About Our Winery
Is to produce award winning wine from our grapes and to share our good fortune and beautiful location with as many as possible.
The international award winning winery atop Mt. Gilead is in a rustic barn overlooking Loudoun Valley and is Loudoun’s original winery. Enjoy spectacular views of the Blue Ridge Mountains from the picnic area. Gourmet snacks are available to compliment all of the wines. Don’t miss our “Wines of the World” tastings held throughout the year.
Lew Parker purchased Willowcroft and moved his family there in 1979. After discovering that the technology of grape growing had changed to permit high quality European varieties to be grown in Virginia, he planted the first acre in 1981. The historic red barn dates to approximately 1875 and provides a wonderful location for a winery and Tasting Room. The first wines produced in 1984 won medals, a trend which has continued. The winery has now won hundreds of medals in national and international competitions, including Virginia’s Governor’s Cup, Virginia’s Jefferson Cup, Best of Fair in the Virginia State Fair competition, Loudoun County Wine Awards, Double Golds with the International Eastern, and many medals in California competitions.
The vineyards at Willowcroft date back to the early part of the modern viticulture era of Virginia. They were planted at a time when advisors from the Virginia Extension Service still considered growing European varieties to be very risky business indeed. The first vines were planted in 1980, Those first vines died and were replanted the following year. The second planting survived. Many of those vines grow to this day, and you can see them in the home vineyard. This early planting was of Cabernet Sauvignon, Riesling, Chardonnay, and Seyval. In those days, little was known about how to grow grapes in Virginia. It was all trial and error.
Today Willowcroft farms 12-1/2 acres containing 12 different varieties of vines in five different locations atop the Catoctin Ridge, an ideal location which has a long history of horticulture dating from the 1800s. With elevations from 600 to 750 feet, the vines have excellent protection from late spring frosts. This location also gives us warm summer days but cool nights, perfect conditions to grow outstanding fruit. All of our vineyards are dry farmed, no irrigation. This can be tough on young vines in some years, but it also forces our older vines to spread their roots deep into our silty loam soils. This combination of climatic conditions and healthy, well drained soils, allows our vines to produce aromatic, crisp whites, and vibrant, fruity reds with excellent tannin structure.
As knowledge has been gained about varieties and their suitability to Virginia, Willowcroft has added new types of vines to the original planting. Today there are five red varieties and six white varieties. The reds are principally the famous Bordeaux – Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, and Petit Verdot, with the addition of French American red Chambourcin. The whites are Chardonnay, Riesling, Albarino, Traminette, Vidal and Seyval. The addition of Albarino is recent, and the results are very exciting. Almost all of our vines are grafted onto specially selected roots to protect them against disease and promote positive growth characteristics.
We strive to grow our vines in the most sustainable ways possible. We keep abreast of the most up to date research in viticulture in Virginia and the world. We try to keep our footprint on the land as light as possible. Using techniques such as removing leaves in the fruit zone, in the correct amount, at the correct time, can help in reducing fungal diseases which are the bane of all grape growers. Grape growing, as with all farming, is successful when you know what you can control and what you cannot. Picking the best site, keeping up with the technology available, and using a gentle hand helps us get the best Mother Nature has to offer.
Willowcroft has focused its red grape program on the famous Bordeaux varieties and grows four of the five classic grapes of that area of southwest France. These varieties are old friends in the old world, where they have been grown together for many centuries. They are meant to be blended together to make the best wines with the best balance.
Cabernet Sauvignon – Makes full bodied, tannic red wine with long aging abilities. Requires long growing season to reach its full potential.
Cabernet Franc – Slightly less tannic than its cousin Cabernet Sauvignon. Can show an herbal, spicy component over time. Ripens earlier than Cabernet Sauvignon.
Merlot – Earliest ripening of the group. Least tannic structure as well. Often displays cherry notes on the nose. Soft, round, and more fruity than the others.
Petit Verdot – Last to ripen with small berries that develop high sugar and crisp acidity at harvest. The wine has deep color, long finish, round tannins that develop with age. Originally used mainly for blending this variety is now turning into one of Virginia’s premier reds.
Chambourcin – In addition to the Bordeaux varieties, Willowcroft has planted the hybrid Chambourcin with large clusters that stand up well in our climate and produce deep colored aromatic juice with soft tannins. This popular wine is blended or used under its own label.
Chardonnay – The number one white grape, by acreage, planted in Virginia. Classic white of Burgundy, yet well adapted to many areas of the world. Ripens mid season. Moderate sized clusters develop nice balance of sugar to acidity. Made in two styles at Willowcroft: oak fermented & aged and stainless steel fermented. Same grape; two very different wines.
Albarino – Most expensive white wine varietal of the Galicia region of Spain. Early ripener. High sugar and high acidity at harvest. Wonderful peach notes on the nose with minerality and crisp acidity.
Riesling – The premier grape of Germany. Harvested mid season. Crisp acidity, low alcohol wines of distinction. This cultivar is a challenge to grow, but the results are wonderful.
Muscat Ottonel – White grape extraordinaire of Eastern Europe and the Alsace region of France. Beautifully fragrant nose with hints of honeysuckle. Earliest ripener we grow. Low sugar and low acidity at harvest make it a wonderful blend with our Riesling.
Traminette – This is a new hybrid grape variety with Gewurtztraminer in its parentage. Mid to late season ripener. Nice sugar and acid balance at harvest. Spice and sweet up front apple blossom nose.
Seyval– French-American hybrid. Early season ripener. Good sugar to acidity balance at harvest. Nice citrus notes on the nose. We ferment and then age this variety in neutral barrels for a short time, which lends a pleasant, slight buttery component to the finished wine.
Vidal Blanc– French American hybrid. Late season ripener. Can achieve high sugar development with moderate acidity. Good blender and nice varietal as well. Often used as the base for many dry to off dry wines. Creates nice mid palate for most blends. Excellent late harvest candidate.
Meet Our People
Lew Parker, Owner and Winemaker
Lew has been making award-winning wines for over 35 years. He planted the first grapes in 1981 and founded the winery at Willowcroft Farm in 1983. Lew has been instructing others in the art of winemaking since the 1990’s. A mainstay in the Virginia as well as national wine industry for many years, including the winner of the 2002 “Virginia Wine Industry Person of the Year” award and the 2013 “Gordon Murchie Lifetime Achievement” award.
Brian Stromeyer, Assistant Winemaker
Brian works with Lew in the Winery helping us make delightful, award-winning wines. He also works with Lew and the Vineyard Crew in our Vineyards as well as working on Operations at the winery. Brian has been with Willowcroft since 2018, and he has a background in the secondary mortgage market.
Kim Hawkins, Commercial Director
Kim Hawkins is our Commercial Director. Kim is responsible for all off-site Events Management and Business/Administrative Management, Marketing & Advertising, Community Outreach Programs, Wholesale and Wine Club Management. Kim has been with Willowcroft since 2016 as our previous Tasting Room Manager, and she has a background in Office Management and Accounting. Email Kim@willowcroftwine.com.