There is more than just wine that makes an experience in Virginia Wine Country great. There are the tasting rooms of course, the views, the ambience and the stories; but there is another thing that makes a winery great– the people. At Zephaniah Farm Vineyard in Leesburg, VA, you will find some amazing people–and the wine is brilliant! The Hatch family’s passion is evident in everything that they do, especially in their love for one another and their dedication and appreciation of the land and the craft of winemaking. Their humility, kindness and welcoming spirit adds an element of warmth to each visit and brings Zephaniah Farm Vineyard to life. Enjoy learning about the history, the journey to create award winning wines, and the family legacy that is being is crafted in Loudoun County.
Zephaniah Farm Winery is located on land that has been owned by the Hatch family since the mid-1900’s. The history dates back further than that though. The manor house was constructed in the 1830’s and built by the same builder of former president James Monroe’s Oak Hill estate. When the Hatch family purchased the property in 1950, it became the site of their almost 400 acre dairy farm. Bill Hatch grew up tending to the farm with his siblings. Now in its third generation, the property is still a working farm, although they are working with slightly different elements– raising grass-fed angus and cultivating grapevines to produce award winning wines.
While Bill may have started out his farming career working with dairy, wine has long been a part of the family history. Zephaniah Farm Vineyard is actually named after Bill’s great-grandfather, Zephaniah Jefferson Hatch. Zephaniah was a successful businessman, forming the Monticello Steamboat Company in the late 1800’s. Throughout the early 1900’s, the Monticello Steamboat Company carried passengers headed for California’s Napa Valley across the San Francisco Bay several times a day. Following Zephaniah’s passing, the company was sold and William Hatch relocated to the east coast, where he purchased the property in Leesburg and set his sights on a successful farming venture.
Zephaniah Farm Vineyard is truly a family operation. Owners, Bill Hatch and Bonnie Archer turned from casually drinking wine in their early years to taking it more seriously in their 40’s. As they say, and many parents would agree, “When our children were young, there was very little time for wine.” As their three children grew, Bill and Bonnie’s interest in wine grew with them. In 2000, Bill attended a seminar on grape growing and in 2001 the two traveled to Italy to visit daughter Emily while she studied abroad. It was during that trip that their interest in wine became an action item.
Winemaker Chat: How did you join the wine industry?
Bonnie and Bill: “The trip to Italy completed changed our view– both in quality of wine and the thought that we too could grow grapes and make wine.”
Returning home with even more knowledge and drive to get involved in Virginia wine, Bill and Bonnie planted their first vines in 2002 and opened the tasting room in the manor house a few years after.
While Bill serves as the head winemaker, Bonnie, a recently retired educator who holds three Masters degrees, is typically found sharing family stories and managing the tasting room. In addition to Bonnie and Bill, each of the Hatch children are also part of the vineyard operations. Emily, Meredith and Tremain (some of the nicest people you’ll ever meet) each have a significant role in the family business. Emily and Tremain work with Bill on the winemaking team (producing award-winning vintages) and in the vineyards to ensure grape quality. Meredith uses her knowledge and marketing experience to work on the business side of the winery operations.
Over the last decade, Bill and Bonnie’s dream has become a reality. Not only the dream of growing grapes and producing wine, but the dream that every parent has– raising a family that supports and genuinely loves one another.
Winemaker Chat: What is your go-to bottle of wine for a typical evening at home?
Winemaker Chat: If you could visit any wine region/destination right now where would it be?
Bonnie and Bill: “South Africa and New Zealand. Those are definitely on the list. Bill traveled to South Africa for his work, but there was little time for wine. Bonnie has wanted to go to New Zealand since her youth.”
Zephaniah’s property is located in Loudoun County, Virginia, known to many as DC’s Wine Country. It is part of the Northern Virginia wine region which is known for its historic destinations, rolling hills, and rich soils. Typically offering milder winters (although we can’t say that for the last few years) and a long growing season, this region is rapidly expanding its viticulture scene.
At Zephaniah, the first vines of Cabernet Franc were planted on the property in 2002. Since that time, the beautiful vineyard has expanded to include over 9 acres under vine including Chardonnay, Petit Manseng, Petit Verdot and Cabernet Sauvignon to name a few.
Tremain, who studied viticulture, is dedicated to quality control and monitoring optimal growth in the vineyard. Zephaniah uses sustainable farming practices and a canopying method to maximize fruit and leaf sunlight exposure, ensuring high quality fruit and vine health. In addition, Zephaniah’s vineyards maintain many of the native plants along their vines in an effort to incorporate as many natural elements into each cluster as well as creating necessary competition for H2O which stresses the vines to create optimal fruit production.
To the Hatch family, and to us, wine is a celebration of life. It symbolizes those moments in time that are full of love and laughter, surrounded by family and friends. It’s a reflection of the land– a true testament to the natural world. Each of Zephaniah’s wines is a product of this belief coupled with a lot of hard work and dedication.
Bill and Bonnie were always intrigued by Virginia Wine Country. In fact, their first case of wine was a Virginia wine. Inspired by local viticulturists, and the wines tasted during that trip to Italy, Zephaniah crafts wine that is true to its terroir. Bill, Emily, Tremain and their family and friends work tirelessly during harvest season. Hand-picking, hand-sorting, crushing and pressing over the course of long (and sometimes incredibly hot) days. There is not a moment in the process that is overlooked. In the end, the hard work is worth it.
