If you don't have a dream, the old song asks, how are you going to make a dream come true? In 1996, Jennifer McCloud moved to Virginia and soon settled in the rolling foothills of the Piedmont to set about making her dream a reality. Chrysalis Vineyards -- named symbolically for the rare nectar of fine wine emerging from the barrel so as the butterfly emerges from her cocoon -- was born in 1997. Under the guidance of award-winning winemaker Alan Kinne, the initial year produced two excellent white wines. In addition to a mellow Chardonnay, 1997 saw the first Chrysalis Vineyards Viognier, a robust dry wine bursting with aromas of tropical fruit.
The following year Chrysalis Vineyards established its permanent home on the spectacular 209 acres of Locksley Estate alongside the banks of the Hungry Run in Loudoun County. 1998 brought the establishment of new vineyards into full swing, with extensive plantings of Spanish vinifera varieties such as Albariño, Tempranillo and Graciano. Other acreage was planted with French varieties, including Petit Verdot, Tannat, Fer Servadou, and Petit Manseng, and the traditional Chardonnay, along with a large planting of the increasingly popular Viognier, until recently grown primarily in the Condrieu region of the upper Rhone valley.
Of particular interest to Chrysalis Vineyards is the native American grape, Norton (sometimes also known as Cynthiana). Recognized among North American varieties for its unique ability to produce premium quality red wines, the Norton was internationally recognized in the 1800's as the source of distinctively robust reds with overtones of berry and pitted fruits. Today the Norton is enjoying a resurgence of popularity, and a key element of the Chrysalis Vineyards program is to restore this grape to its position of eminence among fine wines. Presently we have the largest planting of Norton in the world.
In 1999, Chrysalis Vineyards moved forward with the development of its home vineyards at Locksley Estate. Further acreage was planted in Norton, and another large vineyard was established on a high rolling hillside in nearby Delaplane, Virginia. The fall harvest yielded abundant fruit, supplemented by acquisitions from other vineyards in the region, and Chrysalis had an exceptional vintage of both whites and reds, with emphasis on its Viognier, Chardonnay, Spanish Varietals and Cabernet Sauvignon. This year provides us with many a medal winning wine, with the 1999 Viognier leading the way.
2000 was a strange year for weather, a cold July and a wet harvest. We were able to get quality fruit, but it was not as abundant as we would have liked. The new 10,000 square foot winery facility opened just in time for crush.
2001 was a banner year for Chrysalis Vineyards. The weather helped produce some of the finest fruit ever, and the Chrysalis Vineyards 2001 Viognier garnered 3 Best of Show awards, including the prestigious Best of Show - White Wine at the San Diego National Wine Competition. In the early summer of 2001 our tasting room complex, complete with offices, tasting bar, patio, pavilion and BBQ pit was opened to the public.
2002 was a year to "digest" our
expansions and establish distribution throughout
In 2003 we again moved forward
plantings, adding 11 new acres of Norton. The weather was really
perhaps the worst ever in
In the fall we completed construction of the greenhouse, complete with computer controlled automatic ventilation and root-zone heating supplied by a state-of-the-art wood-fired boiler, utilizing one of the natural and renewable resources we have at Locksley Estate.
2004 continued the additional plantings of Norton, with another 11+ acres planned out. We started the year with high expectations for propagating our own Norton for the new planting, but our hopes were soon dashed when our first greenhouse experiment in growing our own vines failed. We knew that Norton was going to be difficult to propagate by hardwood cuttings, as the historical record warned us, and the warnings proved correct. Nearly all the plants died, and we were left discouraged but not failed in spirit. We purchased additional vines and were able to plant most of what we planned. We vowed to try again with full effort in 2005.
Because of the bad weather in the spring of 2003, bud development for the 2004 season was poor, and our yields were significantly lower than normal - roughly 35% less. Although the quantity of grapes was lower, the quality was quite high, and across the boards the wine was of consistent good quality.
2005 didn’t start off very well.
