Wine Awards Toast Loudoun-Grown Grapes

The Loudoun Wineries Association has announced the winners of it third annual Loudoun Wine Awards. The results left members positive and energized about the state and direction of wine production in Loudoun County.

This year’s contest was a bit different. For the first time, the association’s 24 members made a strategic decision to require all wines submitted to the contest to have at least 75 percent of its grapes grown in Loudoun County. All wines also must be produced and bottled in the county.

This year’s competition included 15 Loudoun wineries who entered 74 wines, resulting in 14 gold and 50 silver medals. The annual contest highlights the county’s growing wine scene. Loudoun is home to 44 wineries, and three more are slated to open within the next nine months, according to the county’s agricultural development officer Kellie Hinkle.

Fabbioli Cellars led the competition with four golds for its 2014 Cabernet Franc Reserve, 2014 Tre Sorelle, 2013 Tannat, and the 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon. Breaux Vineyards landed three golds for its 2015 Meritage, 2016 Sauvignon Blanc, and 2016 Rose. Sunset Hills Vineyards and 868 Estate Vineyards each brought home two golds, with Doukénie Winery, The Wine Reserve at Waterford, and Zephaniah Farm Vineyard rounding out the gold category.

Doukénie Winery and Zephaniah Farm Vineyard dominated the silver medal category, with Doukénie winning eight and Zephaniah racking up seven. Several other Loudoun wineries were recognized with multiple silver medals.

Doug Fabbioli of Fabbioli Cellars, who’s been making wine for 37 years, said the association’s awards are important for Loudoun County wineries to not only celebrate their wines, but to also learn from each other. They’re learning how to grow the industry and improve market access beyond tasting rooms.

“We’re productionists. We want to make wine. And we’re lucky we have such an affluent, interested market that wants to come out to our wineries. We’ve taken advantage of that. It’s given us the step to establish our industry, but now we also need retailers and restauranteurs to want our products too,” he said. “This competition, and what we learn from it, will help us to reach beyond our tasting rooms, which a lot of people don’t have an opportunity to visit.”

Jennifer Breaux, owner of Breaux Vineyards, says this was the first year her 105-acre winery entered the competition, specifically because of the new 75 percent Loudoun-grown grapes stipulation. She believes making wine from local grapes is an important step to help the county’s wine industry develop a distinctive regional reputation.

“Loudoun is a notable wine region, but unfortunately too many wineries are using fruit from outside the county. This could be a reason why entries were down this year, but, with that, quality was up,” Breaux said. “I do hope that as Loudoun wineries mature, and more fruit is grown, that eventually the competition will demand 100 percent Loudoun-grown grapes. Even 85 percent would be a huge step. Loudoun has a place on the wine map, not only in Virginia, but in the world.”

Neal Wavra, of FABLE Hospitality and owner of Field & Main Restaurant in Marshall, organized and directed the competition on behalf of the Loudoun Wineries Association. He found the results compelling both personally and professionally, noting that Loudoun wines have plenty of qualities he says are attractive to restaurant and retail buyers, allowing area wineries to push out beyond tasting room sales.

“With the shift from Virginia fruit to Loudoun fruit only, we saw a larger middle, with a much larger silver category than last year, which is promising. That means 86 percent of the submissions were gold or silver. That’s strong,” Wavra said. “What it tells us is Loudoun wines are compelling and have a story to tell beyond the tasting rooms.”

The competition was judged this year by Lindsey Fern, sommelier at The Inn at Little Washington; Doug Rosen, owner of Arrowine & Cheese; Eric Scala, beverage director for Petit Pois & Fleuire; Frank Morgan, author of DrinkWhatYouLike.com; and Antoinette Landragin, the owner of Cork ‘N Fork Stores.

The winning wines will be poured at a Grand Tasting Reception ahead of an awards ceremony Friday, Oct. 13 at Lansdowne Resort & Spa. The award winners, including the Chairman’s Award, Best in Class by Varietal, Winemaker of the Year and Winegrower of the Year, will be announced at that ceremony. Tickets are $89 per person, which includes the reception and dinner. Register to attend at loudounwineawards2017.eventbrite.com.

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