Sunset Hills Boasts Loudoun’s Wine of the Year

Sunset Hills Vineyard near Purcellville claimed this year’s Chairman’s Grand Award during the 2017 Loudoun Wine Awards at Lansdowne Resort.

Winemaker and Vineyard Manager Corry Craighill accepted the award for her 2016 Viognier, the highest-scoring wine in the competition. It was described as “a powerful presentation without lacking elegance, a nice play between acid and fruit, and a lovely pure expression of this wine.”

Craighill said the 2016 vintage marked her first year in Loudoun County. She shared credit with her predecessor, Nate Wash.

“We overlapped in that vintage, and I’ve learned so much from him,” Craighill said, adding she looks forward to many years in Loudoun’s wine industry.

It wasn’t the only or first time Walsh was recognized during the ceremony—he was awarded Winemaker of the Year for his work at Walsh Family Wine, which he and his wife Sarah launched to produce their own wine.

He said people 20 years from now looking back on Loudoun’s wine scene today will see success driven “by our focus not on how many good sunny weekends we could have in a row, not on how many corporate events we could do, but on a singular focus on quality, and that is what will continue to bring people to Loudoun County.”

The evening also celebrated Mitch and Betsy Russ, owners and winegrowers at Russ Mountain Vineyards, as Winegrowers of the Year. Sarah Davis, an educator and founder of, was named Wine Ambassador of the Year.

The awards also celebrated wines in seven categories.

868 Estate Vineyards took home two awards, best hybrid white for its 2016 Petillant Naturel and best Chardonnay for its 2015 vintage.

Fabbioli Cellars took home two awards, best Vinifera red for its 2013 Tannat and best cabernet franc for its 2014 Cabernet Franc Reserve.

Sunset Hills won awards for two wines: the 2016 Viognier was named best Vinifera white wine and best in show with the Chairman’s Grand Award, and best Bordeaux blend for its 2016 Mosaic.

Breaux Vineyards took home one award, best rosé, for its 2016 vintage.

This year’s competition featured 14 gold and 50 silver medal winners from among 100 wines, and was the first year in which entrants were required to use at least 75 percent Loudoun-grown grapes.

Sunset Hills Winemaker and Vineyard Manager Corry Craighill with County Chairwoman Phyllis Randall during the 2017 Loudoun Wine Awards. (Renss Greene/Loudoun Now)

“It’s a huge shift,” said sommelier Neal Wavra of FABLE Hospitality, who directed the competition. “A burgeoning of the middle, if you will, which to me says from an analysis perspective, there’s a tremendous amount of potential in focusing on what Loudoun does well.”

The competition was judged by Lindsey Fern, Sommelier, The Inn at Little Washington; Doug Rosen, Owner, Arrowine & Cheese; Erin Scala, Beverage Director and Owner for Petit Pois and Fleuire; Frank Morgan, Author,; and Antoinette Landragin, Owner, Cork ‘n’ Fork Wine Shops.

“Since I began working in Loudoun in 2009, the wine industry here has changed a lot, and I would say in all ways changes were positives,” Walsh said. “The wines are better than when I initially started—not that they were bad—but the wines have improved, and the community itself has improved, and that is illustrated perfectly by what’s happening right now in this room.”

This article was updated Oct. 16 at 6:35 p.m. to correct errors regarding the number of medalists and the judges of the competition.

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