Taste of Terroir: Stone Tower Winery

World-class wine. Unbelievable Virginia views. Exceptional hospitality.  An elegant and warm atmosphere.  These are just a few of the elements that make Stone Tower Winery one of Virginia’s most popular wine destinations.

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Located just south of Leesburg in the ever-expanding Middleburg AVA, Stone Tower resides on the rolling hillsides of Hogback Mountain, family land that had a previous life as a cattle farm.  Learn about the dream of Mike and Kristi Huber who transformed the land into a wine lovers’ paradise; learn about the hardworking team behind the well-crafted wines; and, learn about what the future holds for Stone Tower as they continue to plant and farm across some of the finest terroir in the state.

The History.

For the Huber family, Stone Tower Winery is more than just a business.  It represents the culmination of their entrepreneurship, their love of wine and family, and the love of their beautiful Virginia land.  Hogback Mountain has been in the Huber family since Mike’s parents purchased Westview Farm in the early 1970’s.  About 12 years ago, the Hubers purchased the remaining land, hoping to preserve it for some form of agricultural purpose.  Inspired by a love of wine and intrigued by the possibilities this land offered, the Hubers conducted extensive geological and viticultural research which led to the conclusion they were hoping for.  The land was the ideal location for grape growing, giving life to their dream.  Stone Tower Winery planted their first grapes in 2009 and opened to the public in the fall of 2013.  Since then, they have never looked back.

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The Huber Family: “For nearly forty years, home for our family has centered on a large farm on Hogback Mountain, just south of Leesburg, VA. We’ve always been in love with this land: its rolling hillsides, pastoral beauty, and hidden treasures like the old stone walls in its forests. When a neighboring farm went up for sale ten years ago, we bought the land with the intention of preserving its agricultural beauty and creating a quiet haven where we would grow old, surrounded by our family and our favorite countryside. “

We visited a few weeks ago with Lacey Huber, Vice President of Stone Tower Winery and one of Mike and Kristi’s three children.  As we toured the land she shared fond memories of playing in the pastures with her siblings as a child– pastures that are now home to the estate vineyard.  She described how amazing it has been to see the land transform over time–how this very land that provided her with some of her favorite childhood memories is now responsible for creating new moments of family, friendship, love and laughter for so many who visit.

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The Vineyard.

Stone Tower Winery is home to one of the largest vineyards in the Northern Virginia Wine Region.  With over 60 acres under vine and plans to expand to 100 acres by 2018, Stone Tower hopes to eventually be producing upwards of 15,000 cases of estate wines.  Varietals on property include a combination of classic French-style grapes that are known to grow well in Virginia, as well as some intriguing plantings for our climate.  Chardonnay, Viognier, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon sit alongside plantings of Sauvignon Blanc, Semillion, Marsanne, Rousanne, Malbec, Nebbiolo and Pinot Noir.  At 622 feet above sea level and surrounded by the Bull Run and Blue Ridge Mountains, Stone Tower is well-situated to explore these unique varietals.  One thing is for sure, it will be an exciting few years as these grapes make their way into production!

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Soil Types: Stone Tower Winery’s vineyards are planted on well-drained soils, derived mainly from greenstone schist. We host two predominant soil types: Catoctin channery silt loam and Meyersville-Cactoctin complex.

The Winemaking.

Winemaker Tim Crowe has worked in the wine industry for over 25 years.  He got his start as a cellar intern in New Zealand before returning to the United States in California where he worked at a series of wineries including Wild Horse Vineyards, Arrowood Estate and Spring Mountain Vineyards amongst others.  Following his tour through some of California’s finest, Tim moved on to an international consulting career working for family-owned wineries in New Zealand, Germany and California.  In 2013, Tim was ready for a change and moved to Virginia to take the reigns at Stone Tower Winery.  He brings his extensive knowledge of the world of wine, his refined palate and his sense of humor to the Stone Tower team.  Tim oversees the production of all of Stone Tower’s wines– including wines produced under the Stone Tower Estate label as well as the Wild Boar Cellars label.

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Wines under the Stone Tower Estate label signify that all fruit is 100% estate grown, and produced and bottled at the winery.  In 2015, the Stone Tower Estate label produced 3,200 cases, including a Chardonnay and Viognier that have been released.  It is the winery’s goal to increase production to 15,000 cases once the estate is fully planted and fruit is ready for harvesting.

Wines that are produced under the Wild Boar Cellars label allows Stone Tower to showcase grapes from other Virginia vineyards and wine regions across the country. Fruit is sourced from other regions in Virginia, as well as locations like the Willamette Valley in Oregon (Wild Boar Pinot Noir).  This program, much appreciated by fellow wine lovers, gives Stone Tower the flexibility to enhance their wine offerings and maintain production levels, as well as providing consumers with an expanded selection and an introduction to varietals not typically found in Virginia.

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The Tasting Room(s).

Stone Tower Winery features two distinct tasting rooms– the Harvest Barn (the original tasting room) and the Tower View Tasting Room.

