This year marks the 40th anniversary of the Loudoun wine industry. Today the county is home to more than 50 wineries and tasting rooms and has been described by Decanter Magazine as “the most exciting corner of Virginia and among the most intriguing in US wine.”


But who are some of the pioneers of the Loudoun wine scene?


Here we take a look at the Founding Fathers - and Mothers! – of DC’s Wine Country®.

Lew Parker, Willowcroft Farm Vineyards

Forty years ago, in the fall of 1984, engineer and entrepreneur Lew Parker harvested grapes from vines he’d planted years earlier and barreled them in a tumbledown wood barn on his hillside farm, Willowcroft, south of Leesburg. It was his third attempt to make wine. “I’d spoken to every expert I could find and everything they told me was wrong,” Parker recalls. “They had no idea that what works in California or France wouldn’t work in Virginia."


"Loudoun is just different.”


Third time’s a charm. The resulting bottle – a 1984 Riesling, Loudoun’s first wine – went on to win awards and heralded not only the start of Parker’s Willowcroft Farm Vineyards but also the start of the Loudoun wine industry.

Incredibly, 40 years on, Parker is still making vintages at Willowcroft. He cultivates 12 grape varietals on the slopes of his farm, offers tastings in a rustic wood barn and has turned the stone basement of a 1790s farmhouse on the property into a wine library where he archives every bottle he has ever made. Magic.


Margaret and Whitie Hubbert, Tarara Winery

In June 1989, Margaret and Whitie Hubert opened Tarara Winery on the banks of the Potomac River near Lucketts. A successful construction entrepreneur, Whitie continued his day job while Margaret oversaw cultivation of a five-acre vineyard and a 600-square-foot tasting room in the basement of their home. For the next 32 years, Tarara was a central player in the Loudoun wine scene, Margaret serving on the original board for the Loudoun County Tourism Council that later became Visit Loudoun. In 2021 Tarara closed its tasting room and winery to focus on its popular summer music concert series, which is celebrating 25 years of rocking the vines. Concerts take place at Tarara from May through September.


The Breaux Family, Breaux Vineyards


“There was no book written for us East Coast winemakers”


In 1994 Paul Breaux, a North Carolina real estate entrepreneur via Louisiana, bought a scenic 404-acre farm in western Loudoun. Three acres of vines had been planted 10 years earlier by the original owner and Paul, captivated by those grapes, started making homemade wine as a hobby. Surprised that friends and family members liked it so much, he began collaborating with Dave Collins, winemaker for Lew Parker at Willowcroft. In April 1997, Breaux Vineyards opened its doors to the public and went from selling wine at farmer's markets to becoming an icon of the industry. “There was no book written for us East Coast winemakers,” said Paul’s daughter Jennifer Breaux, now President and GM. “It was trial and error. We did it all on our own. Now we have a great product.”


Doug Fabbioli, Fabbioli Cellars

Doug Fabbioli grew up in central New York before moving to California to pursue his passion for wine. For 10 years he worked at Buena Vista Winery in Sonoma until, in 1997, he and his wife Colleen moved to Loudoun to start on their own. At first he was employed as a part-time winemaker at Tarara by Margaret Hubbert. “There were only four wineries then. Margert and Whitie said to talk to Lew Parker.” In short, it was the Wild West. In 2001 he and Colleen bought a 25-acre property in Lucketts, planting Merlot grapes with a little Petit Verdot for blending and Fabbioli Cellars was born. Fast forward 23 years and Doug is known as The Godfather of the Loudoun wine scene, and Fabbioli Cellars is an award-winning winery, renowned in particular for its Cab Franc, which is sold alongside Napa and Sonoma wines at Costco.


Jenni McCloud, Chrysalis Vineyards at the Ag District

In 1995, entrepreneur Jennifer McCloud sold the tech company she founded. She was 40 years old and too young to retire but didn’t know what to do with the rest of her life. Two weeks later she was at an Alternative Varietals wine event in Charlottesville, Virginia where she tasted Norton – an obscure earthy hybrid that originated in Richmond in the 19th Century but had all but vanished.  McCloud was blown away by its bold, rustic, taste and the fact that it originated in Virginia. “I knew then I was going to make wine. I didn’t want to become the world’s 350th best producer of Cab Franc. I wanted to be the world’s best producer of Norton!” In 1997 McCloud planted her first vines on land she bought outside Middleburg, calling it Chrysalis Vineyards. She started with Albariño and other Spanish varietals before moving on to Norton. Today, 25 years later, she is indeed said to be the largest producer of Norton grapes in the world, acclaimed by the likes of James Suckling and Stuart Pigott. Chrysalis’s 2021 Locksley Reserve Norton won gold at the recent Virginia Governor’s Cup.