When it came time to pick sites for a vineyard, Hillsborough hit the jackpot. Resting on a hill at the base of Loudoun Valley, Hillsborough looks like what you’d think a winery SHOULD look like. Great views of the sunset. Long rows of vines in front and behind you. Picturesque stone farmhouse tasting room. Even before tasting the wines (and beer) – how can you not love this place?
The Baki family are the owners. Transplants from Izmir, Turkey, they arrived in the D.C. area in 1978 and eventually founded the farm that would become their vineyard. Their oldest son Kerem may have been the inspiration for this venture; he was studying enology at the time so a vineyard was a good way to support his ambitions.
Today, the Bakis are still very much involved in the business. Kerem is the wine maker, his brother Tolga is the brewer (more onthat in a moment), and Kerem’s wife Asli is their wine club manager. Owners Bora and Zeynep are retired, but the place is decorated with Zeynep’s art.
I’m as much of a vineyard geek as a wine geek, so this place was a huge find for me. Hillsborough loves to experiment with different styles of wines, and grows several varietals of grapes that are difficult to find in the area. I hardly ever see white Merlot – but there’s one here. Roussanne is exceptionally rare in Virginia, but they have a full acre. In fact almost all their wine is produced from their 15 acres of vines.
But their Fer Servadou deserves its own shout-out. Usuallyfound in south-central France (home of Tannat), Hillsborough has the largest planting of Fer in the United States. Dark skinned, medium-bodied but with good tannin, I’d never even heard of this grape until I visited here. But the owners did their homework, and chose Fer as they recognized it would do well in their terroir.
Asli was kind enough to give me a run-down of the family’s history, as well as what they are up to now. I was surprised they no longer host weddings; while it was lucrative weddings were simply too distracting for their regular patrons. Fortunately that means more space for the rest of us to enjoy the patio views that otherwise would have been unavailable.
But what was really fascinating was something much more recent; in late 2018 they opened a brewery on premise! Tolga is their brew master (he also owns Belly Love brewery in Purcellville), so this is one of the few places in Virginia you can enjoy both a pint of beer as well as a glass of wine in the same location.
Of course, no visit to a winery would be complete without talking about the wine.
2016 Vidal Blanc: Light and citrusy
2015 Opal (Petit Manseng): Dry but has what I’d call a heavy nose and body. Notes of honey and figs are good descriptors.
2016 Serefiina (90% Petit Manseng/10% Tannat): Interesting combo; think of it as Petit Manseng with extra bite.
2015 Ruby’s Blush: Very interesting combo of red wines that includes Tannat and Fer Servadou. Very fruity, reminded me of a sangria.
2014 Cabernet Sauvignon: Low tannin for a Cab, lingering pepper notes. Good roundness on the palate. Very nice overall.
2016 Petit Verdot: Smooth, almost chocolaty. Not a bold ‘in your face’ PV.
Not tried this time is their signature wine “Ruby” – a blend of Tannat, Fer, and Petit Verdot. But I’ve had it before and it’s yummy!