Winemaker Chat: In your opinion, what does the future hold for the Virginia wine industry?
Bonnie and Bill: “Virginia wine is better and better. We foresee continual improved quality and even greater cooperation and collaboration amongst growers and winemakers.”
The Tasting Room.
Located in a prime spot off of your classic winery road, the original (and more commonly used) tasting room is actually the family’s manor house. The beautiful brick home, preserved by the family and filled with heirlooms, photographs and antiques, is where you’ll experience one of the most unique wine tastings in Virginia. Prior to your tasting, tour the home and discover the history of the farm and the Hatch family. When you’re ready to settle in, Zephaniah offers seated tastings in the comfort of the parlor, providing you with the opportunity to really feel at home and get to know the Hatch family. Enjoy the conversations, the family stories, and of course, the wines as you relax amongst friends, old and new.
When you visit the tasting room, take notice of the family photos. Enjoy hearing about generation after generation and their contributions to the family farm.
In addition to the manor house, Zephaniah opened up their new Z Barn tasting room and production facility a little over a year ago. The barn is beautiful– it features high ceilings, exposed wood beams, natural light pouring in, locally made artwork, a tasting bar made from 100% Loudoun County materials, a beautiful deck and great views.
Although the Hatch family has made several award winning wines, they still believe that the best bottle is yet to come. In our opinion, if these aren’t the best bottles, they come pretty darn close. The winery produces a variety of whites and reds, many of which are actually some pretty unique blends. Zephaniah provided us with several of their favorite bottles, including some of their current releases, past favorites and a new wine making it’s way to the tasting room. A few of our favorites included the 2012 Three Captains Red, the 2014 Rosé, the 2013 Cab Franc and the 2015 Steamship White.
2012 Three Captains Red
The 2012 Three Captains Red is a blend that honors the family ancestors and the land they provided for growing the grapes. 425 cases were produced and good thing too because this blend was awarded the Chairman’s Grand Award in the Loudoun County Wine Awards in 2015, an honor bestowed upon the highest scoring wine of the competition. The Three Captains Red also won silver in the 2016 Virginia Governor’s Cup. We loved this smooth, fruit forward blend of Chambourcin, Cab Franc and Cab Sauv. It’s well-balanced with great structure, cherry on the nose and a touch of pepper on the finish.
- Where would we drink it? This is another great fall sipper– perfect for a fall harvest dinner with friends. An even more perfect idea? Enjoying dinner in the vineyard as the sun sets with tuscan lights dangling over you and some acoustic soul playing in the background (we can dream, can’t we?)!
- Recommended food pairing? A strip steak or roast is an obvious pairing for this wine.
2013 Cabernet Franc
The classic Virginia grape, Cabernet Franc grows well across the state but seems to be especially popular in many of the northern Virginia wineries. Awarded a silver medal in the 2016 Virginia Governor’s Cup and again in the 2016 Loudoun County Wine Awards, along with it’s sister the 2013 Cab Sauv, this Cab Franc is true to it’s roots and an ode to the terroir. The growing season in 2013 helped to produce the intense flavors found in this wine, adding a complexity and depth that many Cab Francs can lack. It’s well-developed and is perfect for drinking right now.
- Where would we drink it? We’d chill this wine slightly and drink it up (rather quickly) while watching the evening coverage of the presidential election. In fact, that’s exactly what we did. Is is November 8th yet?
- Recommended food pairing? A little veggie medley can be quite delicious with this wine. Try it with roasted red pepper, mushroom, eggplant, spinach and tomato mixture. Add some capers for fun and a little touch of salt– yum, yum!
We know that rosé season is coming to a close but Zephaniah’s is still a great choice if you’re looking to relive a bit of summer. Refreshing, crisp, slightly acidic and covered in notes of strawberry from the nose to the palate, this is a great bottle! There is a slight sweetness on this wine, but it’s quite pleasant.
- Where would we drink it? Perfect for a summer bbq or an evening cocktail party– this wine is fun, flirty and tasty! It’s also a beautiful pink color which could work for a number of party themes!
- Recommended food pairing? Going light– an appetizer wine. We recently saw a recipe for a rosemary blue cheese flatbread and think that sounds like heaven.
2015 Steamship White
A unique combination of some common Virginia varietals as well as a few surprises, this 2015 blend is full of twists and turns! The blend includes 80% Chardonel, 10% Chardonnay, 6% Merlot, 2% Viognier and 2% Vermentino. We love the inclusion of the Merlot and the Chardonel grape (a cross between Chardonnay and Seyval Blanc) leads the way with it’s light citrus notes. The interesting thing is that we both picked up honeysuckle on the nose, but that gives way on the palate transforming into a crisp and acidic experience. The wine dances on your tongue and you kind of end up wondering, “what did I just drink?” in a completely amazing way!
- Where would we drink it? We think a cool experience would be to blind taste this baby with friends. Pour everyone a glass and see how many different flavors people describe. Watch their reactions as the wine bounces around– let us know what you get!
- Recommended food pairing? There is so much going on it’s almost hard to pick something to pair this with. We’ll go with cheese. Any and all cheese!
While the best bottle may still be in Zephaniah’s future, now is the time to visit. Enjoy sitting back, relaxing, sipping on their award winning wines, hearing the Hatch family stories and getting to know Bonnie, Bill, Meredith, Emily and Tremain. You won’t regret it!