National Drink Wine Day is February 18 and with Loudoun being DC's Wine Country®, it’s the perfect excuse to come out for a visit. In anticipation of the day, we look at all the ways you can take part, from sampling some of the more interesting varietals and enjoying unique winery experiences to learning about our dynamic wine country personalities.
Raise a glass and cheers to a day that celebrates our vibrant wine industry!
Varietals Not to Miss
PBS’s Un-Wined series recently featured Casanel Vineyards & Winery’s winemaker Katie DeSouza Henley and her work with the distinctive, rustic, native Virginian grape. Try it here or at Chrysalis Vineyards at The Ag District, said to be the largest producer of Norton grapes in the world.
This medium bodied fruit originating in France’s Basque Country is well suited to Loudoun soil. Try it at Boxwood Estate Winery in Middleburg, blended to perfection in the smoky 2016 Trellis or peppery red Topiary.
This mellifluously named French American hybrid, vibrant red in color, but with a supple texture, turns out to thrive in our Piedmont. Creek’s Edge Winery does a superb Port wine, Hunting Hill, comprised of 100% Chambourcin, fortified with brandy and aged in bourbon barrels. Sublime.
Another beautifully named grape, this medium bodied fruit with firm tannins produces earthy, rustic reds. Hillsborough Winery, Brewery & Vineyard’s Ruby Red is a masterful blend of Tannat, Petit Verdot and Fer Servadou aged for 24 months in French oak barrels.
Unique Winery Experiences
There’s more to DC’s Wine Country than drinking fine wines.
At Greenhill Winery & Vineyards in Middleburg you can take a carriage ride through the vines, driver Molly and horse “Doc Holliday" leading the way. The buggy seats up to three, and make sure to take a cheese plate and a bottle of the sparkling Blanc de Blancs along for the ride.
Scenic Sunset Hills Vineyard near Purcellville hosts a popular “Winemaker for a Day” program set to return in May allowing guests to become an “apprentice” winemaker for a day. Age, blend and bottle your own wine, and if you like what you create, get your personal label affixed to the bottle and take it home with you. One way to impress your friends.
Bluemont Vineyard on the slopes of the Blue Ridge hosts fun, team building Sangria Making classes on the spacious outdoor patio. Visitors can also Rent a Row in the summer – the “Row” being a column of grass between the trellises where you can lay out a blanket, enjoy a picnic and sample Bluemont wines.
Dozens of wineries feature live local acts on weekends, genres ranging from jazz, folk and country, to rock, pop and classical. 868 Estate Vineyards hosts the annual Loco Musicians Festival each September while Hillsboro-based Notaviva Craft Fermentations host an annual “Wine and Music Pairing Experience" where you pair the right wine to the right songs. Sing it!
Loudoun Wine Legends
Loudoun is blessed with dynamic personalities who have helped the wine industry thrive. Read about a few here, then plan a visit to their vineyards.
Doug Fabbioli of Fabbioli Cellars is known as the Godfather of Loudoun wine. After 10 years working at leading wineries in California, he bought 25 acres around Lucketts in 2000, planted grapes and soon helped inspire the Loudoun wine boom. Fabbioli Cellars is also a base of the New Ag School where Doug teaches high school students farming and land preservation, as well as a weekly “country market” that resumes in March.
Dashing Nate and Sarah Walsh are the “It Couple” of Loudoun wine. They lease prime vineyards from farms throughout Loudoun, blend their classy vintages at Walsh Family Wine in Hillsboro, and pay tribute to the source farm on the labels of the bottles. In 2020 the winery launched: “What Will the Women Drink” – a bold, brambly, dry red dedicated to women tired of the stereotype women only like sweet wines.
Pilot Mark Malick met aeronautical engineer Maggie when they both served in the Navy. They married, and in 2001 started planting grapes on a former Christmas tree farm in west Loudoun. Today Mark is the viticulturalist and Maggie is the winemaker at Maggie Malick Wine Caves, named for the bunker-style subterranean tasting room they built on the 215-acre estate.
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 Norton grape, and founder of the Ag District conservation zone. Aside from all the vines, the property includes a creamery that makes superb cheeses, and a bakery that produces artisanal bread and pizza.
What's New in Wine Country
Loudoun wineries continue to thrive and a couple of new ones have recently opened. Bleu Frog Vineyards just north of Leesburg off Route 15 is the dreamchild of Jan and Joe Kernan. The bleu in the name comes from Jan, a French-trained cordon bleu chef; the frog from Joe, a veteran Navy Seal, or “frogman.” Wine wise, try the bold Bullfrog Meritage with a winter meal or, come summer, the crisp Bleu Blanc, a Vidal Blanc with notes of pear and honey. Salut.
Tucked off a dirt road in rolling hills outside Waterford, Carriage House Wineworks is a new boutique winery from Bruce Beddow and winemaker Mike Fritze, a certified wine judge with the American Wine Society. Enjoy the superb Cab Franc, Chambourcin, Petit Manseng and other varietals on the picnic-friendly grounds of the estate or in the tasting room that pays tribute to Waterford’s history.