First, there were the “Lisbon” (white) and “winter” (black) grapes documented as having produced the first Virginia wine by Charles Carter in 1762. The next step in successful Virginia viticulture was the discovery and propagation of the (accidental hybrid) norton grape in the 19th century. Post-prohibition, French hybrids and native grapes like concord and niagara revived the industry in the 1970s, then came European vinifera, the golden standard of world-wide viticulture.
Except where the extremes of the Eastern climate, from deep freeze to frosts to fungal disease, makes vinifera cultivation expensive, difficult, and with some varieties, of questionable long-term sustainability. So, the next step in progress for Virginia in sustainable viticulture is organic grape production…but only with hardy, disease-resistant hybrids.
Today, First Lady Dorothy McAuliffe cut the ribbon to officially open Loving Cup Vineyard & Winery, a Central Virginia winery near North Garden. Loving Cup – with a certified-organic vineyard growing a range of carefully-chosen hybrids able to ripen a crop without the use of conventional synthetic anti-fungal sprays.
The vineyard was certified organic in 2012 and the winery is expected to be certified organic by the 2014 harvest, according to owner and winemaker Karl Hambsch. The winery is named after the simple white heart on a blue background which is the Hambsch family symbol from Germany.
In opening remarks, the First Lady noted the Virginia wine industry now contributes three quarters of a billion dollars (!) a year to the state economy. “I am excited that Loving Cup Vineyard and Winery will now be a part of making Virginia one of the top wine producing regions in the world. I also would like to thank Virginia’s farmers as great stewards of this industry. Their hard work and dedication contributes not only to our growing agriculture industry, but also towards a growing tourism industry and in turn Virginia’s long term economic sustainability.“
Karl Hambsch said, “After years of hard work, my family and I are very proud to have our vineyard and farm winery open to the public. We are honored and thrilled to have the First Lady join us to kick of our Grand Opening Weekend”.
I’m very skeptical when people try organic viticulture in the East. Their intention are good, but that road has led too often to financial and viticultural ruin. However, I was impressed to find healthy vines with no sign of fungal disease, and Loving Cup has opened with a debut line of skillfully made, elegant and balanced wines from an eclectic range of hybrids, most not widely planted in Virginia. These include Geneva (Cornell) hybrids cayuga white, aromella, corot noir, the U. of Minnesota red hybrid marquette, and the more conventional traminette (Cornell) and vidal blanc (French) hybrids.
Vineyard consultant Chris Hill explained that anyone who really wants to grow organic in the East has to start with disease-resistant hybrids which, due to their native genes, are much more sustainable with less need for fungicide than the European vinifera. “I started with the desire to grow organically, and decided on these varieties by working back from there,” explains Karl Hambsch.
Loving Cup White 2013
About 2/3 cayuga and 1/3 traminette, this elegant, dry, slightly fruity white has a Loire Valley style, with crisp apple flavors and long clean finish with a hint of fruitiness. Great as an alternative to pinot grigio, chardonnay or fruitier whites for summer sipping and with food.
Dudley Nose Rose 2013
Named for a genetic flaw where a dog’s nose has a pink/red spot, this pale, bone dry but elegant rose is made from the Corot Noir hybrid, which is much like cabernet franc; delicate and with a hint of strawberry, a classic summer rose very versatile for matching with food.
Loving Cup Red 2012
A fun and original red and perfect for summer! It’s dry but not tannic, about a half and half blend of the fruity marquette and the more spicy/peppery corot noir, it’s well-integrated with nice berry fruit notes balaced by a peppery crisp finish. This is not a “soft” (i.e. sweet) red but just a “gentle” dry red. Serve slightly chilled for summertime.
Loving Cup Sweet Reserve 2013
An aromatic, fruity yet elegantly balanced blend of traminette, vidal and aromella (a new muscat-derived hybrid). The wine has some sweetness but the bright acidity makes it seem just off-dry. I could drink this with as much pleasure, but for different reasons, than the regular white. It is a challenge to make a traminette-based wine that isn’t too floral and this is a fine example.
Loving Cup Vineyard & Winery is located just two miles off US 29 at 3340 Sutherland Road in North Garden. For more information and directions visit www.lovingcupwine.com.