A Day Trip to the Virginia Wineries
Over the past few years the known wine regions in the United States have started to extend beyond California, Oregon, and Washington. The newest kids on the block are New York and Virginia. For those of who us live in D.C., we are only an hour drive from Loudoun County, which gives us a great opportunity to explore all that Virginia wine has to offer. Last summer I had a wonderful time in Middleburg and visited Boxwood Winery, Philip Carter Winery, and Three Fox Vineyards. You can read about my trip here. This past weekend the Virginia Wine Board gave me the opportunity to curate an afternoon with stops at a few vineyards that I had never tried. I had a wonderful time tasting wines, learning about the vineyards, and meeting the entrepreneurial people within the industry that have a deep passion for making wine.
Our first stop for the day was at Greenhill Winery located in Middleburg, Virginia. Greenhill is a 128 acre property (with 16 acres under vine), but the tasting room has a very quaint and charming feel to it. Owner David Greenhill and winemaker Sebastien Marquet produce about 5,000 cases of wine per year, and their first grapes were planted in 1987 which include Chardonnay, Riesling, Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Cabernet Franc. More recently came Seyval Blanc, Petit Verdot, Merlot, and Viognier which is known as the state designated grape of Virginia. The winery uses all French oak barrels, and is part of the Middleburg American Viticulture Area (AVA).
During our morning at Greenhill, we tasted seven wines including the Blanc de Blancs, Seyval Blanc, Chardonnay, Syrah, Superstition, Philoshophy, and Ontology. My favorite of the day was the Blanc de Blancs, which is a sparkling wine made of 100% Chardonnay. It's a subtle and easy glass that has grapefruit flavors and pear aromas. It was light and crisp, and I was sure to purchase a bottle to bring home with me. When it came to the reds, I enjoyed the Syrah which was lighter than your traditional varietal, and had some nice notes of plum, smoke and currant.
Greenhill Winery and Vineyards is located at 23595 Winery Lane, Middleburg, VA 20117
Our next stop of the day was at Sunset Hills Vineyard which is located in Purcellville, Virginia. We arrived around lunchtime, and the tasting room was packed with locals, day trippers from Washington, and those who were down from other states exploring the Virginia wine country for the holiday weekend. The tasting room is located in a beautiful barn, and was bustling with activity including live music which they offer every Saturday.
The first vines were planted in 1999, but owners Diane and Mike Canney didn't open the doors to the Tasting Room until 2008. Sunset Hills and Winemaker Nate Walsh currently produce 10,000 cases per year and the vineyard is 60 acres. The varietals at Sunset Hills include Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Chardonnay, Viognier, Chambourcin, Traminette, Vidal Blanc, Petit Verdot, and Petit Mansang. One of the more unique elements about Sunset Hills is their efforts related to sustainability, with 245 solar panels that help to run the winery and winemaking operations.
I couldn't help but love the buzz and excitement at Sunset Hills. People were having such a good time tasting, and the winery also offers light fare including fresh baked bread, cheese, and other snacks to enjoy while sipping on wine. Some of the wines I enjoyed most included the Chardonnay, the Reserve Cabernet Franc, and the Dusk. The Chardonnay is stainless, therefore it lacks the big oaky flavors that people often dislike or associate with a traditional Chardonnay. It is a floral wine with hints of peach and melon, with a crisp and fresh finish. My friend and I chose to enjoy this bottle while we ate lunch after our tasting. The Reserve Cabernet Franc is made of 87% Cabernet Franc, 7% Merlot, and 6% Petit Verdot, and included flavors of dark dried fruits. Lastly, the Dusk is Sunset Hills' port-dessert wine. I typically don't care for sweet wines, but this is made with 100% Chambourcin and had some nice hints of caramel and spice. Sunset Hills is a lively place to visit, and should absolutely be on your list for a day of wine tasting in Virginia.
Sunset Hills is located at 38295 Fremont Overlook Lane, Purcellville, VA, 20132
Last but certainly not least was the gorgeous Breaux Vineyards, located on their 404 acre estate with 105 acres planted in Purcellville, Virginia. I was psyched when we arrived that we were greeted by a female power squad including Jennifer Breaux Blosser and Heather Munden. Jennifer is the daughter of President and CEO Paul Breaux Jr., and she is also the Sales and Hospitality Director for the vineyard. Heather Munden is the winemaker who came from St. Francis Winery and Vineyards in Sonoma County most recently, with over 20 years of experience in the industry. Jen and Heather make a great pair, and we really enjoyed learning about the wines at Breaux, and tasting alongside with them.
The Tasting Room is located within the impressive estate including terraces and patios with picturesque views of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Breaux Vineyards produces about 10,000 cases per year, and the wine portfolio includes Chardonnay, Vidal Blanc, Chambourcin, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot, Touriga, Traminette, Petit Manseng, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Viognier. The family-run nature of Breaux makes it friendly and inviting, and their Cajun flair can be found throughout the vineyard related to the naming conventions such as The Acadia Room, but also in their vibrant personality and warm hospitality that shines through.
We started the afternoon with a sparkling rosé which was a delight. It was dry and crisp and made for easy drinking. My favorite wine we tasted was the Equation; a blend of Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Malbec, and a splash of Syrah. It had some earthy notes including cherry and cranberry flavors. I was surprised to learn that Breaux makes a Nebbiolo, and they offer this wine to their Cellar Club members. We finished our tasting with the Lineage V3 which is Breaux's port-style wine that had nice notes of plum and raisin.
Breaux's setting is hard to beat, and the wines are some of the best I have tasted in Virginia.
Breaux Vineyards is located 36888 Breaux Vineyards Lane, Purcellville, VA 20132
If you're planning a day trip or a weekend trip out to Loudoun County to enjoy Virginia Wine, look no further than here. There's a lot to see, do and taste. I hope you enjoy as much as I did. Cheers!