Loudoun County has long been a microcosm for the vineyard and winery explosion in the state - in 2013 alone, ten new wineries have either opened or are expected to open. 868 Estate Vineyards, with vines planted in 2012, resides on the same property in the northern part of the county as the Grandale Restaurant, which has been open since 2005. Grandale is well-known throughout the county as being one of the finest farm to table restaurants in the area, and the tasting room across the lot from the restaurant is a perfect way to start (or finish) a dining experience.
The 868 Estate Vineyard property boasts the highest elevation in the valley between the Short Hills and Blue Ridge mountain ranges at 868 feet, hence its name. As of this post, their tasting room offers wines from other parts of the state (and country), as their own grapes mature (this practice is also underway at Little Washington Winery, in Washington, VA). Although we were a little disappointed that 868 didn't have many wines of their own yet, we are expecting great things from this location. Its proximity to Breaux Vineyards makes it an excellent stop on the way to (or back from) that well-known spot.
Of the wines offered by 868, the Chardonnay and Cabernet Franc were the stand outs - both recent medal winners at the 2013 Eastern Wine Competition. These are 2010 vintages, so the winemakers brought the grapes in from other nearby vineyards. Some may think this winery opened prematurely, but with the Virginia winery boom in full swing, the location can only improve with time.
One thing we found refreshing were the hours of operation - open until 7 PM on the weekend. This probably stems from their location next to a popular restaurant. However we would love to see other Virginia spots keep their doors open until at least 6:30 to 7, at least on the weekends. The model of opening up at 10 AM and closing at 5 may work in California, but makes little sense for Virginia.
We like to think of wineries like 868 and Little Washington as special locations where the entire experience is based on local, organic food (868) and offerings from other states (Little Washington), in addition to Virginia wine. The more selections imbibers have in the Commonwealth, the better for the customer, the tasting room, and the industry.
868 Estate Vineyards