On Saturday, my wife and I drove up to Loudoun County for a Virginia wine weekend getaway. Loudoun County is located in the Northern most tip of Virginia and is home to over 20 wineries (and growing). To accompany us on the 4 ½ drive, we listened to the abridged audio version of Dan Brown’s newly released book, The Lost Symbol, which made the drive seem much shorter.
Driving through Loudoun County, along Route 9 and Route 15, is like taking a step back in time – large stately homes surrounded by worn stone fences or white wooden picket fences, horse farms on rolling hills, working farms, antique shops seemingly around every corner, and of course wineries.
As we made our way up Route 9, Doukenie Winery’s Taste of Italy festival was our first stop. Doukenie is situated on a 500-acre farm located in Hillsborough, VA. The expansive grounds of are quite scenic – punctuated with a red barn that serves as the tasting room adjacent to a small lake and cow pasture, surrounded by views of rolling hills.
The weather on Saturday was absolutely perfect, sunny, intermittent slight breeze, about 70 degrees. The event included tasting through seven Doukenie wines, live music, food and relaxation under a shade tree by the lake. We met fellow Virginia blogger, Dezel, of My Vine Spot, at the event and had the chance to catch up and talk Virginia Wine.
Of the seven Doukenie wines I tasted, the standout for me was the 2007 Merlot. Purple in the glass, with a nose of baked plum and blackberry pie, with slight earth and secondary aromas of tobacco and cherry. Moderate tannins with more dark fruit flavors – mulberry, fig, blackberry – along with hints of mocha. I purchased a glass of the Merlot for lunch and picked up a consistent strawberry component that I did not initially get during the tasting.
Although the Merlot was the standout for me in terms of flavor profile and quality, the 2007 Cabernet Franc stood out in terms of price. Although Cabernet Franc, along with Viognier and Petit Verdot, tends to perform well here in Virginia’s hot humid growing seasons, the $35/bottle price tag shocked me. I wonder how much of this particular wine they sell at this high price point.
Our second, and final stop, for the day was a visit to Breaux Vineyards just a few miles further north on Route 9. I’ve had Breaux wines at several different wine festivals, but have never had the chance to visit the winery. Breaux, located in Purcellville, was founded in 1990, has about 108 acres under vine and currently produces about 10,000 cases of Virginia wine annually. Interestingly, Breaux is the largest grape producer in the state of Virginia. Like Doukenie, the grounds at Breaux are inviting – great views, a patio area to enjoy wine and food, and picnic tables available for those who prefer to be closer to the vineyards.
Jen Breaux, Tasting Room Manager, greeted us soon after we arrived, and kindly set us up with Bruce, a long time Breaux team member, for our tasting and tour of the Breaux facility. The atmosphere at Breaux – live music, packed tasting room, people gathered on the patio enjoying wine, cheese and meat – reminded me more of a Napa tasting room than a typical Virginia tasting experience.
Despite the fact that there was a wedding on the grounds that evening coupled with a crazy crowded tasting room, Bruce and Jen provided us with exceptional, personalized service.
As part of the regular tasting, we sampled 12 Breaux Wines, plus four from their reserve (or Club) tasting. Several of the Breaux wines stood out for me during the tasting including:
2002 Reserve Merlot – nice fruit – dark berries, mocha, hints of tobacco, earth. Well balanced, integrated.
2005 Marquis De Lafayette – 100% cab franc. Pepper, all spice, more spice, dark berries. Tannic at first. Reasonably priced for a Virginia Cab Franc and just $19/bottle.
2007 Viognier – my favorite of the afternoon. Nose of peach, apricot, melong and hints of sour apple candy. Nice acidity with flavors of white peach, stone fruit with orange spritz on the finish.
2002 Nebbiolo – Yes, Nebbiolo, that Piedmontese Italian varietal is grown here in Virginia. Herbaceous, earthy, cherry and tobacco throughout. May be too early for this one, but still good, showing great potential.
If you’re looking for a great tasting experience with a small-town feel, I would highly recommend visiting the Loudoun County Wine Trail. (and, if you are from out of state, please visit, Virginia needs your tourism tax dollars!)