By Patrick Szabo
Sunset Hills Vineyard is throwing a party this weekend., celebrating its 10th anniversary with live music, raffles, tours, food and tastings of 15 varietals of wine, including an award-winning chardonnay and a reserve cabernet franc. The winery will also be selling 250 signed and numbered bottles of its flagship wine, a Mosaic red blend
Festivities will be held from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday and Sunday at the tasting room just north of Purcellville.
Owners Diane and Mike Canney are looking forward to offering visitors great wine and a memorable experience—something they set out to do a long time ago.
In the ’90s that the Canneys followed their careers from New Orleans to the Washington, DC, area, and in 1997 that they began to look at opening a vineyard in Loudoun. They finally decided to follow through with the venture after they took a trip to Napa Valley, CA, and realized that wineries “are in beautiful places with happy people.”
The couple planted their first grapes in 1999 on three acres just north of Purcellville, fully knowing that running a vineyard wouldn’t be easy.
“It began as a challenging side business,” Diane said. “We love challenges.”
After selling grapes to area wineries for a few years, the Canneys produced their first five barrels of wine in 2005. In 2007, they purchased the 15-acre property and hired six Amish brothers to transform a dilapidated 1870s barn into the winery’s tasting room, which opened in 2008.
Sunset Hills has produced more than 120 vintages of wine, sells about 9,000 cases of wine each year and practices traditional wine-making techniques by growing grapes and handling production onsite.
“We are so focused on the wine quality,” Diane said. “I would call us authentic farmers.”
The winemaking process is powered by245 solar panels, which have produced more than 500,000 kilowatt-hours of electricity since they were installed in 2011. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, that’s enough to provide 56 homes with electricity for a year. Thus, the winery’s motto, “turning sunshine into wine.”
With so much work to be done in the vineyard, Diane said that Sunset Hills has employed more than 250 people in the past decade. They’ve also expanded from their single Purcellville location to four others—the 50 West Vineyards tasting room near Aldie, a vineyard in Upperville and three vineyards in Shenandoah County. Today, the Canneys have 80 acres dedicated to grape growing.
Their work has paid off, too. Last month, Sunset Hills won gold medals in the Loudoun Wine Awards for its 2015 Mosaic and 2015 Reserve Cabernet Franc.
The vineyard is located at 38295 Fremont Overlook Lane, off Rt. 287 north of Purcellville.For more information, go to sunsethillsvineyard.com or call 540-882-4560.