Article courtesy Country Zest & Style - Fall 2019 inaugural edition
At the ripe old age of nine, Yianni (John) Zissios began learning the age old art of wine making during visits to his grandfather in Greece, the land of his forefathers. Today, decades later, John, his wife Helen and their son, Stergio, preside over the impressive family owned and operated Blue Valley Vineyard and Winery, among the bucolic hills of Delaplane in Fauquier County, Virginia.
Twenty three years ago, the family stumbled upon a large and beautiful tract of land, once home to the great former Chief Justice of the United States, John Marshall, falling in love with its similarities to their Greek homeland. They negotiated the purchase of some 63 acres with the intention of it becoming their home, however as time passed, Stergio convinced his parents that this would be the perfect location for a wonderful vineyard and, ultimately, a winery and tasting room.
Today, four years after its grand opening in April 2015, Blue Valley Vineyard and Winery is a serious player in the Virginia wine producing industry. They bottle 10,000 cases a year for customer consumption at the tasting room, purchase by wine club members, enjoyment during the many on site private occasions and distribution to half a dozen states and counting.
The 63 acres has since blossomed to 100, of which 18 are now under vine. Varietals include Muscat Ottonel, Sauvignon Blanc, Viognier and Chardonnay whites plus Cabernet Sauvignon, Petit Verdot, Cabernet Franc and Chambourcin reds. Blue Valley now also produces a Rosé with a sparkling Blanc de Blancs in the works.
The 27,000 square foot winery/tasting room was designed and built by the family, and welcomes visitors throughout the week, year round as well as playing host to some 20 weddings a year and numerous special corporate occasions. Below ground is an imposing high ceilinged winery building, dug underground to ensure temperature consistency which houses 32 stainless steel tanks custom made in South Africa, 280 French oak barrels and an extensive array of equipment required in order to turn grapes into wine.
During my visit to Blue Valley Vineyard and Winery, I met with Stergio Zissios, and learned how family means everything here. And family extends to the employees and customers, where a primary philosophy is to treat everyone as if they are indeed family. Stergio explained that many regulars become members of one of their two wine clubs - the Cave Club which requires a commitment to purchase one case of wine per year, and the BV Wine Club, where customers collect three bottles every quarter. In each scenario, the winemaker selects.
Distribution has become a major part of the business, with wine outlets such as Total Wine & More as well as restaurants selling significant quantities around the country.
I asked Stergio about their recent collaboration with the Great Meadow Twilight Polo season. “This is an excellent way for us to promote our brand locally to a clientele which enjoys leisure activities in Fauquier County.” And that is certainly happening as more and more county residents and wine connoisseurs from further afield learn about Fauquier County’s largest vineyard/winery.
Stop off and enjoy a warm welcome and some delightful wine at Blue Valley Vineyard & Winery next time you’re in the area; you won’t be disappointed.
By Peter Leonard-Morgan
Blue Valley Vineyard and Winery
5535 Blue Valley Way,
Delaplane, VA 20144
Virginia has some lovely wineries and vineyards, many of which Peter Leonard-Morgan writes about in local magazine, Country Spirit, including this about Zephaniah Family Vineyard close to our home base in Middleburg.
In a recent article, ilovewine.com analyzes a multitude of ways to properly store your wine, whether it be a small family selection, or an important cellar collection.
The Best Wine Storage for Larger Collections
Most people begin their wine collection with a few reds in the pantry and whites in the refrigerator. While these conditions aren’t optimal for aging, they’re fine for the short term storage of cheaper wines. As you fall more in love with wine you might graduate to a small wine cooler refrigerator to store more expensive bottles. These might be wines you want to age and enjoy a few years down the line. With this in mind, you’ll naturally accumulate wines more quickly than you can possibly store in a small or even medium-sized wine fridge. As your wine collection grows, how will you handle long-term storage: large wine fridge or wine cellar?
As Dr. Vinny at Wine Spectator explains, wine refrigerators and cellars may achieve the same thing in the shorter term, but only cellars are ideal for long term storage. The consensus among experts is that if you plan to drink the wines within five years, the wine fridge is suitable. Otherwise, you’ll want to invest in a cellar for aging them properly. While wine refrigerators hold constant temperature well, other factors like vibration, light, and humidity are generally not consistent enough.