Again we failed
in the greenhouse, and were not able to complete the plantings of
Norton we had
planned and begun in 2004. But the year ended off very positively, as
weather was conducive to full maturity of our grapes (since we have
we can control the addition of water, which was needed this year), and
2006 was the best year to date. At mid-point in the year we finally hit success with our Norton propagation efforts, achieving a 70% rooting of the vines. Although the final “take” in the vineyard was somewhat less, we’re now confident that we can successfully provide Norton grapevines not only for our own expansion needs, but also as a commercial source of Norton vines for other vineyardists.
This year also saw the purchase of a small heard of cows, a hearty heritage breed, The American Milking Devon, and the formation of the Locksley Estate Farmstead Cheese Company. The first step to the expansion of Locksley Estate unfolded with Artisanal Cheese production in the horizon under the expert guidance of Perry Griffin.
The weather in 2006 was excellent and the vines were healthy and loaded with fruit. Mother Nature was good to us at harvest and provided the best year ever, both in terms of quantity and quality of wine. We produced varietally correct Viognier and Albariño, both garnering high marks at The Riverside International Wine Competition, in Riverside California and the National Women’s Wine Competition, in Santa Rosa California. Our Norton vines brought us classic dark fruit, which produced powerful wines with intense aromas, firm acidity and concentrated flavors of cherries and raisins.
2007 was an exciting year on many fronts. Overcoming the trying Virginia weather, the continuing plans for future expansion at Locksley Estate, the changing of the guard with our new management team, the purchase of an additional contiguous 202 acres - Caeli Farm, and the strengthening of our VIP Wine Club, have created a clear path for the future of Chrysalis Vineyards. The beginning of 2007 saw Chef Hump Astorga, hailing from the critically acclaimed Aster Restaurant, join ranks as Director of Hospitality and Culinary Operations to further the food service expansion at Locksley Estate.
Our new winemaker, Curtis Vincent, took over the reigns in August, in time to guide us through the harvest and crush. Despite the “Easter Freeze”, 2007 has been universally acclaimed as a great season for grapes, with its dry and sunny weather throughout the summer. However, we discovered that some grape varieties produced high sugar levels (considered the most important “normal” measurement of ripeness), without developing commensurate physiological ripeness in flavor. So, we were diligent in focusing our harvest decisions based on flavor in 2007, not just “the numbers”. Particularly with Viognier, we believe that our patience in letting the fruit hang longer paid big dividends in quality, producing again one of the finest Viogniers of the 2007 vintage.
2007 also saw the follow through of our mission, to restore Norton, The Real American Grape!® to its once-held place of prominence, by providing support to other vineyardists who would join in the journey of restoration. We were able to provide rooted Norton vines in the spring to help establish a new vineyard, support at harvest with Norton fruit, and in the meantime, supply quality bulk Norton wine to the winemaker while their new vines developed and their individual Norton wines underwent the aging process.
Bolstering our reputation as one of the top producers of Norton worldwide, Chrysalis Vineyards was exceedingly proud to garner 2 of the 6 Gold Medals awarded at the first National Norton Wine Competition, held in St. Louis, Missouri, on August 4, 2007.
As 2008 unfolded, the quality of our 2007 wines was quickly recognized. In May, our recently released 2007 Albariño was chosen as the first course offering at the prestigious Gala Wine & Food Pairing Banquet of the Virginia Vintners Table at Virginia Tech. Customer support and critical acclaim continues to grow, as evidenced by the doubling of members in our monthly VIP Wine Club.
In May and early June we saw severe spring storms role through Locksley Estate and Caeli Farm, leaving uprooted trees, lost power, flooded creeks, and a very wet ground. In spite of the hurdles presented by Mother Nature, our vines are healthy, having been properly maintained by the vineyard staff. The wines bottled by our winemaker, from the 2006 and 2007 harvests, are well crafted with ripe fruit aromas, firm structure, and true varietal expression.
With the busy season upon us, the tasting room staff continues to provide the ultimate hospitality experience to more than 1000 weekly visitors.