Label of love: The story behind five Virginia wines

With these Virginia wines, producers got creative and drew inspiration from everything from a symphony to social media.

Keswick Vineyards Wines
Keswick Vineyards Wines (courtesy Keswick Vineyards)

What’s in a name? Quite a lot when it comes to some Virginia wines. While most wineries take the predictable route of naming wines solely based on the grape varietal, others take the road less traveled and opt to get creative. Here are five wines that took inspiration from everything from a symphony to social media. 

2014 Vierzig
Vierzig (courtesy Notaviva)

Notaviva Vineyards’ Vierzig
Notaviva brings something special to Purcellville with what may be the only winery in the world that pairs wine with music. Not surprisingly, their wines are named for composers, symphonies and genres of music. “Vierzig is the German word for forty and is the name of our blaufränkisch wine,” says winery co-founder Stephen Mackey. “Several years ago I had the idea to craft three wines inspired by the three greatest composers: Bach, Beethoven and Mozart. Since blaufränkisch is originally an Austrian grape, I decided to make it our Mozart wine.” Mackey explored Mozart’s works from later in his life and became intrigued by his “Symphony No. 40 in G Minor.” “Considered by many to be one of his greatest works, it is tragic in tone and intensely emotional,” Mackey explains. Eighteen months before the first vines were planted at Notaviva, Mackey and his wife, Shannon, visited the Mozart statue in Vienna, Austria. “As we stood before the monument, we wondered what adventures the wine industry would hold for us in the future. The likeness on the front label is of that statue.” In November, things came full circle for Mackey. “I became the first Virginia winemaker to host a European river cruise. Our family sailed aboard the AmaSonata up the Danube River from Budapest, Hungary, to Vilshofen, Germany, and I hosted a series of wine seminars. Stopping again in Vienna, it was an incredible feeling to relive that first visit, knowing that the first Virginia wine to ever be poured aboard a European river cruise was the 2012 Notaviva Vineyards Vierzig blaufränkisch.” 

Tarara Winery’s Nevaeh
Tarara Winery has an affinity for spelling words backwards. Tarara itself is the word Ararat in reverse. “When the Hubert family first purchased the property, there was a large flood from the Potomac,” says winemaker and general manager Jordan Harris. “Looking down towards the Potomac, it looked as if there was water all the way to Sugarloaf Mountain. One of the family members mentioned it looked like the great flood and Mount Ararat.” Biblically, this is where Noah’s ark landed. Harris explains owner Margaret Hubert did not want to use the word Ararat directly, so she flipped it around. One of the winery’s flagship reds (a blend of four grapes), Nevaeh Red, is heaven spelled backwards. “Because that’s how we feel about our vineyard,” Harris says. 

Miller Winery's LOL
LOL (courtesy Miller Winery)

Miller Winery’s LOL Concord 
Miller Winery is a Front Royal microwinery with a sense of humor. The tiny outfit produces a wine called LOL—the social media acronym for laugh out loud, which follows well-received jokes sent by text or Twitter. “LOL was inspired by creating a wine that you can just easily sip and share with friends,” says proprietor Jason Miller of the wine made from 100 percent Concord grapes. “It’s a grape that generally has preconceived notions about it,” he says. He’s right. The grape typically reserved for jelly has few ringing endorsements for its use in wine. “You expect a very sweet red wine,” Miller says. But while you are greeted on the nose by sweet-smelling grapes and plums, the palate is a different story. “You are surprised and shocked that it’s actually a dry Concord and very fruit-forward. It’s a fun wine and generally does gain a laugh.” Miller says the wine is semifiltered to maintain its dark color. “We’re targeting to keep the color similar to when grandparents were making Concord wine in the basement,” Miller says. 

Fabiolli Cellars’ Tre Sorelle
Tre Sorelle, which means three sisters in Italian, is Fabiolli Cellars’ flagship wine. The bold blend combines merlot, petit verdot, cabernet sauvignon, and cabernet franc. “The label portrays three layers of triangles,” says general manager Eileen Francisco. “In genealogy, triangles symbolize women, so this design salutes Doug’s mother, Dee, as well as all women,” she continues. The Leesburg winery run by Doug Fabbioli and his wife, Colleen Berg, commonly honors family members with its wines. “Tre Sorelle was named in honor of Colleen and her two sisters, and it is also a nod to the original blend of three Bordeaux varietals that are estate-grown for this wine,” Francisco says. Even the family cat has a wine named after her. “The Luna Nera is an homage to our four-legged friends that complete the family. This wine was named after Colleen’s beloved and fearless cat who used to stalk the neighboring cows,” Francisco says.  

Amelie (courtesy Keswick Vineyards)

Keswick Vineyards’ Amélie White Wine
The land Keswick Vineyards occupies just east of Charlottesville is storied. Literally storied, in that one of the previous owners was 19th-century author Amélie Rives. “Amélie was a poet and novelist in the gilded ages of the late 1800s who was married to an Eastern European prince and was famous for her scandalous books that would go on to become New York Times best-sellers,” says Kat Schornberg Barnard. “She was also well-known for catching the attention of many men, partying with famous friends and covering the pages of the gossip columns.” On the label of the Amélie White Wine (a white blend) is a self-portrait of Rives. “The idea for the label came from my dad, owner Al Schornberg, who read a book about Amélie by Donna M. Lucey,” Barnard says. “For the release party, we had Donna here to speak about Amélie and sign copies of her book. Barclay Rives, a distant relative of Amélie, was also here to speak about the family and tell stories about the captivating Amélie.” 

Laura Hayes hails from Philly (but don’t hold it against her). She’s been covering the local dining scene for three years, and her work has been published in the Washington Post, Food Network, Washington City Paper, Arlington Magazine and more. Having lived in Japan for two years, she finds herself in a constant state of craving sushi. Laura always orders her favorite savory dish again for dessert and keeps her gut in check through lots of CrossFit classes. 

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