March is Women’s History Month – a celebration of the contribution of women to events in history and contemporary society. Women have made a more than a significant contribution to Loudoun, especially in the development of the county as a renowned beer, whiskey, cider and wine destination.



Here we profile some of the dynamic Loudoun women who create the craft beverages that make us happy. Cheers!



Melanie Natoli, Cana Vineyards & Winery

When you discover the perfectly balanced rosés and red blends at scenic Cana just outside Middleburg, you’ll have Melanie Natoli to thank. The former physical therapist transitioned to winemaking in 2011 when she joined Fabbioli Cellars as assistant winemaker, learning the ropes from the master, Doug Fabbioli. She took the reins at Cana in 2015 and within two years became the first Virginia winemaker to be named Woman Winemaker of the Year at the Women’s International Wine Competition. In 2022 she won the Virginia Governor’s Cup for the best wine in the state, the first woman to receive the award. The winning vintage? The 2019 Unité Reserve red blend made entirely with grapes from Cana’s vineyard. She also has an affinity for dry rosés – try her sublime 2019 Rosé of Cabernet Sauvignon or Merlot.


Melissa Natoli of Cana Vineyards & Winery

Becky Harris, Catoctin Creek Distilling Company

When Becky Harris and husband Scott opened Catoctin Creek Distilling Company in a former Buick dealership in downtown Purcellville in 2009, it became the first distillery in Loudoun since Prohibition. Fast forward 12 years and Becky is arguably the greatest female whiskey maker in America, her flagship Roundstone Rye sold in bars from Malibu to Munich. At the distillery, they also make a range of craft gin and brandy and serve cocktails in the tasting room. As a brand ambassador for Autograph Collection Hotels, Harris hosted the superb travel series “A Whiskey Maker’s Exploration of Craft” as seen at the New Yorker, with episodes in Tennessee and Germany. What does she love about being a woman distiller in Loudoun? “I feel that my palate is key in designing the whiskey that so many people love, and that has become so well-regarded in international competitions. Loudoun is a really fantastic place to be a distiller. We have a wealth of brewers, winemakers, orchardists and a population of people keenly interested in where their food comes from and who makes it.”


Becky Harris of Catoctin Creek Distilling Company


Lori Corcoran, Corcoran Vineyards & Cidery

California-born Lori Corcoran wanted to be an FBI agent and studied Administration of Justice at college. Instead, when she and her family relocated to a farm outside Waterford in 2002, they planted vines, started making wine – and later beer and cider – and never looked back. The FBI’s loss has been the craft beverage lovers’ gain. Corcoran is the sole wine and cider maker at the farm and has an affinity for the whiskey barrel-aged port she makes, one of which she has cleverly titled USB. (USB port – get it?) While the family sold the beer business in 2017, they have ramped up cider production, making crisp, dry champagne-style ciders with names such as Sinful and Knot Head. “The skill is finding alchemy between art and science,” says Corcoran. “The chemistry is in the balance; the art is in the finish.” What’s it like being a woman in the beverage industry in Loudoun? Corcoran says she doesn’t see any difference, only that people are more amazed when they realize she does it all herself. That said, she has heard women are supposed to have a better palate than men. “Who knows, but if we understand flavor profiles better maybe that’s one of our innate advantages.”


Lori Corcoran


Jenni McCloud, Chrysalis Vineyard at the Ag District

Jenni McCloud left a high-flying tech career in 1998 to open Chrysalis Vineyard, a wine estate on prime land outside Middleburg. Today she is said to be the world’s leading grower of the distinctive Virginia-origin Norton grape, and her 2021 Locksley Reserve Norton won a Gold Medal at the 2024 Virginia Governor’s Cup. She also produces excellent Viognier and a Portuguese-style Albariño Vino Verde. Chrysalis is part of McCloud’s Ag District conservation zone that includes a dairy, Locksley Farmstead Cheese Co., and a bakery, The Little River Bakehouse.


Jenni McCloud

Kindra Dionne, Fifty Leven Wine

In 2021, dynamic black female entrepreneur Kindra Dionne launched Fifty Leven, the first black-owned wine company in Loudoun. Years earlier Dionne had noticed at networking events she attended that minorities such as herself would often not finish their wine. She studied the problem and discovered it was due to different culinary tastes. After partnering with legendary Loudoun winemaker Doug Fabbioli, she created a slate of wines aimed at diverse palates. Named Fifty Leven – Southern slang for “plenty” – the collection includes two reds, a port-style, a white and a pear wine.


Kindra Dionne

Ronda Powell, Old 690 Brewing Company

A pioneer of the Loudoun beer scene, Loudoun native Ronda Powell opened Old 690 Brewing Co. with her husband Mark and two partners in 2014, soon after Richmond passed the farm brewery bill. Tucked in a holler down a rugged dirt road and surrounded by woodland, it’s the ultimate back country retreat with a family friendly community feel. “Our motto is ‘Hard to Find, Harder to Leave,’” said Powell who is often front of house. “I have an incredible staff they treats everyone like family. Everyone is welcome and if you don’t know us when you walk through the door, you will before you leave.” From fruited ales to stouts and IPAs all the beer is on tap, brewed on site, and they also grow herbs on the property that contribute flavors to some of the beers. Entertainment wise, they host frequent live bands, singer songwriters and open-mic nights as well as fund raisers for local charities. What to order? The Gnarly Boar – a classic Pale Ale brewed in traditional style.


Ronda Powell