Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Hillsborough Vineyards: High Quality Virginia Wine from Loudoun County

Shades of green welcome visitors to the rolling hills of Loudoun County's wine country.
The Virginia wine scene has exploded in the 10 years or so that I’ve been paying attention. More and more wineries are popping up all over the state (in 2016, the state boasted more than 285). Virginia wineries sold more than 6.5 million bottles in fiscal year 2016, and sales have increased by 34 percent since 2010.

Living in the DC area, I make sporadic trips to Virginia wineries (in addition to tasting many more for reports on this blog and the daily wine site Terroirist.). But, with so many excellent producers, it’s getting harder and harder to keep up.

On a sunny day in May, I made a trek to Hillsborough Vineyards, nestled among the beautiful rolling hills of Loudoun County, to taste their new releases. I brought my toddler and a group of friends, and we spent a lovely afternoon tasting and chasing my kid through the vineyards. I knew I was in for solid Virginia vino, as I had tasted several Hillsborough wines not long before the trip. But the beauty of the location and the overall high quality of the wines still impressed me.

Cellar Master and Tasting Room Manager Jim Koennicke poured our group a range of Hillsborough wines and walked us through some history of the estate, its founders, and what makes their site unique. Hillsborough was founded by husband-wife duo Bora and Zeynep Baki, who hail from Turkey. They fell in love with the site that is now Hillsborough and set the building blocks for a boutique winery, which was finished in 2003. Today, the estate’s 36 acres contain 12 acres planted to vines, split into three vineyards. Winemaker Kerem Baki, who studied biochemistry and enology at Virginia Tech, keeps the family tradition going with some absolutely delicious wines.

Fascinating tidbit: Hillsborough is home to perhaps the only wine in the U.S. made solely from the Fer Servadou grape, which is indigenous to Southwest France. If this wine is any sign, this grape seems to do very well in Virginia’s humid climate, and I look forward to seeing if anyone else gives it a shot.  

If you live in the Washington, DC, area, I highly recommend a visit. It’s a beautiful area to hike and explore, and the wines will not disappoint. My notes on the wines I tasted are below…

Scoping out the vineyards at Hillsborough.
2014 Hillsborough Vineyards Carnelian - Virginia, Northern Virginia, Loudoun County
Nose of juicy apple and bright floral notes. Salty and peachy and spicy with lots of floral elements. 100% Roussanne, this is a crisp and bright Virginia interpretation of this grape. All stainless steel. (87 points)

2014 Hillsborough Vineyards Petit Manseng Opal - Virginia, Northern Virginia, Loudoun County
Aromas of honey, peach nectar, bright white flowers and herbal spice notes. Creamy, lovely texture on the palate with bright acidity. The peach and apricot fruit mixes with honeycomb, saline and chalky mineral notes. A gorgeous Virginia Petit Manseng. (90 points)

2014 Hillsborough Vineyards Merlot Rosé - Virginia, Northern Virginia, Loudoun County
For a rose, this is so dark ruby colored. Smells super-fruity with raspberry and strawberry jams. Bright but lots of fruit, shows wide appeal and zesty elements to keep it fresh. (86 points)

2013 Hillsborough Vineyards Syrah - Virginia, Northern Virginia, Loudoun County
On the nose this is smoky, peppery and earthy with bright red berries. Plump but bright on the palate with structured tannins and lots of freshness. Not super complex, but nice bright red fruits with pepper and smoke. (87 points)

2014 Hillsborough Vineyards Ruby's Blush - Virginia, Northern Virginia, Loudoun County
Sweet floral perfume and candied cherry aromas. Fruity and fun but not too sweet. A blend of 20% apiece of Tannat, Petit Verdot, Fer, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. (85 points)
Nose shows lots of spicy pepper and leather on top of red currants. Plush and silky with strawberry and red cherry fruit mixed with savory herbs. Lighter style, but fresh and tasty. Includes 13% Merlot and 12% Cabernet Franc, aged 18 months in French oak and one in bottle before release. (86 points)

2014 Hillsborough Vineyards Moonstone Late Harvest - Virginia, Northern Virginia, Loudoun County
So much honey and pineapple and flowers on the nose. Rich but not cloying on the palate with lots of juicy pineapple and peach, notes of floral spice.  All late harvest Viognier with 5% residual sugar. (87 points)

2014 Hillsborough Vineyards Bloodstone - Virginia, Northern Virginia, Loudoun County
Such a spicy aromatic display with tart black currant, black pepper, leather, clove, sage and herbal liqueur. Juicy and tart with so much complex spice flavors (black pepper, beef broth, clove, grilled herbs). Unique flavor profile but some nice black currant fruit that balances out the spice. 100% Fer Servadou, which is supposedly the only such wine made solely from this variety in the United States. There’s another small vineyard of this grape nearby, but maybe there’s a bigger future for this grape in Virginia? (89 points)

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