Breaux Vineyards and wine; a beautiful pairing
With a Cajun ancestry, her family had always embraced good wine, food and music as integral components of being a superb host. But as predominant as live music is today at vineyards in Loudoun County, this was not always the case, according to Breaux.
When she started pursuing weekend bookings nine years ago, it was difficult for her to find musicians to fit the bill. She’d scour local music listings and concert calendars for artists who seemed a good fit, but musicians wouldn’t bother to return calls.
“I’m not sure why, but it seemed like musicians back then were reluctant to play wineries,” says Breaux. “Of course, that’s changed. Now live music is an important part of the vineyard atmosphere. It’s almost expected.”
Today, Breaux receives a flood of calls, emails, CDs and visits from musicians and bands, imploring her to give them a shot to play in front of guests.
Originally from the Outer Banks, N.C., but with deep roots in Louisiana, Breaux’s father, Paul, purchased a large parcel of farm land just off Harper’s Ferry Road in 1994. He intended the property as an escape from his harried businesses. But while clearing land one day he noticed covered-up grape vines. Breaux says her father then threw himself into cultivating grapes, researching and traveling the world to learn as much as he could about winemaking.
“After that, my parents’ ‘Blue Nun’ drinking days were over,” laughs Breaux, a vivacious, fully engaged vineyard proprietor who never fails to stop to offer an employee or guest a friendly greeting.
Breaux Vineyards opened in 1997, at the time only the 50th winery in Virginia. Today Loudoun County has 43 wineries within its borders. Overall, the state hosts over 230 vineyards, up from 129 in 2005.
Last weekend, Breaux Vineyards hosted its 9th annual Key West Fest, a tropics-themed party that included well-known D.C.-based reggae band, The Archives, and the Jimmy Buffet-influenced Key West Band. The event attracted over 2,200 visitors.
Bright Hawaiian shirts, Mardi Gras beads, leis, straw hats and inflatable parrots overflowed. Patrons happily bounced to the bands’ uplifting beats while a thunderstorm briefly threatened to darken the festive spirit. (It passed with only a light sprinkling.) Wine glasses were full, or being filled, and the sounds of popping corks could be heard from every pastel-laced corner of the vineyard.
But as important as these large events are to Breaux, it’s the steady, regular hosting of weekend music from April through December that keeps patrons coming back while also helping local musicians pay their bills.
“It’s important to us to put money back in the community by hiring local musicians,” says Breaux. “It’s just good neighborly practice.” She adds that playing the winery is a way for musicians to secure bookings for weddings, private and company parties and other social events. It also allows them to play a day set during the relatively normal hours of the vineyard, while still being able to book a gig later in the evening.
It makes sense music is so important to the Breaux clan. It’s practically a family affair. Breaux’s husband, Chris, is an accomplished musician who’s been known to jump onstage to jam with bands at the winery. She enjoys singing, playing piano and guitar, and her three sons are musically inclined as well.
“Sometimes people joke we’re the Von Trapp family running a winery,” says a giggling Breaux.
Unlike the early days, Breaux says she now has a long, diverse list of loyal local musicians who play the vineyard. This allows her to keep the music fresh while allowing for flexibility for inevitable last-minute changes to the schedule.
“I have so many people I can rely on now. But I’m always seeking out for new faces, too,” she says.
As Breaux recently stood in a cooled wine storage room, employees repeatedly ducked in to retrieve case after case of Breaux wine, as sales were clearly benefiting from the outdoor festive atmosphere.
Obviously, pairing fun music with fine wine is good for business.
Music on the vines is part of an occasional series. Up next: How Notaviva Vineyards innovatively pairs wine tastings with music.
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