Still, wine refrigerators are so convenient that many collectors go the hybrid route. Higher capacity wine refrigerators often have dual temperature zones so that you can safely store the reds at 55F and the whites closer to serving temperature. They also take up a lot less space and are less work to set up. Each option clearly has advantages and disadvantages, so it’s important to think about what will work best for your needs.
Large Wine Refrigerators
If you’re planning to buy a large wine refrigerator, look for a unit that keeps temperature consistent and has minimal vibration. It should obviously accommodate the number of bottles you need, but don’t forget to look closely at the racking. You should make sure it can handle the sizes and shapes of the bottles in your collection. Make sure the door opens in a good direction for the space you plan to keep the fridge. It’s also helpful if the door is tinted or otherwise treated to protect your bottles from light.
NewAir Premier Gold Series 116-Bottle Built-In Wine Cooler
This built-in wine refrigerator from NewAir is top of the line and we recommend it highly. It has strong shelves that pull out for easy access, each holding 11 bottles of wine. It’s also dual zone, with each section capable of holding temperatures from 40F to 66F. This is an excellent lower threshold for a large wine refrigerator. We also love that it has a separate control panel for each zone. No more accidentally changing the wrong zone’s temperature as often happens when there’s just one panel for both.
The door is triple-layered glass, which gives great insulation. The glass is clear instead of tinted, but one of the layers has UV protection. This protects your wine from light while still allowing you to see the bottles clearly. We also love that this refrigerator has front venting. This means you can use it as a freestanding unit or build it into a space with other cabinetry. Overall, this is an excellent wine refrigerator and a spectacular buy for $850.
Allavino FlexCount 172-Bottle Dual Zone Wine Refrigerator
The Allavino FlexCount is another great wine refrigerator. It has twelve shelves that can hold 11 bottles each and two that can hold 20 for a total capacity of 172. This fridge is also dual zone, but unlike the NewAir, the zones have different ranges. The upper zone can be set from 44F to 55F and the lower can hold temperatures of 55F to 65F. Furthermore, the lower zone must be set at least 4 degrees warmer than the upper zone, which might be a limitation depending on your needs. Just like the NewAir, each zone has its own digital display for ease of programming.
Despite these limitations, we love the overall design of this refrigerator. The shelves are strong and the racking accommodates the most versatile collections. It has tinted glass doors and front venting, again allowing for use as a built-in or freestanding refrigerator. The company also boasts the energy efficiency, which may be another consideration for you. This unit is currently priced at $1650.
Even if you buy a wine refrigerator, it’s hard not to daydream of building a cellar some day. If you’re lucky enough to have a natural cellar, it maybe a fairly inexpensive process. A basement that is cool, dark, and not too damp is a great start. Otherwise, you can work with a contractor to begin the process of designing a cellar for yourself. A small, custom cellar might run you several thousands, but it’s worth considering as your storage needs grow. Your wine collection is an important investment.
Stackable Modular Wine Rack
Stackable, modular wine racks such as these are an inexpensive way to outfit a new wine cellar. For just $65, this kit allows you to store 72 bottles in six rows of 12. It’s made of unfinished natural pine, so it’s fairly rustic looking. Still, it gets high marks for being sturdy and economical.
VintageView 9 Bottle Wall Mounted Metal Hanging Wine Rack
Depending on the nature of your cellar, hanging your bottles may be more ideal than stacking them in traditional racks. In that case, these mounted metal hanging racks from Vintage View are a great choice. They’re available in satin black, brushed nickel, or chrome. While this unit hold only a single column of 9 bottles, there are variants that store more.
Sorbus 100-Bottle Wine Display
If you prefer metal racking with a more traditional display, these wine shelves from Sorbus are a great option. They’re easy to assemble and the kit includes all the hardware to construct a 10 by 10 wine rack. In addition, it has wall-mounting hardware to give it more stability.
Wine Racks America 82-Bottle Diamond Rack
We absolutely love the look of this 82-bottle diamond rack from Wine Racks America as an alternative to column stacking. It is available in a variety of stains and colors, making it an excellent addition to your kitchen or wine bar as well as your cellar. It requires some assembly and some customers report difficulty with this. Fortunately, the company is responsive to feedback and the rack comes with a lifetime guarantee.
