To garner a medal, or medals at the annual Virginia Governor’s Cup wine competition in Richmond is an achievement in itself, but to be crowned as the overall winner is the ultimate accolade, and an acknowledgement that the victor’s wine is the best in the Commonwealth.
868 Estate Vineyards, located just west of the Town of Hillsboro in Loudoun County, Virginia accomplished this impressive feat in February 2020 when it triumphed over 105 competitor vineyards, which entered no fewer than 530 wines, to become the 2020 Virginia Governor’s Cup outright winner.
868’s winning wine was its 2017 Vidal Blanc Passito, made from the American hybrid grape, Vidal Blanc, and made using the Italian appassimento method. This technique is one where the grapes are partially dried for a month in shallow baskets in order to produce a highly concentrated sugar content. The result is a rich, sweet and intense honey, pineapple and tropical fruit flavor, best served cold.
The idea behind this particular varietal was the brainchild of winemaker, co-owner and company president, Carl Di Manno who, together with fellow owners Peter Deliso and Wendy Charron, purchased the 120-acre property, which included renowned farm to fork restaurant, Grandale Farm restaurant, in 2011. Saving it from becoming what was destined to be just another housing subdivision, 868 Estate Vineyards was founded. Now, less than a decade later, the Governor’s Cup resides proudly in the 868 Estate Vineyards tasting room, where it will remain until next year’s winner is announced.
Grandale Farm’s executive chef and co-founder, Author Clark, had been creating exquisite dishes for its discerning clientele since the restaurant opened in 2005 until late 2019, when Chef Clark passed the baton to Chef Thomas Kozak. Today, Grandale offers all of 868’s wines to its diners which include its Chardonel, Chardonnay, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Canvas White, a blend of Chardonel and Vidal Blanc.
Initial grapevine planting took place in 2012, and resulted in 10 acres of vines which has expanded to 22 acres during the intervening eight years. Visitors enjoy their favorite wines either in the tasting room, conveniently located opposite the restaurant, or outside under or by the pavilion. Notably, all of the grapes which went into the winning wine came from the estate’s one third acre, dedicated Vidal Blanc vineyard block!
In addition to the tasting room and restaurant, 868 takes art seriously, with local artists from Loudoun and Fairfax Counties in Virginia, Montgomery County in Maryland and Jefferson County in West Virginia exhibiting and offering their works for sale for three months at a time.
Events at 868 include several weddings and corporate gatherings annually plus festivities tailored specifically for ‘Elevation Club’ members, patrons who have committed to buying one case per year, picked up four times annually.
In the words of Peter Deliso’s wife, Nancy, 868’s Marketing Director, “868 Estate Vineyards is an avid proponent of a culture of wine, food, art and nature, all of which flourish at the property”. These four values appear to resonate with a lot of folks judging by the number of people coming and going during my visit.
868 Estate Vineyards and Grandale Farm Restaurant are located at 14001 Harpers Ferry Road, Hillsboro, VA 20132. (540) 668-7008
Originally published in the spring 2020 edition of Country Zest & Style magazine - words and photos by Peter Leonard-Morgan
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Peter has written for his local magazines, Country Zest & Style and Middleburg Life as their Wine contributor. He also enjoys writing blogs on interesting and pertinent real estate matters, so please follow!