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Wine Wednesday: No, not that Catoctin Creek

Jim Hanna sips in his Catoctin Creek Winery tasting room, or basement, at his home on Richards Run outside of Purcellville. Times-Mirror/Trevor Baratko

It was 2005, and Jim Hanna had neglected his senses for too long. After retiring from 30 years in the banking industry, Hanna quickly sought to make up for lost time. He found a retirement retreat, a winsome property at the end of Richards Run in Purcellville. Through photography and winemaking, he looked to negate decades behind a desk.

Like Hanna's acclaimed 2012 Meritage, his life has come into balance.

Catoctin Creek Winery was born a decade ago, and the proprietor is proving life’s second act can be just as surprising and smile-inducing as the first.

“Making something that people really like is a great feeling, a really a great feeling,” Hanna told me last Saturday at his home, which doubles as his winery. “There’s such a parallel between wine making and photography. They’re both about nature, about technology, about art.”

Aside from producing several award-winning wines, Hanna's photography of Virginia's bucolic countryside and vineyards have been featured across the state.

Producing 300 cases a year in what he dubs his “micro-winery,” Hanna's most recent vintages include a sauvignon blanc, a merlot rose, malbec and his star, Meritage, a Bordeaux-style red wine blend that placed in this year’s Governor’s Case as one of the top wines in the state.

The question should be dispensed with quickly: No, Catoctin Creek Winery is not connected to the wildly popular Catoctin Creek Distillery, also in Purcellville.

Something else that should be noted up front: If you want to try Catoctin Creek’s wines, seek them out in restaurants and retail shops. While Hanna, a Detroit native, is willing to give tastings on occasion, his winery (home) isn't exactly set up as a “destination winery,” as he puts it.
Find a list of Catoctin Creek's retail and restaurant partners here.

Hanna sources all of his grapes from nearby Breaux Vineyards, something he’s quick to point out during our conversation.

“From crush to label, everything is done right here [in his home],” said Hanna, who hand-bottles his wines rather than using a machine. “I rent myself a truck. I pick up my grapes at Breaux, who has really been a fabulous partner, and within an hour they’re crushed. We don’t waste any time around here … I pick up my grapes within an hour or two of harvest.”

A protege of Loudoun's “godfather of wine” Doug Fabbioli, Hanna is a major cheerleader for the rural economy, wine making and the overall agriculture industry.

“People tend to think of our wineries as tourism,” Hanna said. “And that's great, and they are, but they're also more than that. It's our heritage and landscape and a way to preserve the land … In a small way, with wine and my photos, I think I'm contributing to that.”

There’s a spot at Hanna’s winery -- the bottom of his steps in his home’s lowest level -- where one can literally see every step of his operation. Some people call it a basement. Hanna knows it as a winery. Peer into one room and there rests several wine barrels and a press, and into another sits his labeling machine (placed atop a covered pool table) and tasting bar. When standing there, you can't help but wonder if there's another winery in the country where one can accomplish this feat.

Featuring news on the Loudoun County wine industry, the Times-Mirror's award-winning “Wine Wednesday” appears the first Wednesday of each month. Contact the writer at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

Check out recent Wine Wednesdays:

-"We're talking grapes by the tons" -- April 1, 2015
-"Meritage is the new black" -- March 4, 2015
-"Let's get weird: Five funky wines in Loudoun" -- Feb. 5, 2015


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