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Monday, September 15, 2014

Hartwood Winery

Jim and Beverly Livingston have an interest in viticulture that started well before the early days of Virginia wine. Their passion inspired them to form a wine society, to which they began inviting various speakers from the trade. As Jim put it, “Lucy Morton spoke to our group and I was impressed and curious with her desire to help start [and] promote Virginia vineyards and wine.” This may have been the catalyst. Jim went on to help Lucy plant vines and volunteered at festivals throughout the state. He also planted Deweese Vineyard as early as 1973 so he could study seven different varietals. 

In 1980, Jim and Beverley purchased the property that would become Hartwood Winery at a time when few vineyards existed in the state. Even today, Hartwood is one of only two wineries in Stafford County. They devoted seven of the fifteen acres to vines and officially opened for business in 1989. 

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Today, in addition to the seven acres under vine, Hartwood leases or contracts an additional twenty five acres throughout Virginia to produce between 5000 and 7000 cases of wine each year. Roughly ninety percent of the wine is sold directly out of the tasting room and a small percentage is sold at a couple of local wine shops. There are a couple wine festivals that the Livingstons are partners in, but in recent years they have stopped doing festivals and competitions. They’ve been in the business long enough, that they can just concentrate on making wine.

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So when I visited, there were eleven wines on the tasting menu. All were well made, but there were two of particular note. The Deweese White is a semi-sweet Vidal Blanc that’s filled with tropical notes. I don’t typically go for a sweeter wine, but this one was well balanced. The sweetness did not overpower the fruit and acidity. I found it to be quite exceptional. I’m also a huge fan of Cabernet Franc and the Hartwood offering did not disappoint. It showed tobacco on the nose, some cherry notes, soft tannins and the signature peppery finish. It was a very well crafted wine.

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For more than forty years the Livingstons have been cultivating grapes or making wine. That’s a pretty long run, which appears to be nearing its end. The property has been placed on the market. Jim expressed a desire to sell Hartwood to someone interested in wine growing. He seems adamant, as well he should, that the property be purchased and perpetuated as a winery. Indeed, It would be be sad to contemplate any other outcome.

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Given this circumstance, it seems like there’s no better time to visit Hartwood winery. It can be explored as part of the relatively new Grapes and Grains Trail, which consists of four wineries, a brewery and Virginia’s oldest distillery. Or, if you just happen to be passing through the Interstate 95 corridor, Hartwood is only a short detour. In any case, make an effort to visit and if you’re in the market for a winery, this might be your opportunity.

Cheers!