Little Washington Winery: In It for the Long View

By Posted on Jan 28 2012 | By

Guests Come for the Wine But Are taken By the Beauty 

The wine is called Mesmerized. It’s a blend of Viognier and Vidal Blanc and earned its name from the behavior of arriving guests. As soon as they enter the tasting room they head for the deck. They’re mesmerized.

And well they should be. Sweeping views of rolling pastoral farmland unfold before the eye until resting on the distant peak of Old Rag Mountain; one of the most popular hiking spots in the Mid-Atlantic region.

“We looked at a bazillion properties before falling in love with this place,” says Donna Henrickson, co-owner of Little Washington Winery. “We’ve been here over a year and Carl and I still sit on the deck in the evenings in awe of this place. We can’t believe we found such an idyllic spot.”

But the land is not all views. Its twenty-five acres of southeast facing slopes and rocky soil crest at over 850 feet elevation providing an ideal location for growing wine grapes. Yet the Henricksons have taken their love of wine to even greater heights.

Donna & Carl Henrickson

“As a teenager my parents would save a few sips from their evening bottle of Bordeaux and have me taste it while teaching me to read the wine label. It was a memory that gave birth to my love of wine,” Carl fondly recalls.

Carl spent his career in business and community management. He sat on the Loudoun County Board of Supervisors from 1976 to 1984 and served in positions from sales manager to president of local software companies. Donna’s career was public relations and marketing in the hospitality trade and at the State Department.

By 2003, Carl’s home winemaking hobby had become an obsession and the couple focused on their retirement dream of owning a winery. What ensued were endless trips statewide looking at land and wineries.

In preparation to opening their own tasting room, they enrolled in Jim Law’s vineyard management and winemaking classes. They also gained invaluable experience producing major marketing events for Virginia wineries and publishing the popular Virginia Winery Hopping Guide; a vest pocket annual atlas listing wineries and directional maps to tasting rooms statewide.

In 2008, they finally happened upon a property with a winding dirt road entrance and located in the shadows of the Blue Ridge Mountains. “We looked at each other and said, this is it,” says Donna. After their extensive search, they elected to start from scratch and build a boutique wine destination near the historic village of Little Washington.

Today, the dream is being realized but retirement is still years away. The couple is having too much fun for now. “It’s hard work starting a winery from scratch. But it is gratifying to see people enjoying our wines and this peaceful setting,” says Donna.

The couple planted two acres of Viognier on the property in 2011. An additional four acres of red Bordeaux varietals will be trellised this year. Their goal is to keep the winery small. “We don’t want a huge operation. We’re focused on producing a few world-class wines and keeping this incredible 25 acres in farm use. This is a destination where folks can come, sit in awe, and get hooked on preserving farmland,” explains Carl.

In keeping with their unique business careers, the tasting notes at the winery reflect a business strategy seldom seen in Virginia. Each week, three Little Washington wines are featured alongside three wines from farm wineries in Virginia and points worldwide.

“Farm wineries are cool no matter where they’re located. Small lot wines are being hand-crafted globally and we want to share the best of them with our guests. We feel a connection to these winemakers and are pleased to open additional markets to them. We call the selections our ‘Dirt Road Tour’ in honor of the back roads where many of the producers are located.”

The Dirt Road wines are selected by Andrew Stover, a professional sommelier and winemaker. “Andrew has a broad knowledge of small wineries producing worthy wines. We’re fortunate to have his involvement in the selection process,” says Donna.

"Dirt Road" Wine Rack

Customers can choose from both Little Washington wines and selections from the “Dirt Road Rack” located in the back of the tasting room. All of the wines are periodically rotated through the tasting bar so visitors are provided a different tasting experience every time they visit the winery.

Little Washington Winery is a unique and welcome addition to the Virginia wine scene. Its owners are unpretentious and view wine as an everyday beverage and consummate food companion. “Some folks get a little carried away with intimidating winespeak. That’s not us. Our passion is about sharing the serenity of this place and making good wine,” says Carl.

Little Washington Winery is located at 72 Christmas Lane, Washington, VA.  The tasting room is open Friday, Saturday and Sunday from 11am to 5pm. 540.987.8265. Visit them at http://www.littlewashingtonwinery.com/  

Published in the Spring 2012 edition of the Virginia Wine Gazette.
Categories : WINE ARTICLES