Wine Racks America Wine Cellar Kit
Ready to go big? With this kit from Wine Racks America you can build racking to house 162 bottles of wine. Units from this company fit together seamlessly, so as you install this racking, you’ll begin to see your whole cellar take shape. We love this as a scalable solution that allows you to invest in the racking as your collection grows. We view this as a solid DIY version of the custom carpentry that often goes into creating a wine cellar.
This article was originally published at ilovewine.com
Peter Leonard-Morgan and Isabelle Truchon of Hunt Country Sotheby's International Realty today closed on the sale of their listing of a quaint western Loudoun County vineyard and private residence with attached tasting room, on Harpers Ferry Road.
The property, with scenic views of the Short Hill from its expansive front porch, was built in 1940, and carefully added to over the intervening years. With multiple barn-buildings, set up for wine production and aging, plus the half acre vineyard, we can't wait to see how the new owners will re-invent this unique location.
Isabelle Truchon and Peter Leonard-Morgan represented buyers of two quite different land lots this past couple of months, one an incredibly pretty 46 acre, Loudoun County raw property, ideal for its future use as a vineyard and eventually winery/tasting room, and the other an existing four acre vineyard set on a 14 acre parcel in Fauquier County.
The buyers of both properties have similar visions; to create/expand exceptional vineyards and eventually welcome patrons to their boutique style properties, where they can enjoy the delightful views and vistas from these undulating hilly locations, in some of the prettiest countryside in America.
By Peter Leonard-Morgan
Photos by Pixelme Studios Courtesy Middleburg Life Magazine
A weekend awash with festivities took place at Middleburg’s historic Catesby Farm, beginning on Friday, January 5, and culminating on Sunday, January 7. The occasion was a surprise 40th birthday party for local resident Eric Combs, hosted by Eric’s wife, Suzi Molak, together with her business partner Jodi Moraru and their company SPACEZ, which was recently awarded the exclusive rights to operate Catesby Farm for limited events.
Guests arrived early Friday evening from all parts of the country to celebrate in style, and no detail was overlooked. Suzi conceived and designed the party, creating an ambiance which she felt strongly highlighted what Catesby has to offer its clients, bringing in teams from Washington, D.C., and Middleburg, to light up the house with love, laughter and entertainment.
The party’s theme, as well as the invitations, which included a request for a hush-hush of surprise, was “I call a Mulligan”. A dedicated hashtag of #middleagedinmiddleburg was, quite literally, the icing on the cake, as evidenced in these photos.
A sit-down dinner for an intimate cadre of 20 guests kicked off the weekend, with catering from Heirloom Caterers, decor and flowers from Amaryllis Designs, lighting and music from Bruce Pike Productions, rentals from Capital Party Rentals, photography from Pixelme Studios and graphic design by Emily Baird Designs. Despite frightfully cold weather outside Catesby, wine flowed within, and music wafted throughout, providing revellers with a truly unique experience.
That night, 20 guests slumbered lavishly in three of the five houses which are available as accommodations on the property. They awoke to a fresh-pressed juice bar complete with service from a Jinsei Juices & Tonics branded bicycle! The biggest hits were “The Hydrate” with fresh coconut meat and “The Cure” with activated charcoal for cleansing—the perfect detox!
During the day, Hammerdown BBQ, a local Middleburg favorite, provided a buffet lunch served in the main house to guests and new arrivals who came to enjoy a relaxed afternoon of fun and friends.
Saturday evening’s diversions kicked off at six o’clock, this time with entertainment for 50, including friends from Middleburg and surrounding areas. Tours of the main house were provided throughout the evening, and everyone enjoyed a fabulous buffet dinner courtesy of Spilled Milk Caterers.
When the sun rose on Sunday morning, the winds had settled down, and a breakfast buffet was enjoyed with hugs and laughs before departure.
The weekend was fashioned to showcase the Catesby Farms experience—unadulterated luxury at every stage of interaction with the property and the occasion.
In announcing that Catesby’s doors are open for select significant milestone family occasions and corporate retreats, up to 20 times a year, its owners are committing to the upkeep of the house and gardens in all their glory, while retaining the peace and tranquility for which this area of natural beauty is renowned.
