Blacksburg winery just winding up
BLACKSBURG — It is often said that wine only gets better with time.
A similar notion could be voiced regarding Yvan and Joyce Beliveau’s vision for their winery, as the former farm turned bed and breakfast, event center and winery, Beliveau Estate, enters its second season of handcrafting wines.
The crafting, bottling and selling of wines on the land marks the fulfillment of their original purpose for their Catawba Valley farm, as well as a dream come true for the Beliveaus.
“We actually pinch ourselves, or we pretend to,” Joyce Beliveau said.
In 2001, the couple purchased the 165-acre farm after Yvan Beliveau decided the soil, much of which he said is made of highly broken-down limestone pebbles, and atmospheric nature of the area would provide near-perfect conditions in which to produce grapes.
“The world searches for that kind of soil for growing grapes,” Yvan Beliveau said.
He would likely know. The professor in the Myers-Lawson School of Construction at Virginia Tech and his wife have visited wineries in 11 countries spanning five continents.
He added that the rising and falling winds of the area greatly reduce the potential for frosts during the growing season.
In 2004, the couple sold their other Blacksburg home, made the farm their permanent residence and began toying with the idea of opening the estate as a bed and breakfast.
“For a couple [of] years, Yvan and I would go up to our pavilion in the afternoons with a glass of wine and watch the sunset, magically, and we would actually say to each other, we need to share this place,” Joyce Beliveau said.
She said it was at this point in the conversation her husband would often suggest opening a bed and breakfast; however, she admitted it took almost two years before she was ready to undertake the endeavor.
The farmhouse was then expanded, thanks to Yvan Beliveau’s design and carpentry skills, and in 2007, the inn at Beliveau Estate opened. Today, the venue includes five guest rooms, each with its own fireplace and private bath.
Around this time, Yvan Beliveau also added knotty pine paneling and Italian tile to the building, which is close to 5,000 square feet and was formerly a barn. The Beliveaus began hosting weddings and other events as a means of raising funds to put toward the winery, Joyce Beliveau said.
In fact, she said, everything at the estate, including her personal passion of growing lavender, was there to support the process of starting and maintaining the winery.
As of late, however, the winery is beginning to carry its own weight.
Grapes were first planted at Beliveau Estate in 2009 and first picked in 2011, and the first bottles of Beliveau Estate wine were available in May 2012.
In just its rookie season, the winery already began to pick up awards. Four of the six wines entered in last summer’s Mid-Atlantic Southeastern Competition in Winston Salem, N.C., took medals — a gold, silver and two bronze.
Joyce Beliveau added that the winery had also met its financial projections for its initial year with the 11 wines, both white and red, it produced, and they opened their own retail location on West Roanoke Street in downtown Blacksburg in September of last year.
Most recently, the winery has obtained its distributing and shipping licenses allowing restaurants, such as The Bank in Pearisburg, and wine shops, such as Blacksburg’s Vintage Cellar, to sell Beliveau products.
Vintage Cellar owner Keith Roberts said his shop currently has four Beliveau Estate wines. He added that for a newer operation, the winery seemed to be making a pretty wide range of wines.
Yvan Beliveau said his estate’s most recent crop yielded 4 ½ tons of grapes, which combined with the products from other leased areas around the country will make up their 2012 collection of wines.
Despite the positive results, the winery’s formula for success is far from set in stone. Truth be told, it actually doesn’t exist at all.
Yvan Beliveau said that because each crop of grapes is different, the winemakers go by no standard formula in the creation of wine, but rather use continuous bench and blind taste tests to determine each batch’s ingredients.
“You have to listen to the [product], and it tells you what it wants to become,” Yvan Beliveau said.
The winemaker described the process as a complex mixture of science and art, insisting that both are equally necessary for success.
“You can’t make wine with science, and you can’t make great wine without art,” he said.
While it seems the wine of Beliveau will be constantly evolving, so, too, will its landscape, according to the couple.
Yvan Beliveau said plans are in the works to add an outdoor amphitheater and an additional pavilion geared toward weddings on the western end of the property.
With the winery up and running, one of the couple’s long-term visions has come to fruition, but make no mistake about it, the two believe they have plenty more to work on.
“There’s always something you can dream so I guess [the estate] is a playground of dreams, so it’s exciting,” Joyce Beliveau said.
The Roanoke Times | 381-1643