• March 2010

Who says a woman can't make great wine? Not Lori Corcoran

Spotlight on Lori Corcoran
Winemaker and winery owner
Corcoran Vineyards
By Hope Katz Gibbs

The longtime dream of growing grapes and having her own vineyard started taking shape in 2001. That was the year Lori Corcoran and her husband, Jim, started prepping the fields on their Waterford, Virginia, property. They were embarking on a trial planting of grapes that they had ordered from Sonoma Grapevines.

“When the vines arrived in 2002, we planted the first block of Chardonnay grapes on our farm, which is known as Corky’s Farm in Waterford,” she says. “That was the beginning of Corcoran Vineyards.”

How does a gal get into the winemaking business?

Though Lori has built a boutique winery that produces about 2,000 cases of high-quality, award-winning wines each year, she didn’t plan on getting into the wine business. After graduating from San Jose State University in 1989 with a degree in justice administration, her intent was to join the FBI.

Along the way, her passion for wine led her to take classes in winemaking. She now believes that although she is an award-winning winemaker, the wine is truly made in the vineyard.

“Our partnerships with area growers have been the key to our ability to consistently produce high-quality wines,” she explains, noting she still takes classes and keeps close track of the latest trends and techniques in the winery trade journals.

Of course, there have been challenges. “The trickiest part is understanding the dynamics of what we do in the vineyard and the effect it has on the quality of our wine. My goal is to continue to improve the quality, and I would recommend other women become winemakers because they have better palates and more patience.”

When not making wine, Lori spends her time raising her four kids — ages 8, 13, 17 and 19 — on the farm. “They enjoy the farm aspect and do help in the vineyard,” she says. “We can only hope that someday, they will take over the family biz.”

She also volunteers whatever free time she has to numerous causes. She just stepped down as president of the Loudoun Wineries Association after spending four years on the board, and also serves on the boards for the Loudoun Convention and Visitors Association and the Loudoun Valley Home Grown Markets Association.

Visit the Vineyards

Lori and Jim encourage visits to their tasting room, which is located just outside the village of Waterford at 14635 Corky’s Farm Lane. The tasting room itself is in a 1750 restored log cabin. The picnic area overlooks the property’s beautiful pond.

There is a $5 charge for tasting; the fee includes tastings of at least seven distinctive wines. For groups of 10 or more, the tasting fee is $10 and reservations are required. Call to reserve a spot today.

There is also a new second tasting location in Hamilton, on Route 9, called Corcoran at Hunters Run Wine Barn.

You must try these wines

Lori and Jim are proud of the wines they have created. They realize that while people may have specific passions for reds or whites, it’s always good to sample the merchandise. Consider these:

The Viognier — Pronounced VEE-on-yay, this grape is gaining a foothold in Virginia’s vineyards and wineries. Corcoran Vineyard’s 2008 Viognier is characterized by its aroma of honeysuckle blossoms, and flavors of crisp white peaches with cantaloupe and honeydew melons.

Tank fermentation and aging accentuate the fruit flavors and spicy finish. Our Viognier is 100 percent dry, but it is often perceived to have some sweetness because of the intense fruit character of this grape. The classic pairings for this wine are Maryland crab cakes or spiced shrimp. Limited!

2008 Chardonnay — A balance between stainless steel and oak casts, the aroma of this chardonnay offers hints of peaches and green apples. Lovers of California chardonnay will notice the slight oak tannins, while those who prefer a stainless-steel casted chardonnay will appreciate the crisp, fruit flavors. Perfect for holiday appetizers and pumpkin pie.

2007 Chambourcin — Chambourcin is a French-American hybrid grape with deep blue-black skins that produce a lighter-bodied wine with a distinctive, vibrant, purple color. The generous fruit flavors of black cherry and cranberry are the result of an early bottling after being lightly aged in American and French oak. This is the first year we have produced it as 100 percent Chambourcin. The aromas fill the senses with berries, nutmeg and oak. This red pairs nicely with pork, turkey and smoked salmon.

