Business partners Peter Deliso, Wendy Charron and Carl DiManno had a checklist for the plot of land on which they'd build their dream vineyard and winery. It included factors such as soil, water, orientation and location. Oh, and something with a view.
“We literally went up and down Route 50, out on 66, we came up Route 9, we went up Route 15,” said Deliso, a corporate lawyer by trade.
“Every sizable piece of land available in Loudoun County we looked at,” added DiManno, a winery consultant and former winemaker/vineyard manager at Sugarloaf Mountain Vineyard in Maryland.
“We looked at (plots) in the 40- to 50-acre range because ideally we want to get to a 10,000 case production capacity in the winery and vineyard, and in order to get to a 10,000 case production capacity you really need 25, 30ish acres under vine to make that work. And in order to get 25, 30 acres under vine you need to get 50, 60 – depending on the ratios,” Deliso said.
Enter the 90-acre Orme family property next to Tom Orme's Grandale Farm. After purchasing the land, the partners wanted to be good neighbors and so arranged to meet Orme and the other shareholder on the farm, Author Clark Jr., executive chef at Grandale Farm Restaurant. It didn't take long before everyone agreed that it would be a great idea to merge the two properties and businesses, and 868 Estate Vineyards was born.
“The other thing that really attracted us about (this property) was you don't really find a lot of vineyards with a gourmet restaurant attached to it. So our feeling now is we have the ability to offer the full set of services, including the vineyard experience, the tasting room, the wine, we have catering on site, we have a restaurant on site. We have desserts and sandwiches and all sorts of things,” Deliso said.
To prepare for an official opening May 20th, the partners have been making changes big and small. The transformation is first obvious outside Gran Hall, where Wendy Charron designed a new landscaping and patio area. Indoors, the restaurant has received a facelift in the form of new paint and crown molding, while Gran Hall is being transformed into a tasting room, complete with a bar that will serve DiManno's Revolution wines and Chatham Vineyards' Church Creek label – all made with Virginia fruit.
Winemaker DiManno has been busy in the vineyard as well, with the help of highly regarded viticulturist Lucie Norton. The partners anticipate having more than 35 acres under vine tor produce 10,000 cases yearly. The vision for the business also includes building a 6,500-square-foot facility at the hilltop where the tasting room would be transferred.
“One of the things that really attracted us to this property is the hilltop. There's a hill up there which is not readily obvious from the road. But when you get up there what you're going to find is that hilltop is the highest elevation in this valley (between the Blue Ridge and Short Hill mountains, known as Between the Hills). The elevation is 868, hence 868 Estate Vineyards. It has a gorgeous view of the valley and the hills and the mountains. Certainly Grandale does too but our ultimate goal is to put our tasting room up on that hill,” Deliso said.
“The plan is establish our beach head here, get our business off the ground, and then in 2013, God willing, to get the financing to go ahead and build that tasting room up on the hill and take advantage of the views that are up there because they really are quite spectacular.”