After leaving Loudoun County’s oldest winery, I drove a few miles down the road to Stone Tower Estate Winery. You know, I’d never heard of this place and I really do make an effort to stay on top of these things. As it turned out, I’d never heard of it, because Stone Tower is Loudoun County’s newest winery. So there you go.
Mike and Kristi Huber purchased this property and quickly realized that it might have potential for wine production. I should point out that the Hubers cut their teeth in the business community as owners and operators of Belfort Furniture in the metro DC area. So when they started contemplating a winemaking venture, they approached it as one might a business. That is to say, they did their homework.
During my visit, I was able to speak with Mike, Kristi, their daughter Lacey and assistant manager Jeremy Zimmerman. So, I got some pretty good insights into where they’re headed with the winery. Mike told me that he is interested in making world-class wine. Most and maybe all winery owners probably have a similar goal, but the Hubers assembled a team that make their end game seem probable.
They first brought in Lucy Morton, the legendary Virginia vineyard consultant. She spent an extended period analyzing the property, taking soil samples and working her “Lucy Morton” magic. She pronounced the property to be suitable for viticulture and pointed out all the best vineyard sites. Armed with this knowledge, the Hubers promptly planted 22 acres of vines. That’s right, 22 acres.
You know, most new wineries coming online will plant a few acres with an eye toward planting a couple more each year. Well, the Hubers are interested in making the business work and they want to make wine. Not just wine, but good wine. And in these times of grape shortage, there’s little chance of purchasing large quantities of grapes locally and there are always concerns about grape quality. So they went all in. Not only did they immediately plant 22 acres, but they have an intermediate goal of 52 acres under vine. That’s a pretty fair amount of acreage.
Then they hired a winemaking prodigy from Northern California. Tim Crowe has spent his winemaking career in California, New Zealand and Germany. He has produced wines with ratings in the nineties. This is a guy on the way up and the Hubers want to harness that energy.
This year Stone Tower produced about 1900 cases of wine. The goal is to top out at 15,000 cases. This will not be a small boutique winery and the trick will be to increase to those levels while maintaining quality. I followed Mike Huber on a tour of the new winery and they have made every effort to provide Tim with the tools he needs. It’s already showing in the few wines he’s produced.
Lacey Huber poured my wine during the tasting. The Stone Tower vineyards were only planted in 2009, but they are already producing some estate whites. There were three additional wines from Stone Tower’s Wild Boar line, but these are sourced from other wineries to add depth to the tasting. I’ll focus only the the estate offerings, which included a pair of 2012 Chardonnays and a 2012 Viognier. Both Chards were good, but the Viognier was amazing. It was done half in stainless steel and half in a concrete egg. There were peach notes on the nose and palate with a nice crispness and a hint of minerality. It’s a beautiful wine. Is this a preview of what we can expect in the future? I think it is.
The temporary tasting room is in a converted barn. I found it to be expertly decorated and well designed, but it will eventually be repurposed as an event space. The new tasting room and visitor areas are currently under construction next to the winery. Kristi and Lacey showed me the artists renderings of the finished space. If the drawings are accurate, this will be one of the nicest winery/tasting room complexes in the state. I’m not exaggerating. They seem to have spared no expense. I then tagged along with Kristi as she toured a group around the new site. It will overlook the vineyards in a west-facing orientation that will allow visitors to watch the sunset.
So this is a winery to keep your eye on. The Hubers are definitely being aggressive, but the business plan seems sound. The new tasting room will be, fingers crossed, finished in the fall and I look forward to another visit. I’ll follow up and let you know what I find. In the mean time, you should wonder over on your own. Let me know what you think.