2007 Cabernet Franc — The Cabernet Franc grape has found a home in Virginia and does especially well in Northern Virginia. This Bordeaux grape is fruitier and lighter than its offspring, Cabernet Sauvignon. Our 100 percent Cabernet Franc wine is showing typical dark cherry and raspberry fruit flavors, balanced with hints of spicy, black pepper. With its mild tannins, this is excellent with grilled beef and stronger tasting vegetables such as roasted eggplant.

2008 Malbec — Malbec is a Bordeaux varietal, which usually takes a supporting role to the big Bordeaux reds like Merlot or Cabernet Sauvignon. This nicely aged wine is showing rich aromas full of ripe, black cherry jam and coffee, with a touch of spice. Well-balanced with a medium body, it offers vanilla, plum and chocolate flavors with a long, satisfying finish. This wine is suitable for aging in your wine cellar, or it can be enjoyed now with full-flavored, grilled beef — or even chocolate. New release!

2007 Meritage — “Meritage” describes wines that are a strict blend of the grape varietals traditionally grown in the Bordeaux region of France. The blending of wine from this region is said to be the highest form of the winemaker’s art. Our 2007 Meritage is a carefully balanced blend of Malbec, Cabernet Franc and Merlot, with prevailing flavors of black cherry. This wine has a velvety smooth mouth feel and is accentuated by a good tannin structure, sufficient oak and a pleasingly long finish.

2007 Seyval Blanc — Seyval Blanc is a hybrid grape with citrus flavors and herbal characteristics. It has a moderate level of sweetness, and flavors of fresh lemons and limes. The grape’s firm acidity balances well with the residual sugar for a tart, satisfying finish. We think you’ll find it to be a lovely sipping wine. This wine is packaged in a 375 ml bottle – just enough to share a glass with a friend!

Family Favorites

What’s Lori’s favorite in the collection? “Viognier for white and Malbec for red,” she says. “I love the fruit characteristics of Viognier, and I love the flavors of Malbec — and it is the best paired with chocolate.”

Jim’s favorite is the Meritage because he loves blends of the Bordeaux varietals.

When it comes to pairing food with their wines, Lori says she doesn’t have a favorite recipe, but she does add wine to all of her cooking.

“A bottle of Chardonnay in the pan while cooking a turkey or chicken makes the best gravy. Cabernet Franc in with our pot roast gives some added spice. Chambourcin goes into all of my red sauces, and I put Viognier in our salad dressing (see that recipe below, along with one for Mulled Wine).”

Cheers to that!

Mulled Wine Recipe

This mulled wine isn’t sweet, but it has lots of spice and actually does pair with most of those delicious desserts quite well. Lori says: “I like to use our Cabernet Franc, but have been anxious to try it with our new 2008 Malbec because this new Malbec has lots of spice already…yum!”

2 cups water
2 cinnamon sticks
10 whole allspice
10 whole cloves
1/2 cup sugar
Zest of 1/2 orange, plus orange slices for garnish (optional)
One bottle of Corcoran Vineyards Cabernet Franc

Directions: Combine water, spices, sugar and orange zest in 2-quart saucepan. Stir and cook over medium heat until sugar is dissolved. Simmer over low heat for one hour. The liquid will reduce by half and fill your home with a wonderful aroma! Strain out spices, and return liquid to pan. Add one bottle of Corcoran Vineyards Cabernet Franc. Heat on low until warm (being careful not to boil).

Zesty Mustard Viognier Dressing

1 c. Mayonnaise
1/4 c. Dijon Mustard
1/4 c. Viognier Wine
1 Tbsp. Sugar
1 tsp. Honey
1/4 tsp. Black Pepper
1/4 tsp. Kosher Salt

Directions: Whisk all ingredients together until smooth and creamy. Pour or spoon it over your favorite greens. Enjoy! (Yields approximately 1.5 cups)