WTM caught up with Doug Fabbioli in the middle of what had been predicted to be a very wet weekend in the middle of the Virginia grape harvest. When asked about the affects of the weather, thirty-five years of industry experience were reflected in his simple reply, which was “we are dealing with it, just like we always do.”
Doug Fabbioli grew up in Syracuse, New York and had his earliest exposure to the wine industry in the Finger Lakes. After college, however, he found work in Sonoma. That is where he honed his skills until family pulled him back to the east coast and Virginia wine country. Doug worked for a time at Tarara Winery in Northern Virginia and spent several years consulting before opening Fabbioli Cellars in Loudoun County.
If that is not enough, Doug has been working with the Loudoun County Rural Economic Council for the last eleven years, where he has helped shape local agricultural policy that encourages all forms of farming and agricultural tourism as viable alternatives to urban expansion. More recently, Doug has served on the Virginia Wine Board, where he helps shape an increasingly important part of the state’s agricultural sector.
WTM—What motivated you to get involved with the Virginia wine industry?
Doug Fabbioli—In 1997, my wife and I were at a point where we were looking for a change from California. We were both from the East Coast and family matters helped with the pull to Virginia. With the industry just burgeoning, I had the opportunity to bring my experience and passion to a region that welcomed it. I put my winemaking skills, vineyard education and entrepreneurial passion to work and carved myself a niche and reputation for quality and cost effectiveness.
WTM—What has been the most dramatic change in the industry since you first started making wine?
Doug Fabbioli—The quality of Virginia red wine has been the most dramatic I have ever witnessed. By spending the energy and time in the vineyard using the newest proven techniques, our red grapevines have become more productive and with much higher quality grapes. Our winemaking practices have evolved as well to create consistently fruit forward, lush reds that were few and far between two decades ago.
WTM—What do you think would surprise someone about Virginia's wine regions?
Doug Fabbioli—We are our own wine region. There are certainly many traditional style wines but plenty of fruit based wines and lighter styled wines to enjoy in our summer weather. We are seeing more cideries and breweries start up amongst the wineries. These neighbors add to the experience of the Virginia winery region visit along with the creameries, art studios, country markets and other rural businesses. WE all have learned to support each oather as all of our businesses grow a bit as the region becomes more visited.
WTM—What challenges face the Virginia wine industry?
Doug Fabbioli—It is critical that we as alcohol beverage producers keep in front of our responsibilities to our customers and community. We want to stay family friendly and be more than just the next winery on the trail. Monitoring consumption, having food available, designated driver programs, having businesses other than wineries and breweries along the trail and keeping strong relationships with the community leaders will help make this a sustainable industry. We need to prevent alcohol consumption issues before they arise. With our close metro areas, we are quite busy on the weekends and want that great experience to continue for all and for many years to come.
WTM—Can you make a prediction about the future of Virginia wine?
Doug Fabbioli—We want to maintain our authenticity. Growing our own grapes is a critical part of our terroir, land use and future supplies and consistency. Currently, there is a big push to plant more grapes. This will secure our future and has brought some bigger investors in the industry. It will never rival California, but the Virginia wine industry will be closer to the Oregon model of size and quality with the east coast culture of drive and personality.
WTM—What can you say that might encourage people to visit Virginia wine country?
Doug Fabbioli—In the youth of our industry, each winery is a reflection of its owner. Enjoy the personality of each operation as you experience the wine, land, architecture and service that makes each unique and special in its own way.