Built in 1930, Catesby Farm sits on 170 acres of some of the loveliest countryside in America, in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, just west of Middleburg, Virginia, the nation’s home of foxhunting.
Like a number of important Middleburg estates, Catesby has historically focused on equestrian sports, in particular racehorse training, and to this day it boasts a magnificent barn and inside ring, all of which is surrounded by extensive paddocks.
Additionally, Catesby has its own tennis and basketball courts, a fully stocked pond for fishing and a swimming pool. With five homes on the property, each meticulously designed and ideal for hosting the most intimate of occasions, Catesby is able to accommodate and pamper up to 34 guests. However, it is the main house which captivates its visitors as they pull up the driveway to this impressive, expansive and breathtaking residence.
SPACEZ’ Suzi Molak looks forward to hosting a number of elegant events at Catesby, and she stresses that these occasions will be in keeping with the location and history surrounding this magnificent property. Suzi commented: “We at SPACEZ have been given the privilege of providing a limited number of discerning customers a discreet yet extraordinary venue at which to celebrate important personal occasions. We want to oversee functions which Catesby’s earlier stewards would be proud of, and which bring the property to life with laughter and energy.”
Our delightful family vineyard, winery and residence on Harpers Ferry Road has recently seen a change to its pricing parameters; effective immediately, we have been authorized to offer this lovely property as a residence with land and outbuildings but without the wine making equipment, stainless steel fermentation tanks, oak barrels, mobile commercial kitchen and extensive wine inventory for the new price of $795,000.
The inventory and equipment is still available for an additional $115,000.
The rationale behind this bold move was to ensure that the property would not be overlooked by any potential buyers of a serene residence with land, views and additional buildings suitable for a multitude of other uses.
Let us know if you have questions, or better still want to take a tour.
New to the market - delightful family vineyard and winery with tasting room and private residence - $945,000
Today, we are very pleased to bring to the market this quaint family vineyard and winery together with tasting room and private residence.
Full details of this two-acre property on Harpers Ferry Road, within the bucolic Loudoun Heights Cluster of wineries, can be reviewed HERE. With views of the Blue Ridge Mountains to the west from the tasting terrace, patrons enjoy relaxing afternoons accompanied by a glass of estate wine and home made light fare.
Get in touch with Isabelle or Peter to schedule a visit HERE, or use our contact form in the main details page.
Almost 400 years ago, the first colonial legislative assembly, the House of Burgesses, passed what was known as Acte 12, requiring that all households in Virginia plant ten vines of European Vitis Vinifera grapes, or be punished for not doing so.
Such decrees were committed to the history books long ago, yet this marked the beginning of efforts, which, other than a 17-year hiatus during the Prohibition Era, have continued unabated to this day, to cultivate and develop grapevines in Virginia. Those efforts were met with continued failure thanks to a harsh climate, difficult growing conditions and the dreaded phylloxera pest, rendering European varietals unsuitable for successful wine production on America’s east coast.
With failure, however, came gradual progress. During the 1800’s for example, a hardy Virginia grape was discovered by one Doctor Norton, which bears his name to this day, and which produced a quality wine, winning awards both domestically and on the international stage.
Despite the fact that Virginia produces less than 1% of all wine made in the USA – California not surprisingly claiming the lion's share – the Commonwealth is able to boast in excess of 260 boutique wineries, and has the fifth largest winery population in the nation, resulting in the production of over 1.6 million gallons of wine in 2016.
This growth in the number of wineries and vineyards may suggest that establishing a vineyard is a fairly simple proposition; the fact is that it is anything but and absolutely not for the faint of heart.
So, what is the business of wine?
Boxwood Estate Winery
Siblings Rachel and Sean Martin run Middleburg’s family owned Boxwood Winery, set on the glorious former horse farm of General Billy Mitchell, father of the United States Air Force. Rachel Executive Vice President, worked to establish the Middleburg AVA, or American Viticultural Area, in 2012, a wine producing region designated by the Federal Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB), part of the United States Treasury, a process which took no less than six years to accomplish.
Her brother Sean, is Vice President of Boxwood, and together with their mother Rita Cooke and stepfather John Kent Cooke, they acquired the property in 2001 with the sole purpose of establishing a high-quality vineyard and winery.
