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The 2017 Loudoun Wine Awards dinner was one to remember for Sunset Hills

Courtesy Photo/Blue Ridge Visuals and Loudoun Wineries Association
The 2017 Loudoun Wine Awards belonged largely to Sunset Hills Vineyards Friday night.

Sunset Hills' 2016 Viognier was named the top local wine at the annual awards dinner, and the Purcellville winery's acclaimed red wine Mosaic won best Bordeaux blend.

Additionally, former Sunset Hills vintner Nate Walsh claimed the honor of top winemaker.

“I can’t wait to see what we are doing in 20 years from now in Loudoun County,” Walsh said in his acceptance speech at Lansdowne Resort. “It is amazing what we are doing now, and we are just getting better and better quality wines in the county.”

Walsh left Sunset Hills to launch his own label, Walsh Family Wines based in Loudoun County, but he continued to consult at Sunset.

The Chairman's Grand Award was presented to current Sunset Hills Winemaker Corry Craighill by Loudoun County Chairwoman Phyllis Randall (D) for the 2016 Viognier, one of the commonwealth's most popular white grapes. Judges hailed the winning viognier as “a powerful presentation and pure expression of this varietal with a lovely play between acid and fruit.”

Winegrower of the Year was bestowed on Mitch and Betsy Russ of Russ Mountain Vineyards in Bluemont. The Russes were instrumental in establishing what is now the Loudoun Wine Growers Association (LWGA), according to event organizers.

Sarah Davis, co-founder of the nonprofit Viticultured.org and a wine educator at Lost Creek winery, took home the ambassador of the year award.

Additional winners during the evening included:

-Best Hybrid White – 868 Estate Vineyards' 2016 Pétillant Naturel
-Best Vinifera White – Sunset Hills Vineyards' 2016 Viognier
-Best Chardonnay – 868 Estate Vineyards' 2015 Chardonnay
-Best Rosé – Breaux Vineyards' 2016 Rosé
-Best Cabernet Franc – Fabbioli Cellars' 2014 Cabernet Franc Reserve
-Best Vinifera Red – Fabbioli Cellars' 2013 Tannat

Fifteen of Loudoun's wineries – about one-third of all those in the county – submitted 74 entries into the competition. A panel of judges tasted and rated the wines to determine the best offerings. The wines had to be crafted from 100 percent Virginia fruit, with 75 percent of that coming from Loudoun. Locally and elsewhere in Virginia, many wineries regularly purchase fruit from other regions in the commonwealth or other states.

The judging was organized and coordinated by Neal Wavra, co-owner of Field & Main restaurant and FABLE Hospitality. Judges included Lindsey Fern, sommelier at The Inn at Little Washington, Doug Rosen, owner of Arrowine & Cheese; Erin Scala, beverage director and owner for Petit Pois and Fleuire; Frank Morgan, author of DrinkWhatYouLike.com; and Antoinette Landragin, owner of Cork ‘n’ Fork wine shops.

The Loudoun Wineries Association sponsored the awards program in partnership with Visit Loudoun and the Loudoun County Economic Development Office.


Contact the writer at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) or on Twitter at @TrevorBaratko.

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