I knew it was coming. I’d seen the advertisements, and heard it directly from Mark and Vicki. I even saw the press release when they said they had found someone. But receiving an email from the new owner of North Gate a few weeks ago made it all seem real. Walsh Family Wines has officially acquired North Gate Vineyard.
Anyone who’s been reading this blog for any amount of time knows that North Gate was my ‘first’ winery. I met Vicki in her garage a long time ago and a friendship was born. Her enthusiasm for what they do and the wines they make and the way they go about it was what sparked my interest in exploring and learning more about Virginia wines. We were there when the tasting room opened, and we were one of the first members of the Trellis Club when it launched. We’ve attended damn near every pickup event they’ve had, we were at the first one and we were at the fifth anniversary one not too long ago. I get messages from Chris when they are about to sell out of my favorite wines or are doing an event she knows I’ll want to attend (which is all of them honestly), or just to say ‘hey, where have you been, get in here.’ Vicki, Mark, Chris, Dave, Erin, Artie, Karol, Kelly, Melody, Dawn, and the rest of the gang have become an extended part of our family. We’re greeted with huge hugs when we visit and they all know us by name or simply as ‘the boys.’ To this day North Gate remains my go-to place when I simply need to ‘be’ for a while.
Over the years as I’ve gotten to know Mark and Vicki my respect for this has grown. Their enthusiasm and love for their craft and their appreciation for all that they’ve been given is truly inspiring. Vicki sparked my interest in Virginia wines, and Mark brought out my inner wine geek. Vicki taught me that it’s ok to be honest wine and what you like. I’ll never forget her doing our tastings and saying ‘I don’t think this one is our best work, but let’s see what you think.’ Her dry sense of humor and warm hugs brought me back again and again. Mark loves to get down in the weeds and talk about winemaking. One of my favorite experiences at North Gate was their red wine blending workshop. They brought in 40 people and gave us different wines and all the tools of the trade and then let us play for 2 hours. And we all had a blast. Mark and Vicki taught me that wine, both drinking it and making it, should be fun. And boy have I had some fun with them. Aside from all that they’re just great people who I really enjoy. We’ve spent hours talking about wine, our families, friends, happenings in the world, and much more. They are caring, accepting, loving, and warm, and all of that is evident in the place they’ve built.
Nate Walsh is no stranger to Virginia Wine, in fact I was at the Loudoun Wine Awards last October when he was named Winemaker of the Year. Pretty impressive. He and his family have been involved in the Virginia Wine industry since 2004, Loudoun specifically since 2009, and he’s operated Walsh Family Wines since 2014. He’s a solid winemaker with a strong past, and with the acquisition of North Gate, an incredibly bright future. His email to Trellis Club Members could not have been any more gracious. It made clear to me that he fully understands what Vicki and Mark have built, and he plans to continue producing some of the best wines in Loudoun under the North Gate label. His email also made clear to me that he understands that a huge part of the success of North Gate is the team that they’ve built. You’d be hard pressed to find a more knowledgeable, warm, welcoming, or overall amazing team, and he’s wise to realize that and take good care of them. I’d love to tell Nate to not change anything, but not only is that not realistic it’s probably terrible advice. Of course changes will come and be entirely necessary, things that don’t change wither away. I’m hopeful that under Nate’s leadership North Gate will continue to grow and prosper and remain a premier Loudoun winery while staying true to its roots. I’m excited about the next chapter in North Gates life, and I think we’re all in good hands.
While I’m incredibly sad to see them go, I am happy that they’ve found someone they can trust with their legacy, someone that understands what they’ve done and is dedicated to continuing to build on their success. Mark and Vicki are amazing people, and I’m excited for whatever the next chapter of their lives holds. We’ll remain friends and we’ll stay in touch. North Gate won’t be the same without them, but that’s ok, things change and people move on, such is life. But their legacy will live on forever. Thanks for everything Mark and Vicki, you truly are two of the finest people I know.