By Nancy Bauer
Loving Cup Winery
Growing Organic in Virginia
Loving Cup Winery outside Charlottesville is an organic winery in a climate that doesn’t care for organic wineries. At any given time, a dozen grape-growing trials are underway, and a tour of the vineyard turns up surprises, like a field of 4-foot sticks standing at attention – prunings from Cayuga vines, part of an experiment to find simpler growing methods – and a half-acre of chokeberry bushes, planted to resolve what owner Karl Hambsch calls a “swamp issue.”
The bushes are filled with small black-purple berries. A rebranding effort a few years back helped propel the astringent, anti-oxidant-rich chokeberry into the stratosphere of superfoods, as aronia. Karl will turn the aronia into wine.
And that, in a nutshell, is the story of organic farming: finding natural solutions to nature’s challenges.
So with all the experimentation and whatnot, it comes as a surprise, when you visit, that Loving Cup Winery is more beautiful, and the wines are much better, than you might expect. And that’s not a side-eye to the wines; Karl’s wine-making education is solid, including a long stint with the highly respected Veritas Vineyards. But his work in the vineyard, and his partner and father, Werner, who owns the farm and runs the tasting room, is what makes Loving Cup succeed. That, and doggedness in the face of the usual predictable, and unpredictable, challenges.
In November of 2015, huge, rogue winds ripped the roof off the winery, forcing an early closure for the season. Then in 2016, two freezing nights killed off two thirds of the vineyard crops.
When asked if he’d recommend others in Virginia get into organic grape farming, Karl quickly answers “Oh, no. I want people to grow organic grapes for us, but I can’t in good conscience suggest that they do. There’s no template for it. Maybe if we’re still here ten years from now I’ll have some kind of a template. But for now, it’s year to year.”
For wine to be certified organic, both the grapes and the winery have to be certified, through separate, multi-year, federally-mandated processes. Loving Cup’s vineyard was certified-organic in 2012, and the winery in 2016, and certifications must be renewed annually.
Here’s what you’ll taste in the glass at Loving Cup Winery in 2018
- Cayuga White
- Vidal Blanc
- Corot Noir
BYLINE: Nancy Bauer is the author of the new book, Virginia Wine Country Travel Journal, and the founder of the wine country travel app and website, Virginia Wine in My Pocket.com. The book is available on Shopify and Amazon, and the app is available on iTunes and Google Play. Contact Nancy at firstname.lastname@example.org