Willowcroft boasts breathless panoramic views of Loudoun Valley and the Blue Ridge Mountains. Willowcroft’s personal attention to detail, both in the vineyard and the winery, has resulted in national award-winning wines, time after time. In the 1800s the slopes were recognized for their potential and were planted to orchards. Today vineyards, which have replaced the fruit trees, yield superior grapes. The rustic beauty of the winery, housed in the old red barn, and the award-winning wines, will give you reason to return to this peaceful spot.
Lew Parker has been making award-winning wines for over 25 years. He planted the first grapes in 1981 and founded the winery at Willowcroft Farm in 1983. Lew has been instructing others in the art of winemaking since the 1990’s. A mainstay in the Virginia as well as national wine industry for many years, including the winner of the 2002 “Virginia Wine Industry Person of the Year” award and the 2013 “Gordon Murchie Lifetime Achievement” award.
Winery Acreage: 12-1/2 acres
Varietals Produced: Red grapes: Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Petit Verdot, Chambourcin.
White grapes: Chardonnay, Albarino, Riesling, Muscat Ottonel, Riesling, Traminette, Vidal Blanc.
The vineyards at Willowcroft date back to the early part of the modern viticulture era of Virginia. They were planted at a time when advisors from the Virginia Extension Service still considered growing European varieties to be very risky business indeed. The first vines were planted in 1980, Those first vines died and were replanted the following year. The second planting survived. Many of those vines grow to this day, and you can see them in the home vineyard. This early planting was of Cabernet Sauvignon, Riesling, Chardonnay, and Seyval. In those days, little was known about how to grow grapes in Virginia. It was all trial and error.
Today Willowcroft farms 12-1/2 acres containing 12 different varieties of vines in five different locations atop the Catoctin Ridge, an ideal location which has a long history of horticulture dating from the 1800s. With elevations from 600 to 750 feet, the vines have excellent protection from late spring frosts. This location also gives us warm summer days but cool nights, perfect conditions to grow outstanding fruit. All of our vineyards are dry farmed, no irrigation. This can be tough on young vines in some years, but it also forces our older vines to spread their roots deep into our silty loam soils. This combination of climatic conditions and healthy, well drained soils, allows our vines to produce aromatic, crisp whites, and vibrant, fruity reds with excellent tannin structure.
As knowledge has been gained about varieties and their suitability to Virginia, Willowcroft has added new types of vines to the original planting. Today there are five red varieties and six white varieties. The reds are principally the famous Bordeaux – Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, and Petit Verdot, with the addition of French American red Chambourcin. The whites are Chardonnay, Riesling, Albarino, Traminette, Vidal and Seyval. The addition of Albarino is recent, and the results are very exciting. Almost all of our vines are grafted onto specially selected roots to protect them against disease and promote positive growth characteristics.
Willowcroft winery strives to grow vines in the most sustainable ways possible. They keep abreast of the most up to date research in viticulture in Virginia and the world. They try to keep their footprint on the land as light as possible. Using techniques such as removing leaves in the fruit zone, in the correct amount, at the correct time, can help in reducing fungal diseases which are the bane of all grape growers. Grape growing, as with all farming, is successful when you know what you can control and what you cannot. Picking the best site, keeping up with the technology available, and using a gentle hand helps us get the best Mother Nature has to offer.