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.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Vintage: The Winemaker's Year

Vintage: The Winemaker's Year is an educational and highly entertaining documentary about several Charlottesville-area wineries, which takes place over one year of winemaking - from bud break to bottling. The winery owners and winemakers share their thoughts about the rise in popularity of Virginia wine, and several are philosophical about what makes Virginia different from other wine growing regions, particularly California.

The Charlottesville region is spotlighted because that is the birthplace of "VA Vino." The documentary includes sweeping aerial shots of the vineyards usually reserved for Hollywood productions. After watching the 90 minute documentary and listening to the winemakers and vineyard owners analyze their chosen professions and the industry in the state, you feel as if you've spent a few hours at all the wineries featured.

Not every winery in the Monticello AVA is featured, but a good representation, including White Hall Vineyards, Pollak Vineyards, Veritas Vineyards, and Cardinal Point Winery. Featured prominently in the documentary is Gabriele Rausse, whose been involved in the Virginia wine scene since its infancy (1976), and whom many call the "Second Founding Father" of wine in the state (after Thomas Jefferson, of course). Gabriele Rausse does not have a winery open to the public, but you can find his wines in wine shops throughout the state, as well as wine festivals. His wine is definitely a must-try; Old World style and incredibly smooth and tasty.

Anyone with even a passing interest in the booming Virginia wine scene should check this documentary out - for the price of a bottle of Virginia wine, it can be yours. Click here for how to get it.