information, go to www.villaappalaccia.com or Facebook.com.VillaAppalacciaWinery.