Engaging the services of renowned viticulturist, Lucy Morton, they planted an initial eight acres of Vinis Vinifera in 2004 resulting in their first vintage in 2006. Since that initial planting, the estate has grown to 26 acres under vine today, bottling around 5,000 cases annually.
Boxwood’s unique, modernist tasting room and winery was designed by Washington D.C. architect, Hugh Newell Jacobsen, and to round out the mission of developing great wines to complement this special venue in which to showcase them to a discerning public, the family hired Stéphane Derenoncourt, an established Bordeaux winemaker, as consultant.
Additionally, Boxwood established tasting rooms some time ago in Reston Town Center and, latterly, the National Harbor, where its customers sample wines from all over the world in an atmosphere and style reminiscent of Boxwood itself.
So, what did it all take to get here? Colossal amounts of energy and vision, supported by significant initial and ongoing capital investment together with faith in experts in their chosen fields to get it right when it came to growing the best grapes in the best locations.
The Martins assert that it takes at least a decade of commitment to go from initial planting to first profits, and to start recouping their initial investment. Having just celebrated its 10-year anniversary, that may answer why there were smiles all round at Boxwood this summer! They are vested in their community, with Sean sitting on Middleburg’s Economic Development Advisory Committee and the winery regularly playing its part in support of various town events.
RdV Vineyards and Winery
RdV, in the bucolic hills near Delaplane, is the dream realization of its owner and founder, Rutger De Vink. De Vink, a retired Recon Marine sought out the perfect 100 acres he wanted, finding a fifth generation Angus cattle farm with ideal terroir and orientation, and went to work on the owners, to convince them that they should allow him to buy it. His persistence paid off and, 16 years later, one of Virginia’s finest vineyard winery properties produces high quality wines in limited amounts, and in an environment which exudes the impression of serious financial investment.
RdV produces two wines, both Bordeaux style red blends, priced at $125 and $75 a bottle respectively, with tastings at $50 per person. At around 2,200 cases bottled each year, RdV clearly sees its market as the very upper end.
Estate Director, Master Sommelier and graduate of the Culinary School of America, Jarad Slipp, joined RdV in 2014 following illustrious careers at some of the worlds great restaurants. Slipp is serious about wine, and explains that RdV, from an investment standpoint, is not looking at a profit plan measured in years, but to create a legacy measured in generations. De Vink did not go into this with plans to package up a top tier business into a saleable asset. He sees himself as a steward who will pass on something unique, much like a Patek Philippe or an old master.
De Vink’s investment is not counted simply in dollars and cents. After the Marines, he did his time as an apprentice under respected Linden Vineyards founder, Jim Law, so that when the time came to launch RdV, he would undestand first hand the process from start to finish.
Only one French cooper supplies RdV with its oak barrels, and in order to ensure that the best possible blending is achieved, each year, one of France’s most respected enologists visits the winery to blend from various barrels in ratios which will produce the ideal sought after balance.
The barrel cave at RdV is an underground complex created by blasting into solid granite. That granite which surrounds the cave ensures that temperatures remain constantly low all year round. Like Boxwood, RdV also has its own bottling equipment, a machine which is used three days a year, but considered a necessity in a place where only the best will do.
Greenhill Winery and Vineyards
In 2012, aeronautical communications entrepreneur, David Greenhill, who had been scouring the Virginia countryside for years to locate the perfect winery to acquire, contacted respected, third generation French master wine maker and viticulturist, Sébastien Marquet, after stumbling upon a small family owned vineyard and winery in Middleburg which he was convinced was ‘the one’.
Greenhill negotiated its purchase and, aided by Marquet’s expertise, immediately set about turning his vision into reality. Isabelle Truchon, Marquet’s partner and renowned equine artist was engaged to develop a Greenhill brand from the ground up, and to re-design the interior of the member’s clubhouse, an important revolutionary era stone manor which had been, until then, the previous owner’s home. Now, as the newly branded Greenhill Winery and Vineyards, they began the design and build of a custom two-story tasting room, to take the place of the smaller, existing one which they re-purposed into a farm store, and a dedicated winery with unique barrel room, all of which opened this past January. New French oak barrels were ordered, as well as the finest European wine making equipment and stainless-steel tanks.