The Tower View Tasting Room opened in November 2015 and offers “the premier Virginia wine tasting experience.”  Expansive, bright and open, featuring a beautiful tasting bar (made of their own Sycamore wood) and a large glass garage door that extends the tasting room out to the patio, you can enjoy one of the most exceptional winery views that we’ve ever seen– think of sprawling green vineyards, mountain views and gorgeous sunsets that you wish would last forever.  The tasting room also features plenty of group seating (indoors and out), a private club member area, a marketplace for purchases, a gorgeous fireplace and the top of the tower where guests can enjoy 360 degree views of the countryside.

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The Harvest Barn served as the original tasting room until the Tower View Tasting Room was completed.  Frankly, we fell in love with Stone Tower Winery when we walked into that barn shortly after the winery opened.  This charming and extremely well-appointed tasting room is the perfect place to enjoy a day with the family and your four-legged friends (this section is dog friendly!).  Rustic wood tasting bars, mason jars filled with wildflowers, open garage doors that fill the tasting area with a calm breeze, cozy seating and a sprawling lawn with beautiful views make this barn one of a kind.

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The winery is open Thursday-Monday from 11am-6pm and tastings are $15/person. The Tower View Tasting Room is a 21+ only space while the Harvest Barn is family-friendly (including your four-legged buddies). Stone Tower also offers a variety of specialty tastings including tours and food and wine pairings, as well as special events throughout the year (dinners, release parties & more)!

The Wine.

As previously mentioned, Stone Tower Winery produces wine on two labels, their Stone Tower Estate label and the Wild Boar Cellars label.  Between both labels, there is a lovely balance of whites, reds and a little bubbly to boot!  Their fall 2016 wine list includes three estate wines, the 2015 Viognier and the 2015 Chardonnay (although we are hearing the Chardonnay may be almost sold out!), as well as the 2013 Hogback Mountain.  From the Wild Boar Cellars label, a Brut Cuvée, Rosé Cuvée, 2015 Sauvignon Blanc, 2015 Pinot Noir, 2015 Cab Franc, 2014 Merlot and 2014 Sanglier Noble are currently featured.  We’ll focus on four of our favorites that Stone Tower shared with us.

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2015 Estate Viognier

Is it just us or is the Virginia state grape getting better and better?  This Viognier is a light golden color with pear and vanilla on the nose with a hint of honeysuckle.  On the palate, the wine has a nice body of tropical fruit followed by a smoothness from the honeysuckle on the finish.

  • Where would we drink it?  Heading to a dinner party out-of-state?  This is a great wine to share with friends over a nice meal and a wonderful representation of Virginia’s state grape.
  • Recommended food pairing? We feel that this wine is perfect for a slightly spicy meal.  Some of our favorites include green curry chicken, pad thai, or anything made with ginger.

2015 Wild Boar Sauvignon Blanc

Citrusy and lemony, this Sauvignon Blanc makes for easy drinking!  Aged in a combination of stainless steel, the concrete egg and French oak barrels, the wine has notes of pink grapefruit, citrus and lemon peel.  Additionally, there is a nice minerality that adds to the expression of the wine.

  • Where would we drink it?  Brunch.  We’d brunch all day with this wine.  Keep the Sauvignon Blanc in mind the next time you’re in charge of hosting the monthly brunch club.
  • Recommended food pairing?  Pair this with a lovely goat cheese, asparagus, spinach and artichoke quiche (yeah, we know you’re hungry now).  Another option?  Keep it simple with some oysters on the half shell.

2014 Wild Boar Merlot

A beautiful and vibrant magenta color, this wine is one of our favorites.  Amazing dark berry aromas on the nose with a nice light peppery spice and mild tannins that lend to a smooth, dry finish.  Aged for 14 months in French oak, this will continue to develop with age, although in our opinion it drinks perfectly right now.

  • Where would we drink it? Since we’re super outdoorsy right now, we’d open this bottle after a long day of hiking and lounging in the fresh, crisp fall air.
  • Recommended food pairing?  Steak + blue cheese + Merlot = happiness all around.  The Merlot will stand up well next to the big, bold, and salty bite of the steak and blue cheese.

2013 Hogback Mountain

A blend of 72% Cabernet Sauvignon, 22% Merlot, 4% Cabernet Franc and 2% Petit Verdot, this wine was aged for 18 months in new and used French and American oak barrels.  A deep and dark cherry red color with dark berry on the nose including blackberry, cherry and blueberry that are joined with a hint of chocolate covered mint. On the palate, the dark cherry and nice tobacco profiles standout. The wine is slightly tannic but quite smooth.

  • Where would we drink it?  While we’re actually drinking this right now at home, we imagine that a perfect location for this wine would be at a mountaintop cabin surrounded by a warm fire, good friends, an infinite number of dogs and good music playing all night long.
  • Recommended food pairing?  This blend would be well-suited for a pairing with just about anything hearty– a well-seasoned beef stew or a rosemary chicken are on the top of our list.  It would also taste just as amazing with a sea-salt dark chocolate or your favorite gourmet pizza.

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As resident winos, friends and family are always asking us for our recommendations on where to visit and which wines to try.  We can confidently say that Stone Tower is always at the top of that list.  While Stone Tower continues to expand and push the envelope in Virginia wine production, we are unbelievably excited to see what the future holds for them.  We know we can continue to expect the finest craftsmanship in wine, the most exceptional customer service, and a unique experience each time we visit.  Cheers to many more!

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