Donna Evers: Weekend Winemaker
Local real estate mogul pursues her passion at her Virginia winery
Before the wine is bottled, it is processed through a filtration system. Photo by Skip Brown.
Hand-labeled boxes of the latest vintages are stored in the cellar for several weeks or longer to allow their flavors to settle before they’re put on sale. Photo by Skip Brown.
Though the clouds were looking like they might burst, the rain held off. By 2:30, the group of more than a dozen workers had filled about 630 cases containing more than 7,500 bottles of wine. More bottles still needed to be filled, but those would be done by hand in the coming weeks. The whites would go on sale at the winery just a few weeks after the bottling, while the reds would be released later in the year.
THE VINEYARD is a family affair. Evers’ 24-year-old grandson, Clay McFarren, manages the winemaking operation. “No day is the same,” the proud grandmother says. “It’s learning how to work all the machines, operating them and keeping them in good shape, then getting everything lined up for bottling. It’s year-round.”
Her granddaughter, Lauren McFarren, 21, pitches in on busy days. “Whenever we need to pull in extra forces, she comes over,” Evers says.
Evers walks through the vineyard with her grandson, Clay McFarren (right), who manages the winery, and her granddaughter, Lauren McFarren who also helps out. Photo by Skip Brown.
The tasting room hosts live music, open mic nights and culinary events throughout the year. Photo by Skip Brown.
The flags represent Evers’ late husband’s Irish and German heritage, her own Italian and Croatian roots and their American homeland. Photo by Skip Brown.
The younger McFarren also works in the tasting room, which looks over the vineyard and into the valley. Formerly a three-bay garage detached from the house, the room has a central bar, indoor seating, three fireplaces and a trio of outdoor decks giving visitors multiple vantage points to drink in views and vintages. A quintet of flags flies over the front door representing the Irish and German heritage of Evers’ late husband, her own Italian and Croatian roots and their American homeland.
Nearly 90 percent of the vineyard’s business occurs on the weekend, when wine enthusiasts stop by to taste the wines, nibble on Virginia-made cheeses and cured meats and—Evers hopes—buy a few bottles for their own cellars. The fan favorite is the crispy, acidic Chardonnay with notes of pear and apple. It’s the critics’ choice as well; the 2012 edition won a gold medal from the Beverage Tasting Institute competition in Chicago. Also popular is frozen mulled wine that’s only available on-site—Evers calls it “a Slurpee for adults.”
When she takes a moment to sit down and enjoy a glass of wine, Evers is surprised at how far she has come. “My first year of winemaking, I made 35 gallons
of wine,” she says. “Now I’m up to a thousand cases a year.”
Nevin Martell lives in Washington, D.C., and frequently writes about food and culture.