Saturday, February 16, 2013

Loudoun County: Washington DC's Wine Country

We like to think of Loudoun County as a microcosm for Virginia vineyards and wineries as a whole. 27 wineries, with at least 8 more coming in the next 12 months. A location in the wealthiest county in the United States helps. As does proximity to the "recession proof" (at least for now...) National Capital area. Many of the vineyard/winery owners in Loudoun are successful businessmen and women, former military commanders, former attorneys, restaurateurs, real estate moguls, ex California winemakers, or scientists, who opened wineries as a "hobby" or retirement project.

You can find a winery for every mood in Loudoun County. In that sense, the county is a mini version of the entire state. The soil, drained by creeks and brooks that flow from and to the Potomac River, is perfect for vineyards, particularly Chambourcin, a hybrid, chianti-like wine touted as "red wine for white wine drinkers." Chambourcin is harder to find in other parts of the Commonwealth, but has developed a fanbase in the DC area, possibly due to the popularity of Loudoun County with those new to the wine scene, and would like to make the gradual leap from the semi-sweet Cupcake Cellars and "Flip Flop" offerings to drier reds.

There are so many wineries in Loudoun that the county is broken up into five winery sections: The Harmony Cluster, the Loudoun Heights Cluster, the Mosby Cluster, the Potomac Cluster, and the South of the Border Cluster (cheating for the latter, as many of the actual winery tasting rooms are in Fauquier County but their vineyards cross over into Loudoun).

The Notebook will be spotlighting many of the spots in "DC's Wine Country" over the next several months. The county benefits from robust tourism, as do neighboring Prince William County (still a bit deficient on the winery side) and the less-hospitable (to wineries) Fauquier County.

Familiarize yourself with the wineries Loudoun has to offer. Many residents of the DC area with even a passing interest in wine have been to at least one winery in the county. On most weekends, even weekends in January, the tasting rooms are buzzing with activity. The more wineries, the better...and more are definitely on the way.

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