Loudoun’s Harmony Cluster Tour Part II
Zephaniah Farm Vineyard is a small family-owned-and-operated farm winery nestled on 376 peaceful acres. Now, don’t let the 376 acres fool you - Zephaniah holds the honor of being Loudoun’s smallest producer and is likely the smallest producer in the state, producing approximately 175 cases of wine per year. Outside of growing grapes, Zephaniah is a working farm, specializing in grass-fed Angus. For some reason I am thinking about steak and a tasty Virginia Petit Verdot; not bad, huh? This leads us to Bill Hatch, both farmer and winemaker, who has lived on this property since he was two years old, and is now turning a dream of owning and operating a Virginia winery into reality with the support of his family.
Zephaniah 1830 Manor House
We were warmly greeted at the door by Bill Hatch and wife Bonnie. The tasting room is housed in a charming 19th-century manor house surrounded by monumental shade trees and a beautiful butterfly garden – I believe every butterfly in Loudoun County was hanging out at the “nectar bar” on the day that we visited. The home is filled with antique furnishings, black-and-white photographs, family heirlooms, and period elegance. As a matter of fact, one of the family photos Bill pointed out to us was of his great-grandfather, Zephaniah Jefferson Hatch, for whom the winery is named. The house also serves as the wine producing facility and barrel room. Bill’s ultimate goal is to only produce estate wines from quality fruit grown on the Zephaniah farm property.
Group viewing an early b&w photo of the Hatch family
We were led into the tasting room to sample Zephaniah’s wines from their first vintage (2007). Bill’s son, Tremain, who is working on his Masters degree in viticulture, joined us, and also told us about the family operation and the wines we would taste. Two wines were poured, a Cabernet Sauvignon 2007 and a Cabernet Franc 2007. The Cabernet Sauvignon was soft and lean in texture with modest fruit. The Cabernet Franc, on the other hand, is a smooth, easy-drinking wine offering red fruit aromas and flavors - overall, this is a pretty darn good first vintage Cabernet Franc wine. It can be sipped on its own or paired with white meats, red sauce dishes, and think outside the box – try this selection with fish like salmon and tuna.
Bill (r) and Tremain (l) talks the group about their wines
We were then led downstairs by Bill and Tremain to pull barrel samples. We tasted Zephaniah’s Cabernet Franc 2008 and Merlot 2008. We tasted two Cabernet Franc wines from different barrels. Barrels differ in wood types, grain tightness, size, forest, toast level, etc – all of these decisions about the barrel impart different things into the wine. Therefore, it was interesting to taste the same base wine, aged in two different styles of oak barrels. One wine showed more fruit, while the other displayed a more rustic nature with underlying fruit. The Merlot, which is made from fruit sourced from a nearby vineyard, is drinking well now, offering good fruit quality with a sprinkling of spice. I look forward to tasting the finished wine. Bill also advised us that he had put in two rows of Petit Manseng and Petit Verdot, so look for these increasingly popular varieties in the future. At this point, it was time to get on the road again to make it to our next winery. It was great visiting with Bill, Bonnie, and Tremain, and seeing the behind-the-scenes work that goes into a small family farm operation. Zephaniah is open by appointment only and Virginia wine lovers are encouraged to call. Therefore, don't hesitate, pay Zephaniah a visit and sample the fruits of their labor.
The Cabernet Franc 2007 is pretty tasty!
Our next stop was Willowcroft Farm Vineyards, Loudoun’s oldest operational winery, founded in 1983. Willowcroft is located in Leesburg , VA, and sits atop Mount Gilead , offering spectacular views of the Loudoun Valley and surrounding countryside. Recollecting from my last visit, the peak time to visit for view-seekers is autumn, when vivid and picturesque colors of red, orange, gold, and brown surround the tasting room. Willowcroft’s tasting room is housed in a rustic, yet charming red horse barn. As we entered the dimly lit tasting room we were greeted by tasting associate Amanda, who guided us through a select line-up of Willowcroft red and white wines. Willowcroft wines are made predominantly from estate grown fruit and the ‘red barn’ is a popular destination for Virginia wine lovers to enjoy these wines.
Willowcroft Farm Vineyards
Of interest, Willowcroft bottles a Riesling wine, which is a wine you do not find in many Virginia tasting rooms. Willowcroft also bottles popular hybrid varietal wines such as Seyval Blanc, Vidal Blanc, and Traminette. Of their red wines, one that really stands out is their Petit Verdot (non-vintage) – this wine offers violet and dark fruit aromas in a medium bodied wine. As with the last two times I visited, it was raining, so we opted out of a self-guided tour of the barn and headed back to the bus.
Visit Willowcroft, Loudoun's oldest producer!
In closing, Reston Limousine and freelance writer Therese Howe did a good job setting up this wine tour, and our driver, James, kept us entertained and on schedule. If you are looking to jump on the Harmony Cluster and see what this unique wine trail has to offer, give Reston Limousine a call and let them do the driving while you “safely” do the swirling, sniffing, and sipping! As always, Happy Sipping! Hopefully you'll have an opportunity to visit these places, and when you do, tell them you read about them on Dezel’s Vine Spot wine blog.
Happy Sipping from the Reston Limousine 1st Blogger's Wine Tour!
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