It has been quite some time since we posted an update; no excuses, but we've been very busy in 2018. Some highlights follow:
Opening. We hired our first employee, Jen Deal, our tasting room wizard. With a lot of hard work by Jen, and our family and friends, and preceded by a soft opening for friends, families and contractors, the week before, we opened our tasting room to the public in 2018 on July 28. Crowds were beyond expectations, business was brisk, reviews, for both our wines and our service, were very kind, and we are very grateful. The generosity of our customers, friends, and family is humbling.
In early 2018, we received notice (and quite a shock) that our 2016 2nd Act, a Bordeaux blend, won a gold medal. Judges tasting notes were kind and instructive and will help us to become better winemakers. The gala celebrating Virginia wines in February 2018 was a blast. We met quite a number of large and small winery folks while pouring our wine at the gala, many of the judges, influential wine writers, and the incoming Governor, enjoyed some very nice food, and tasted some very fine Virginia wines.
In July 2018, we entered two wines in the Loudoun Wine Awards competition, our 2017 Murph Chardonnay and our 2016 2nd Act. Because beautiful Loudoun County is our home, we wanted to learn how our wines compare to our neighbors’ wines. In the late summer 2018, we learned that our wines won gold medals. At the Loudoun Wine Awards dinner (at the fab Lansdowne Resort in Leesburg), we poured our wines with other medal winners for our neighbors, fellow winemakers, and friends, and enjoyed a wonderful dinner. We were shocked to learn that evening that Murph won best in class for Chardonnay. It was an evening full of very pleasant surprises.
Harvest. In 2018, about 3.5 years after planting our first vines, we had our first substantial grape harvest, The year was very wet. We had about twice the normal rainfall (nearly 60 inches) and that much less sunshine. While we were successful in keeping disease pressure low, the very wet season took a toll on harvest yields, and we lost 4-5 tons of our Cabernet Sauvignon to berry split (due to extreme rainfall, water absorption and lack of sunshine) and rot. We harvest Cab Sauv last at our vineyard. It needs about 190 days of sun to ripen properly. In 2018, that wasn’t possible. Ah, Nature.
Despite the troubling year in the vineyard, we were able to harvest substantial amounts of Cabernet Franc, Merlot, and Sauvignon Blanc, and smaller amounts of Viognier, Petit Verdot, and Chardonnay. We’ve made pretty nice wines (so far) from these grapes at our custom crush partner facility. We also made some special wines at our small winery from fruit from our leased vineyard, including Petit Manseng and Viognier. We are anxiously awaiting blending and bottling for these wines. We believe the Petit Manseng, Viognier, Merlot and Sauvignon Blanc will be wonderful. We look forward to blending trials for the Cab Franc and Merlot. Our Merlot contains a small amount of Petit Verdot and we believe the Merlot, Petit Verdot, and Cab Franc will make a very nice blend.
The Future. Founding and operating a farm winery in Virginia is a challenge and a joy. Many of our tasting room customers ask why we do this in “retirement.” After joking with them that we have the money, time, and a certain level of stupidity, we honestly tell them we do it because it’s a challenge and a joy. 2018 helped us see that hard work, education, persistence, the help of many family and friends, and knowledgeable contractors, who are new friends, not to mention quite a bit of luck, still work in America. And our children, notwithstanding the challenges, still want to take this over. We wait with hope and joy for that day.