Discovering Loudoun County’s Wineries

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Loudoun County, located minutes from Dulles International Airport and a short drive from the Nation’s Capital, is quickly gaining a reputation as “D.C.’s Wine Country.” The area offers more than 40 wineries and tasting rooms, located down tree-lined, country roads with stunning mountain views, award-winning wines, live music, food pairings and local artwork, within six wine “clusters” — Loudoun Heights, Waterford, Potomac, Mosby, Harmony and Snicker’s Gap.

Since it wasn’t possible to visit six clusters and more than 40 wineries in one day, we focused our road trip tour on the Harmony Cluster, named after a nearby town originally called Harmony, but now known as Hamilton. The cluster, home to seven wineries, leads you down the winding, scenic roads of Catoctin Mountain.

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STONE TOWER WINERY

Our first stop was Stone Tower Winery, and while I had heard it was one of the largest wineries, I wasn’t prepared for it to be quite so impressive with something for everyone. In just the first five minutes, you could tell it was family — and pet — friendly, with kids frolicking, dogs lounging, families bonding, live music playing, food truck offerings and, of course, plenty of wine!

I told our photographer I felt like I was at a wine festival, while he jokingly described it as a wine compound. But we both agreed the initial vibe was fun, friendly, lively and laidback. While waiting in line, we made friends with the people behind us who frequented the winery often and said Stone Tower was their favorite. When it was our turn to sample the wines, our pourer couldn’t have been any nicer, as she enlightened us about each wine. While all the wines were delicious, I really enjoyed the 2017 Estate Sauvignon Blanc, offering floral and lemon zest on the nose. With a small amount of the estate’s Semillon grape blended in to round out the palate, it was the perfect summer wine.

After I mentioned we were there working on an article about Loudoun County wineries, we were whisked away by their Estate Manager, Cort Grubb, for a much-appreciated, private tour of the winery. The tour included the winemaking facilities, a tasting room for families and one for adults, and four unique event spaces — from the rustic ambience of the Harvest Barn to the upscale elegance of the Vineyard View Ballroom. Vineyard and winery tours, as well as private tastings, are available upon request. Stone Tower is a D.C. area destination winery well worth the road trip!

19925 Hogback Mountain Road, Leesburg, VA 20175  |  703-777-2797  |  StoneTowerWinery.com

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ZEPHANIAH FARM VINEYARD

Zephaniah Farm Vineyard was our second stop. When we met Bill Hatch and Bonnie Archer, they could not have been more gracious hosts! Upon arriving at the winery, we were greeted outside by Bill, who warned us the cannons were getting ready to go off in the vineyard to scare away the starlings that harm the grapevines. He then welcomed us into their circa 1819, antique-filled home where we sat around the table, sampling the wines and carrying on conversation like old friends. We learned the winery was named after Bill’s great grandfather, Zephaniah Jefferson Hatch (or Captain ZJ) with the 2016 Muscat Ottonel and Viognier stainless-steel-aged wine, Adeline, being named after Zephaniah’s beloved wife. Their 2016 Steamship White, which blends Cab Franc with the wine to add complexity, is named after Zephaniah’s steamship company — the Monticello Steamship Company, which had the fastest ships in the San Francisco bay.

As former dairy farmers turned grape growers, farming is in the family’s blood. They were inspired to plant their first Cabernet Franc grapes 16 years ago, following a visit to Europe. The rest is history, with the winery recently being named as one of the top 25 wineries in the United States by Travel and Leisure. Bonnie explained how they try to make personal contact with each guest who visits Zephaniah to make them feel at home. “We have phenomenal guests,” she said. “And we all share and come together over our love of wine.” For a unique, sit-down tasting experience that’ll make you feel like part of the family, Zephaniah Farm Winery is a road trip must!

19381 Dunlop Mill Road, Leesburg, VA 20175  |  703-431-1994  |  ZephWine.com

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WILLOWCROFT FARM VINEYARDS

Willowcroft Farm Vineyards, Loudoun’s oldest operational winery, was the final stop on our wine tour. With more than 35 years of winemaking experience, Willowcroft also boasts breathtaking panoramic views of Loudoun Valley and the Blue Ridge Mountains. Willowcroft Farms’ 12½ acre vineyard atop the Catoctin Ridge dates back to the 1800s when the mountain slopes were recognized for their fruit-growing potential and planted as orchards. Today, the fruit trees have been replaced with a dozen different grape varieties — grown in five different locations along the ridge — that produce their award-winning wines.

Willowcroft Farm Vineyards’ tasting room and loft area are also the perfect locations to host your next private event.

Visit the rustic beauty of the winery — housed in the old, red 1870s barn — to experience the birthplace of D.C.’s Wine Country, take in the amazing views and enjoy some exceptional wines!

38906 Mt. Gilead Road Leesburg, VA 20175  |  703-777-8161  |  WillowCroftWine.com

While it may have been impossible to visit and taste our way through more than 40 wineries in a single day, I’m now on a mission to check out the rest of the vineyards in beautiful Loudoun County and plan to work my way through them one cluster at a time! Who’s up for a road trip?

Lisa Puster
Author: Lisa Puster