Historic Village, Historic Farm, Modern Wines

By Posted on Jul 29 2010 | By

New Hume Vineyards Producing Virginia Wines with French Touch

Stéphane Baldi grew up in France and lived in some of the most respected wine regions in the world. His family owned farms in Burgundy and later moved to the Loire Valley. But, they never grew grapes or made wine.

Nonetheless, the blood of a winemaker courses through Baldi’s veins. Perhaps there is a genetic throwback to his passion. Shortly after graduating from college his love affair for the fermented grape began to blossom in earnest; first as a consumer, then a collector—and following its natural evolution—a winemaker and owner of the new Hume Vineyards.

The young entrepreneur does not fit the profile of many of today’s Virginia winery owners who are enjoying second careers after successfully retiring from their chosen life’s work.

Stéphane, and his wife Andrea, are a couple that might be mistaken for up and coming, inside-the-beltway professionals, out for a day of winery hopping. And indeed, that is part of their current lifestyle as they delve into the art of winemaking and its marketing. But they are hopeful of transitioning their current business careers into full time winery owners.

If the past is prologue, success seems likely. Stéphane holds a PhD in social science and is a principal in a Georgetown firm doing work in the field of education for the federal government. Andrea also has a PhD and works for a research and consulting firm in McLean. Given the nature of their jobs, they are able to live full time on their fifty acre farm, commuting back to the city occasionally to meet with clients. The dovetailing of their professional careers and winery ownership provides them financial stability while launching their new business.

The Vision

The Baldis have a tightly focused vision for succeeding. “We want to be a boutique-styled winery producing small lots of quality wine that we only sell in our tasting room and at selected high-end wine shops and restaurants. Our goal is to ultimately produce around 5,000 cases annually. But, we are going to grow slowly and maintain quality,” states Stéphane. Currently, their production is 500 cases a year spread about evenly over four bottlings; Vidal Blanc, Chambourcin and two distinct Cabernet Sauvignons.

“During our travels, we fell in love with the wines of Paso Robles and Santa Ynez in California. Many of the best were coming out of smaller wineries creating exceptional wines. We wanted to produce a Virginia version of this exciting region,” Stéphane explains.

Tasting Room

The winery is located off Leeds Manor Road in Fauquier County, a few minutes from the historic village of Hume. It’s a bit ironic that folks are now imbibing wines in their tasting room which is located minutes from the old Barbee Tavern built in 1787, where travelers and locals alike sipped eighteenth-century refreshments such as cider, beer and whiskey.  Quality Virginia wine was still a few centuries away.

The couple evaluated some 200 properties before making the decision to purchase the land. “We wanted to be about sixty miles from DC but in a relatively undeveloped area that emphasized the beauty of a rural, agricultural region. Hume met all our needs,” explains Andrea.

Historic Land

The farm dates to 1883 and was established by John Carper whose family has a long history tied to the early days of Virginia farming. He built a log cabin on the site of the current farm house which has been renovated into a modern colonial style home. “During the course of expanding the home, built in the early 1900s, we found evidence of the original log cabin,” Andrea says. John Carper was laid to rest on the property and his grave overlooks the young grapevines, a crop he would have likely never seen during his lifetime.

In 1901, the Wright family purchased the farm and kept it in continual agricultural production until the Baldis purchased it three years ago. Thus, the legacy of farming the land will continue into the twenty-first century.

Currently, the winery has five acres of vines consisting of Merlot, Viognier, Petit Verdot and Chambourcin. Future plantings will include Sauvignon Blanc, Grenache, Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon, growing the vineyard to eleven acres of fruit.

The Winemaking

For most new wineries, the first few vintages are often produced using purchased fruit and the assistance of an experienced winemaker. This is somewhat true for the Hume Winery. The steep learning curve in cultivating vineyards, producing wines and opening a tasting room can be leveled under the tutelage of a professional.

“My relationship with our consultant is different than most. I am producing all of our wines and seek input on an as needed basis. I control the wine growing and winemaking and utilize a consultant to deepen my understanding of the nuances of the art,” Stéphane emphasizes. His skill as a vineyard manager and vintner is evidenced by the high quality of his first bottlings.

For the Baldis, the winery is a passion with callused hands. They manage every aspect of the business and are emblematic of a family run farm operation. There is no staff to provide assistance. Moreover, the winery commitments are balanced with the demanding requirements of their professional lives. “We only travel into the city as necessary. Our ultimate goal is to be working here exclusively. I love the farm. This was not Andrea’s dream originally, but mine. Now she has become an integral part of our winery and we are working together to make it a reality,” says Stéphane.

After visiting the peaceful setting of the Hume Vineyards, it’s easy to appreciate why one would want to abandon the rigors of a high pressured job requiring an extended commute. Even if it means working harder than ever.

Stephane & Andrea Baldi

Categories : WINE ARTICLES