On Saturday July 11th, we attended the first annual DC's Wine Country - Food and Wine Festival, not as an attendee, but as a volunteer. Good thing, because that evening was completely sold out - 1,500 people had purchased tickets. They had prepared to travel to beautiful Bluemont Virginia and enjoy about a hundred different wines from Loudoun County wineries. Along with fellow blogger Dezel from My Vine Spot and fellow wine drinker Brian, we poured wines for our friends at Corcoran Vineyards, perhaps the most popular winery at the event. Maybe it was a result of sponsoring the pre-festival dinner or merely of crafting excellent wines; but we were besieged the entire night. OK, a slight exaggeration; but we were busy.
Almost all the Loudoun County wineries participated in the event from the oldest, Willowcroft Farm Vineyards, the biggest, Breaux Vineyards, Chrysalis Vineyards, Tarara Winery, the smallest, Zephaniah Farm Vineyard, to some of the newest, Dry Mill Vineyards & Winery and Quattro Goomba's Winery. One noticeable exception was Notaviva Vineyards, who welcomed a new addition to the family earlier in the week. Congratulations.
Before our pouring responsibilities contained us, I was able to visit a few booths - couldn't taste - but I could see what was in store for the attendees. The Village Winery & Vineyards had their Apple, Elderberry, and a Petit Verdot, which I was very interested in trying - it seems most of these wineries had warmed to this grape. The aforementioned Zephaniah Farm Vineyard had bottled a Cabernet Sauvignon as a companion to their Cabernet Franc. Breaux Vineyards had produced a Nebbiolo Ice Wine, but since their booth was unoccupied at the moment - I couldn't confirm whether it was a true ice wine. And finally I learned that Hiddencroft Vineyards has some nice wines aging in their cellar - they should be expecting a visit later this summer.
Besides wine, author Ellen Crosby was available to autograph books. I was briefly able to discuss how Mrs. Swedenburg, the former patriarch of Swedenburg Estate Vineyard assisted her on her research. And in fact the winery was the inspiration for The Merlot Murders. Her latest in the series is The Riesling Retribution: A Wine Country Mystery; perfect summer reading.
Before exploring more, duty called and it was time to start pouring some Corcoran wines. Lori Corcoran had brought her stellar Viognier, the easy drinking Cabernet Franc, spicy Malbec, and full bodied Meritage - a blend of the first two reds plus a shot of Merlot. It was a real pleasure serving these wines, because we knew they were going to be popular - not a bad wine in the bunch. This statement was verified several times by other attendees who were quick to state that this was the only winery were they liked the entire selection.
And this was a wine educated crowd. A clear majority not only were familiar with grapes, but knew which were best suited for the Virginia climate. The most common misconception was that a few attendees were not aware that Malbec was a Bourdeaux grape and thought it was indigenous to South America. Many were even aware of Tannat, which Lori adds to the Malbec - maybe for some earthiness? Either way, Tannat and Malbec should be considered along with Petit Verdot as old world grapes suitable to Virginia. And in fact, all of Corcoran's grapes are grown in Northern Virginia, either at their estate or in vineyards surrounding Purcellville & Winchester. A little micro-climate.
Before long, the three hours were finished. We were thirsty - no drinking in the booth. And there was no time to sample from the other wineries. Oh well; the only other disappointment was not being close to the music stage. Throughout the night I heard a few notes from Moon Music and Hard Swimmin' Fish (pictured on the left) - enough to peak my interest - but not able to hear the entire set. Fortunately they play regularly at local venues - perhaps On the Border on Thursday night.
From what we witnessed Saturday, this was a successful festival - well run and popularly attended. We look forward to pouring at next year's festival and actually plan to attend one of the other nights to taste what Loudoun County wineries have to offer.