8/26/2009

Loudoun’s Harmony Cluster Tour Part I

Hello Friends,

This past weekend Dezel saddled up with a few food and wine bloggers for the Reston Limousine’s first blogger’s wine tour. Reston Limousine sponsored this trip, and as always, was professional, accommodating, and right on schedule. I highly recommend their service for Virginia winery tours. The plan of the day was to visit the four producers who make up the Loudoun Wine Trail’s Harmony Cluster. These producers are Casanel Vineyards, Dry Mill Vineyards & Winery, Zephaniah Farm Vineyard, and lastly, Willowcroft Farm Vineyard. The food and wine bloggers who were present on this trip were Tammi Marcoullier of the Washington Post and Insideout blog, Joe Roberts of 1 wine dude blog, Kathy and Terry Sullivan of Wine Trail Traveler, freelance web designer Audrey McGill, Therese Howe of Reston Limousine blog, and of course, me, Dezel. Sounds like fun, right? Read on, and let’s get this party started.

Casanel Vineyards


The Harmony Cluster is a unique tour that features Loudoun’s oldest operational winery, Willowcroft Farm Vineyards, as well as Loudoun’s newest member, Dry Mill Vineyards & Winery. With the rapid growth of wine producers in Loudoun County , this is subject to change, but as it exists today, you can sample both the old and the new side of Loudoun wine on the Harmony Cluster Trail. Traipsing along the Harmony Cluster Wine Trail takes you through picturesque surroundings and gravel roads dotted with century old trees. You may even spot Bambi, or better yet, Yogi – it is a beautiful trail to explore. So, if you have not been, follow our lead. You are sure to have a good time.

Tasting Bar @ Casanel Vineyards


Our first stop of the day took us to Casanel Vineyards, a fairly new winery that opened in October of 2008. Casanel Vineyards is situated on a beautiful and tranquil forty-acre property at the foot of the Catoctin Mountains with ten acres under vine. Casanel Vineyards is owned by Casey and Nelson DeSouza, who purchased the Leesburg property in 2006. We were joined by Nelson in the tasting room, who is one of the most personable winery owners I have ever met. If Nelson were to put his inspirational story of dream-turned-reality on audio book, I would be the very first to buy a copy.

The Gazebo is a great spot to enjoy a glass of wine

Nelson came to the States from humble beginnings in Brazil some forty-eight years ago, and was previously in the construction business. He has used his years of carpentry experience to restore a circa 1800s old cattle barn into a charming and spacious tasting room, which retains the historic structure’s heritage and character. The multi-level, stone-fronted, timber-framed tasting room features a long, elegant tasting bar to accommodate large crowds and several tables, some of which are topped with attractive hand-made black walnut, to enjoy a glass of wine and light fare. The tasting room also includes a spiral staircase that leads to a second tasting bar with attractive tables and chairs and a flat screen television.

The DeSouza Family

We were warmly greeted at the tasting bar with wine glasses, crackers, sausage, and cheese. Current wines offered in the tasting room are the Chardonnay 2008, Viognier 2007, Norton 2007, Merlot 2007, and Cabernet Sauvignon 2007. The Norton wine, which I am familiar with from visiting Virginia tasting rooms, is the most unique of the pours, because it is very atypical of a Norton wine. Most Norton wines are rich, inky, and medium to full-bodied with mixed berry fruit, sometimes bordering on grapey, often with an alarmingly natural high content of malic acid. For everything a typical Norton is, this Norton is not. This Norton is done in a lighter style, with little color for a Norton wine, soft cherry and berry fruit flavors, and moderate acidity – it could well be served chilled and enjoyed as you would a Rosé. It is a crowd pleaser at the winery, so be sure to get out while summer is still upon us and check out Casanel's unique twist on a popular Virginia classic. I would also recommend tasting the Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon, which I found to be pretty darn good – especially the latter. Casanel’s introductory wine brand is aptly titled ‘Chegada’, which in Portuguese means ‘arrival.’ Since Casanel has ‘arrived’ on the scene, it’s your turn to ‘arrive’ at Casanel and try their wines out for yourself, friends.

Dry Mill Vineyards & Winery

Our next stop was to Loudoun’s newest winery, Dry Mill Vineyards & Winery. Dry Mill is situated on six acres and located near Historic Downtown Leesburg. Dry Mill is owned by Dean and Nancy Vanhuss and daughter Michelle Pizzarello. Dry Mill Vineyards & Winery is Dean’s retirement venture, which he will assume full-time in the near future, following a long and successful career in the Information Technology field. Congratulations Dean!

Tasting Bar @ Dry Mill - Pours of Joy!

The tasting room at Dry Mill is housed in a rustic, yet charming restored stable and barn which once played host to the horses and hound dogs of the Loudoun Hunt Club. It is warm and cozy on the inside and provides a nice leisurely setting for wine tasting. The wines at Dry Mill, as well as the aforementioned Casanel Vineyards, are made by consulting winemaker Kerem Baki, who is the primary winemaker for his family operation, Hillsborough Vineyards. That said, both wineries do showcase unique personalities and differing styles of wine. At the tasting bar, Dean and Nancy guided us through a full lineup of Dry Mill’s red and white wines, including a floral Traminette 2008, an aromatic Viognier 2008, a Steel and gently oaked Barrel Chardonnay 2008, a Syrah 2007, a Cabernet Franc 2007, a Norton 2007, and an off-dry Rosé 2007. The easy-drinking Cabernet Franc really shined here, offering cherry and spice aromas, moderate acidity, and a medium-length finish.

On the deck chatting with owner Dean Vanhuss

Both Casanel Vineyards and Dry Mill Vineyards & Winery offers a tranquil respite from the hustle and bustle of the daily grind and provides a relaxing setting to enjoy a bottle of wine paired with light luncheon fare. Stay tuned to the blog for Loudoun’s Harmony Cluster Tour Part II. When you visit these wineries be sure to tell the kind folks you read about them here on Dezel’s http://www.myvinespot/ wine blog.

Happy Sipping!

Dezel


Stay tuned friends ...more to come!


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Dezel's Virginia Vine Spot © 2006-2009. All rights reserved.




Dezel's My Vine Spot © 2006-2014. All rights reserved.