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Vineyards of Doukenie Winery set against the upslopes of the Blue Ridge Mtns and western boundary of Middleburg Virginia.
photo: Ken Garrett for Doukenie Winery

Middleburg Virginia (AVA)

Doukenie Winery of Middleburg Virginia

Doukenie Winery has a long history in Northern Virginia and is now a major player inside the newly created Middleburg Virginia AVA. Burgundy born winemaker Sebastien Marquet has brought great talent to the wines he is expressing this terrior through.

by Roger King
January 21, 2013

With the approval of Middleburg Virginia AVA 25 Virginia Wineries now find themselves in this new appellation. Many certainly existed prior to the formation and many will undoubtedly emerge. The Doukenie Winery outside of Hillsboro, VA is one that is moving towards defining Middelburg Virginia.

This AVA is rather narrow and long with clustered winery enclaves to the South and the North within its boarder. Doukenie is part of the more northern tier and against the uplifts of the western mountains. While most of its vineyards lie within the AVA boundaries, some of the vineyards are just outside the drawn boundaries. Granite is the underlying bedrock, a common trait throughout the region, yet this area is slightly lower than the southern reaches with more soils depth. These soils remain low water retention and well drained, bringing the opportunity to manage the summer rains that fall heavily in June when vine vigor is most active.

For winemaker and General Manager Sebastien Marquet it is an annual challenge to bring the most out in fruit of each block. But there is little doubt that vinifera is the mantra, the future for this entire region. Coming from Burgundy and classically trained he has seen many regions in France and the New World, allowing him a perspective of diversity and opportunity. For him, Virginia, and particularly the Middleburg Virginia AVA are an exciting place to be.

Weather is a huge factor for each vintage, some years being dry and warm while others are wet and humid. It is during those dry warm years, 2007, 09, 10 recent examples, that the prospect of great wine can be brought forward. The challenges are consistent with summer humidity bringing prospect of disease pressure. For Marquet, who directly manages the vineyards, it is all about air movement, controlling vine vigor and very careful fruit thinning that brings the best character forward. The historic ‘wind’ gaps of this region are very helpful in they allow air movement down from the Blue Ridge to offset some of the humidity issues. Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Cabernet Franc and Merlot are big benefactors. Cabernet Sauvignon, Petit Verdot can be a bit more challenging to properly ripen.

The Doukenie wines are of a European nature and palate. Getting good extraction in the winery is a critical concern while continued racking of reds is used to manage tannins into well rounded impacts in the glass. The challenge is always consistency, as weather impacts will inevitably vary year to year.

While red hybrid grapes are not grown or used in Doukenie wines, white hybrids remain in the mix. Traminette and Vidal Blanc are blended into a single wine known as Mandolin. It has grown on Sebastien Marquet who has toned down the residual sugar from an earlier level, now leaving about one and a half grams/liter. The subtile sweetness plays against the spicy character of the Vidal Blanc, while the early ripening of Traminette insures consistent production each year. He believes hybrids will continue to decline across the Middleburg Virginia AVA in favor of vinifera.

Chardonnay is his go to white varietal and looks for complexity and balance. The main issue he finds with Chardonnay in this region is the tendency to run high pH levels at harvest. Being from Burgundy, where he might expect pH in the range of 3.2 he is often confronted with levels at or above 3.8. Nevertheless it has found a good home in Middleburg Virginia and in able hands develops high quality complex wines.

For the future Marquet believes Cabernet Franc, Merlot and Tannat have strong potential in this northern part of the appellation. Cabernet Franc does very well with attention in the vineyard and Merlot is a standout, especially in the 100% Merlot 2009 Dionysus from block number 1. Yet this block is just meters outside the AVA boundary. Refining the edges of the appellation to incorporate specialty nooks and crannies will be a subject for future consideration.

Cabernet Sauvignon and Petit Verdot are more difficult to ripen in the area around Doukenie than might be experienced in the southern part of Middleburg Virgin. In good weather years resulting wines are well balanced, but the poor weather years can impact full ripening of flavors and tannin.

When the subject of Tannat comes up the unique experiences of Sebastien Marquet are tapped. Being the first person to grow and make wine in the tropical Caribbean, learning how to manage high humidity conditions in the vineyard was essential. Virginia can be very warm and humid during the July and August summer months and Tannat is a grape that thrives in humid conditions. He feels it is a perfect grape for Virginia as a whole and wants to see production expanded. For right now he uses Tannat in Doukenie blends, calling on the dark purple hues and tannic backbone.

With the establishment of the AVA, the question of posting Middleburg Virginia on label is not a question of IF, just one of when. Marquet feels quality levels must achieve excellence to grace the Doukenie labels with the new appellation name. That reality is likely very soon.

Pictures used permission Doukenie Winery.

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Reader Feedback

Reader Comments... [2]

Luigi Traettino , Owner-Manager
Vineyard-Vino-Volturno, Hustle-ESSEX-County VA
Bravissimo Sebastien, You are a great addition to the State of Virginia, and we are very proud of you. Welcome to the Great USA. Luigi Traettino

Luigi Traettino , Owner-Manager
Vineyard-Vino-Volturno, Hustle-ESSEX-County VA
Bravissimo Sebastien, You are a great addition to the State of Virginia, and we are very proud of you. Welcome to the Great USA. Luigi Traettino

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