Distinctive creamy white Charolais cattle, a breed which originates from Marquet’s native Burgundy in France, roam the fields near the vineyards. They not only provide a rustic background for tasting room guests but also excellent meat for sale at the farm store.
The original ten-acre vineyard was supplemented by the planting of nine more acres under vine, while a 12-acre vineyard called Naked Valley, located between Charlottesville and Lynchburg, was acquired in order to grow additional grape varietals and add new flavors from this different terroir.
Initially, Marquet, who as well as being the wine maker/viticulturist is also the Chief Commercial Officer at Greenhill, purchased grapes from other vineyards in order to supplement existing availability to be able to blend sufficient wine for the fast-growing demand at the new property. The intervening years have seen healthy increases in harvest, allowing Marquet to bottle some 7,000 cases of wine varieties and blends including Chardonnay, a dry Riesling, Viognier, Seyval and Vidal Blancs, Cabernets Sauvignon and Franc, Merlot, Pinot Noir and Malbec.
According to Marquet, acquiring an existing operation provided some advantages over a green field site, in that there was a degree of infrastructure in place. However, Greenhill has committed significant capital and resources in this extreme makeover, with the goal of becoming profitable during the next few years. They have focused on carving out their own identity as a premium wine making business, and customer centric facility which has been further aided by David’s commitment to local polo both as player and patron, with the result that Greenhill wine is synonymous with polo both at Banbury Cross and Great Meadow.
At Greenhill, as with other quality properties, customers can enjoy fine cheeses and charcuterie with a warm baguette to perfectly complement their favorite vintages. Add to that some local, live music on a Friday evening overlooking the scenic, distant Bull Run and Blue Mountain ranges and one can see why so many people frequent these serene spots.
A clear picture emerges from this sampling of dedicated Virginia wine entrepreneurs, all of whom have invested not only significant sums of money, but more importantly long term personal commitments to see their businesses thrive, and become fixtures in Northern Virginia. Local government support has been a crucial element to their successes, as has been a healthy culture of camaraderie between wineries to help develop clusters and wine trails, further encouraging wine aficionados to explore these delightful destinations.
Moreover, each business runs its own version of a wine club, where members commit to purchasing a specific number of bottles each year. In return, these VIP’s are the first to sip the latest vintages at members only release parties, as well as enjoying other benefits specific to each winery, such as dedicated member areas, complimentary tastings and wine themed evenings. These clubs build a loyal and solid customer base plus a guaranteed revenue stream every few months when it is time for members to pick up their wines.
In 2015, 8,300 people were directly employed in the Virginia wine business and $180 million of tax revenue being attributed to it based on over $1 billion in revenues.
Gorgeous swathes of land are kept from over development by these clusters of delightful properties, in addition to providing destination seekers with beautiful places to visit to enjoy the fruits of the labors of countless passionate hard-working people. The cumulative effect is to generate significant economic bounty to rural areas, not simply as revenue for tasting rooms, but also business for local restaurants and stores, helping to maintain rural communities throughout the Commonwealth.
The business of wine is a complex one, nevertheless it shows no signs of discouraging new comers to this capital-intensive business, nor slowing down the expansion of existing operations.
The latest data from winesandvines.com shows Virginia as number six in the nation in terms of the number of wineries, 270 as at August 2017, and number nine in the nation in terms of the number of cases of wine produced - 900,000.
The cases total still hovers below 1%, with California bottling the lion's share at a whopping 87%! An amazing statistic in itself.
Loudoun County, Virginia, accounts for 44 wineries, a number which is gradually increasing in part due to the county's close proximity to the nation's capital, Washington D.C., as well as good terroir, passionate independent investors and strong local winemaking skills.
One factor which accompanies a growing number of wineries is the presence of more for sale as owners retire, or their circumstances change and they decide to re-locate, scenarios we have seen first hand in Loudoun County. We are witnessing new entrants into wine making and the cultivation of vines which brings fresh vision and a constantly evolving diversity of blends and tasting room styles, all of which helps to maintain and increase interest for visitors. It's definitely lively in Loudoun when it comes to wine...
Hunt Country SIR
We are Hunt Country Sotheby’s International Realty, a Northern Virginia based residential real estate broker located in the historic capital of Loudoun County, Leesburg