All Wined Up

Loudoun County Virginia Wine Tour

grapeescape-dcwineweekdotcom

As a fan of DC Wine Week, I was thrilled to learn about the partnership with DiVine Wine Tours to take wine week on the road. In the months leading up to DC Wine Week, three tours were available. I chose The Grape Escape, which offered three wineries I had yet to visit in Loudoun County: Zephaniah Farm Vineyard, North Gate Vineyard and 8 Chains North.

Zephaniah Farm Vineyard
Sometimes, the wine tasting experience is better than the wine. Not to say the wine was bad, but that was the case with Zephaniah. Bill and Bonnie Hatch welcome people into their home every weekend for tastings. That’s right, the tasting rooms are on the main floors of their family home built in the 1800s!

Upon arrival at Zephaniah, Bill and Bonnie ushered us into their main dining room, insisting we sit for our tasting, and it felt more like a really fun dinner party than a wine tasting. Their energy was infectious. They were full of great stories about their vineyard and lots of tidbits about wine. Their tasting pours were generous too. It was the day before harvest, and their son brought in a delicious bunch of grapes straight off the vine to try. The home and property are charming and welcoming, and I easily could have spent an afternoon there. In fact, I hope to take my husband there as I know he’d love the experience as well.

As for the wines, we tried seven, eight counting Bonnie’s sangria. This trip I was hoping to stock up on white wines. Zephaniah sells a Viognier ‘12 and a Chardonnay Sur Lie ‘12. Unfortunately, neither was to my liking, but my girlfriends loved the Viognier (I generally enjoy Virginia’s state grape, but this was a bit too dry for me). The Hatch family is a big fan of Chambourcin grapes, evident in that it’s blended in their Steamship ‘11, Three Captains Red ‘10, Rose ’12, and Chambourcin ‘10 Extended Barrel. The latter was my second favorite. It was a deep red, and aged in Hungarian and neutral French oak. Although I wasn’t in the market for a red, their Cabernet Franc ’10 was my favorite of the tasting. It was their most tannic red wine, and while my friends felt it needed to be paired with a meal, I thought it was a great sipping wine. Cab Franc is their primary grape, and this particular wine was a Governor’s Cup 2013 silver medal winner.

North Gate Vineyard
After experiencing Zephaniah, the rest of the tour had much to live up to. And happily, our next stop, North Gate Vineyard, did not disappoint. North Gate Vineyard is modern, and LEED Gold certified. Their commitment to being green from bloom to bottle is very admirable. The tasting room itself is more along the lines of what you would expect – big and open, and an ideal event space. Although, it did get pretty loud. Since it was a beautiful October day, we were happy to escape outside after the tasting and enjoy lunch (provided as part of the tour), a bottle of wine, and the view of the vineyard.

I have a pretty simple method of rating wines – I use arrows to indicate my likings: up means I approve, down means I don’t, and sideways means I’m indifferent. Surprisingly, nearly all my arrows were up here! Their 2012 Viognier was crisp and floral with a touch of spice – perfect for me. Their 2012 Chardonnay wasn’t bad either, although the creamy bananas in the mouth were new to me for wine tasting. We also tried their 2012 Rose of Chambourcin, 2011 Cabernet Franc, 2012 Petit Verdot, 2012 Chambourcin, and 2012 Apple. As a bonus, the owner also opened a bottle of their 2011 Meritage.

8 Chains North
After two tastings and sharing a bottle Viognier, we made our way to our third and final stop of the day: 8 Chains North. This vineyard offered a much different variety of wines than the first two. They focused their whites on Traminette and Vidal Blanc blends, and their reds on Merlot, and Bordeaux-style blended reds. If you’re looking for something completely different, 8CN offers a 2011 Burgans Albariño. These grapes are from the Rias-Baixas region of Spain, and the wine has strong scents of mango, pineapple and white flowers!

The highlight of 8CN had nothing to do with the wine though – it’s a pet friendly vineyard and we happened to visit during a dog adoption so there were plenty of four-legged friends wandering around while we enjoyed our tasting outside on a perfect fall day. Their patio is fenced in too, so if wine and dogs are your thing, this is a great place to visit.

After a fabulous wine tour, I couldn’t help but think of something the Hatch family had mentioned – there’s no reason that Virginia can’t produce the best wines in the world. And in my own humble opinion, I think they already do.

Cheryl loves Virginia wine and hopes to visit the 230 vineyards in the state at least once. Some might call her goal impossible given how fast wineries there are growing, but she’s enjoying drinking her way across the state nonetheless. She’s made it to the tasting rooms of 30 so far from Paradise Springs in Clifton to Ox-Eye Tasting Room in Staunton and many in between. You can follow her on Instagram via @frayedcotton.