Sunday, June 8, 2008

Hiddencroft Vineyards

After a day spent hiking and fishing at Cunningham Falls State Park, we returned home via Brunswick into the Loudoun Wine Trail. Our intended destination was the newly opened Notavina Vineyards. However, we were side tracked when we saw the Wine Tasting sign for Hiddencroft Vineyards, another new winery, that we thought was only open via appointments. We quickly backed up and slowly traveled the gravel road to the winery. When we saw a few other vehicles, we knew the sign was not mistaken, Hiddencroft was actually open to the public. We soon learned that after their initial opening May 3rd 2008, they had intended to open by appointment only, but they received so many requests that they decided to open regularly on weekends.

After growing vegetables to sell at farmers markets, Clyde and Terry Housel wanted to grow something a little more drought tolerant. They decided to convert the farm to grapes and planted several types of Labrusca and hybrid grapes to learn how to cultivate and produce wine. Starting with Concord, Steuben, DeChaunac, and Foch; they experimented with winemaking and grape growing until they found the best combinations: Traminette, Vidal Blanc, Chambourcin, and Cabernet Franc. The current vineyard was planted by hand and irrigated by Terry with a garden hose. With the assistance of Doug Fabbioli, who seems to always be available to mentor new wine producers, they have been able to "hand-craft artisan wines, concentrating on varietals that excel in Virginia's climate".

The current selection of artisan wines includes a Traminette, Chambourcin, Cabernet Franc, and Sweet Cherry. We started with the Traminette which is more than appropriate on a 90+ degree day. Blended with a small portion of Vidal Blanc, the wine possesses the flavors of each grape, but the characteristic spicy flavor of the Traminette - whose parent is Gew├╝rztraminer. A summer wine. We next tried their "nouveau" styled Chambourcin, where they took half their supply of the wine and aged for future use, and bottled the remainder after only a few months in oak. The result is a very fruit forward wine - that could also be served chilled - with a dry finish. But the fruit retains a mouth feel of flavor from start to finish. The meatier Cabernet Franc was next and this wine has a similar fruity composition as the Chambourcin, but a more peppery finish. I can't wait to try this wine with a steak. The final bottled wine, was the Sweet Cherry, a surprisingly drier wine than the name implies. Made from 100% montmorency cherries the wine tastes a little like a sugar free cherry pie. The tail is tart - which gives the impression of a dry wine. And Hiddencroft provides the obligatory chocolate morsels to enhance your temptation. Our favorite wine, however, hasn't even been bottles. Aging in the Barrel Room are a few barrels of Tannat and Petit Verdot in which Clyde originally intended to blend with the remaining Chambourcin. After sampling the Tannat in the barrel, we agree with his assessment to bottle it as a vintage. It is already smooth and flavorful - and will improve more with age. With samples like this, Tannat may well be a suitable grape for the Virginia climate.

The Housels are completely hospitable and provide an environment to relax on the porch with a bottle in hand. We also appreciate their assistance during the "accident". Thanks and see you soon.

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