I like wine a lot. Because I’m classy? Yes, we’ll go with that.
My love started with my generous brother and sister-in-law treating me to fancy bottles I couldn’t afford on my own (and frankly, probably still can’t) and grew steadily over the years.
On Tom and my first date, we took 20 minutes at Dino (the original location) picking a bottle of wine to share. This became a bit of a regular thing, leading to a honeymoon in Napa. When we got back we were officially wine-obsessed, and decided we’d just go ahead and work in the wine industry to make sure we never went too long without chatting with folks about how awesome wine is.
Fortune landed us at Maggie Malick’s Wine Caves*, one of the newer wineries in Loudoun County. We’ve been there for almost a year now working two or three weekend days per month, and during that time we’ve become enamored with the Loudon County wine scene.Above: Hillsborough 2010 Moonstone, Fabbioli Cellars Rosa Nera, Stone Mountain/Wild Boar 2009 Blanc de Blancs
Currently, there are over 40 wineries in Loudon, with several more slated to open this year. And since customers often want to know where to go after their tasting at Maggie’s, we simply had to get out there and do some research.
Here are some of my favorite Loudon wineries – eight, because it rhymed with great, and I had to keep this on a level. (Because really, there are tons of great wineries to visit in Loudon County and beyond, and different reasons to check out each one. I know there are people out there with the goal of visiting all of the wineries in the state, which I think is quite awesome.)
A tasting at 8 Chains is a mixture of elegance and simplicity. The tasting room is beautifully designed and intimate, with local artist’s featured on the walls. Large glass doors allow views of the vines behind the property while you taste, and there are plenty of tables and chairs set up on the back patio perfect for sipping a glass of wine on a nice day, paired with something off of their lite fare menu or a picnic from home.
The wines at 8 Chains are great, and the tasting experience is intimate. Our tasting room associate was very informative and friendly. My favorites included their 2011 Loco Vino and the 2012 Chardonnay.
8 Chains is also dog friendly, inside and out, a big plus for us dog lovers.
2. Cardamon Family
You get a mixture of things when you go wine tasting in Virginia. There are huge senior wineries that have been around for years and are well established, seasoned sophomores that have a special niche, as well as new-coming freshman that are just getting their start and making waves in innovative and fun ways.
Located at 12226 Harpers Ferry Rd. in Purcellville, VA, Cardamon Family Vineyards is one of those new wineries pairing great wines with fresh, homemade salsas made by owners Chuck and Ana. Chuck is a retired Navy Seal, who also happens to be a chef with his own salsa cookbook. These are not your average salsas either, featuring fruit and even chocolate in their flavor profiles and conscientiously matched to wines that link to family history.
Working at a winery, I hear a lot of folks say that they love a more intimate wine tasting experience, and the smaller wineries are often the best place to get that.
There are big plans in store for Cardamon, including a new tasting room that’s under construction and the introduction of different culinary options later on down the road.
(I have tasted Chuck’s cooking beyond the salsas, and I can tell you first hand, we’re in for a treat.)
Doug Fabbioli could be considered a founding farmer of Virginia wine. His name is household among those in the Virginia wine industry, as he has mentored several viticulturists and winemakers in the state. Also, he makes damn good wine.
Known for their reds, a tasting at Fabbioli Cellars is a true treat. Their 2011 Tannat was one of four Loudon County wines to be selected for the 2014 Governor’s Cup Case. Each wine is paired with carefully curated bites of food, which change regularly according to the season and wine line-up.
This place is perfect for foodies, wine lovers and those who want a little extra oomph in their wine tasting experience – it would also make for an awesome first date.
Hillsborough has some of the best scenery in Loudon County, overlooking an impressive expanse of vines and shadows of the Blue Ridge mountains in the distance. And a great view is always better if you can drink wine whist enjoying it, am I right?
I’ve enjoyed their easy-to-sip/gulp Serafina rose, the rich and inky Bloodstone as well as their Moonstone dessert wine.
Yes, I work here, but that just makes me more able to tell you how awesome Maggie Malick’s is – because I hear it from raving customers every time I work.
Since I am intimately familiar with this winery, I could go on for hours about it, but I’ll try to keep it succinct.
Like Cardamon next door, Maggie’s is owned by a husband and wife team – Mark and Maggie Malick. They’ve been growing grapes on their 200+ acre property since 2001, and Maggie has been experimenting with winemaking since 2004 with help from the likes of Doug Fabbioli and Paul Breaux. They were licensed in 2011, their first vintage in a challenging growing year, but Maggie still managed to make great wines.
Tastings are currently done out of a man-made above-ground cave (which some customers lovingly refer to as a hobbit hole), with 11 wines on the lineup as of now – all estate grown.The property at Maggie’s is gorgeous, overlooking ponds and vines and mountains in the background. On weekends there is live music outside, and well-behaved dogs are always welcome inside and out.
Some of the most popular current varietals are the 2011 Melange Blanc, a slightly sweet but also very crisp blend of chardonnay and petite manseng; 2011 Albarino, a Spanish varietal with a lovely nose and notes of lemon and grapefruit and the 2011 Cabernet Franc, a complex yet balanced wine aged in four different types of oak. They also just released their first rose, and the 2012 reds are all sure to be big hits.
North Gate’s tasting room is incredibly inviting.Large mirrors in the back of the room offer views to the vineyards in the back of the property. A big fireplace is the centerpiece, next to a bar re-purposed out of old wine bottle glass. North Gate is committed to providing great wines while staying environmentally friendly.
Opt for the chocolate pairing with your tasting for a sensory delight, and be sure to check out their 2011 Meritage, which was featured in this year’s Governor’s Cup Case.
Stone Tower is another new Loudon County winery, but it feels like it’s been around forever. The tasting room is rustic chic and open air, with lovely views to their large grounds.
The tasting list has a selection of great wines, especially the whites, some of which are aged in the unique concrete egg housed on the property.
Before even opening to the public, Two Twisted Posts began raking in awards. Their 2012 Chardonnay won the Governor’s Cup Case in 2014, and immediately there after the winery opened up in a temporary tent to do tastings. Another family-owned and operated business, tasting here is fun and full of laughs. The new tasting room is under construction and should be open soon.