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Wegmeyers, Fabbioli partner to produce first sparkling strawberry wine

Winemaker Doug Fabbioli and farmer Harriet Wegmeyer cheers their new sparkling strawberry wine. Times-Mirror/Karen Graham
Thanks to a rainy spring and an overabundance of strawberries from last year's crop, a new agribusiness partnership between Fabbioli Cellars and Wegmeyer Farms will produce a batch of sparkling strawberry wine this year.

Wegmeyer Farms in Hamilton, owned by Tyler and Harriet Wegmeyer, approached their friend Doug Fabbioli of Fabbioli Cellars in Leesburg about the idea last spring, when they realized, after 27 days of rain, they had more strawberries than they could pick.

The Wegmeyers asked Fabbioli whether wine was an option.

“Doug is well-known for being an agriculture innovator around here, and he is always willing to teach and share, so he was the first person I thought of,” Harriet Wegmeyer said. “In Loudoun County, we are fortunate to have a supportive agricultural community, and people are willing to share ideas and work together. Plus since we live in Virginia's wine country -- it seemed like a natural solution.”

The team froze 2.3 tons of strawberries in large plastic pallets, then the Fabbioli crew “worked their magic” and produced a strawberry wine.

“The inspiration for all of this is about collaboration. It creates another level of business, and this fits in with our rural strategy and economic development goals for where we are going as a culture into the future,” said Fabbioli.

After the strawberries thawed, Fabbioli's team started the fermentation process, strained them, ran them through a press, let the mixture settle, filtered the wine and then added some carbon dioxide for carbonation.

This is Fabbioli's first time working with strawberries to make wine, and he said he consulted with Bluemont Vineyards, who shared some tips.

“This is what makes it great to do business here in Loudoun,” Fabbioli said, noting the collaborative nature of the rural economy.

Fabbioli describes the strawberry wine as a cross between a still wine, cider and Prosecco.

“I am very excited about how well this product came out. I am really pleased with how the flavors came through at the level it did,” he said.

The first public tasting of the wine will be at the Loudoun Grown Expo in Purcellville Feb. 25. In the spring, the wine will be available at all three Wegmeyer Farms U-pick locations -- in Hamilton, and at Oatlands and Gilbert's Corner – and Fabbioli Cellars.

While wine was not originally part of the Wegmeyer's business plan, Tyler and Harriet Wegmeyer are not opposed to expanding their model.

“If you had asked us two years ago, 'Would we be making wine?' I would never have guessed it would happen. Who knows what the weather will bring this year? Maybe next fall we'll end up with a surplus of pumpkins and we'll move onto pumpkin cider,” Harriet Wegmeyer said.

“The wine is amazing. We really like how it turned out,” she added.


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