From Row Crops to Grapevines
When Bill Heidig traveled to France in the early 1980s, he noticed that the soil and topography of the French countryside dotted with vineyards was similar to his farm in Spotsylvania, Virginia. Could the same soil that produced corn and soybeans be planted to hillsides of grapes? He was eager to find out.
Bill proposed an idea to his wife, Ann. They would grow grapes for wineries springing up around Spotsylvania County. After researching this specialized crop, the Heidigs planted more than 3,000 vines: 2,000 Seyval Blanc and 1,000 Chardonnay.
“They planted mostly white varieties that would do well in our climate,” says son Jeff, who now runs the wine business with his brother Eric. (Heidig siblings Mike and Stacey also help with the winery operation.)
Later, Bill and Ann planted 250 Cabernet Sauvignon vines to add red grapes to their mix. They have since added other reds such as Merlot, Cabernet Franc, and Chambourcin.
Bill and Ann learned the business with the help of some grape-savvy friends, and the fruits of their labors yielded successful crops. Their first commercial sale to a local Virginia winery in 1984 was ½ ton of Seyval Blanc grapes.
Starting the Winery
After a few good years of grape production, the Heidigs decided to dip their toes into winemaking.
“Some of our grapes were making award-winning wines for the wineries we were selling them to,” says Jeff. “So my dad decided maybe we should try to make wine, too.” That’s when Lake Anna Winery was born.
Although Bill and Ann have retired, they are still involved in the business. Jeff and Eric run the winery, continuing the tradition of making wines from the same grapes that Bill and Ann planted on the rolling hills of their 70-acre property.
Today, Lake Anna Winery is one of Virginia’s best-known wineries. It is named after Virginia’s second largest lake, a popular vacation destination.
Spotsylvania County and nearby Fredericksburg are favorite locations for history lovers. The area dates back to colonial times and is near several Civil War battlefields. Lake Anna Winery offers special-label wines that commemorate the area’s Civil War battles, as well as a Historic Fredericksburg series. The winery grows, presses, ages, and sells five red wines and three white wines.
Wine sales are augmented with a successful event business on the winery grounds and buildings. Spring kicks off with a five-week-long renaissance fair. The building that features a tasting room and retail store also can seat up to 125 guests, so it’s a popular place for weddings and reunions.
The motto of Lake Anna Winery is There is no perfect wine for all situations, only perfect times for all wines.
The Heidig family strives to bottle up the right blends of grapes for everyone’s perfect times.
This story was written by Karen Weir-Jimerson for the Living the Country Life section of Successful Farming magazine.