The story of Lake Anna Winery began on a business trip to France in 1981. While traveling through the French countryside, Bill Heidig noticed that the climate and soil conditions of certain grape-growing regions were similar to those on his Spotsylvania farm, and an idea began to take root. Upon his return, he presented the notion of planting grapes to his wife, Ann. After a great deal of thought, the two decided to plant a vineyard and launch a family business. They hired a consultant and started taking seminars on grape growing and winemaking.
In 1983, two years after Bill’s initial interest, the Heidigs planted more than 2,000 Seyval Blanc and 250 Cabernet Sauvignon vines. Three weeks later, on an extremely hot weekend, they planted 1,000 Chardonnay vines.Bill and Ann soon learned first-hand how much care grape vines require. Each vine has to be trained to grow straight up a stake. As only a single shoot can be allowed to grow, laterals must be pruned constantly, and the vine’s initial fruit clusters have to be removed as they form. When the vines finally reached the first wire of the trellis, the Heidigs celebrated trading the painstaking work low to the ground for painstaking work they could do standing up.
The winery is housed in an old barn located on the Heidig farm. Built for dairy cows in the 1940s, adapting this structure for a winery proved to be a real challenge. The original floor was not strong enough to support the weight of the tanks, the ceiling was too low to accommodate the height of the tanks, and the roof leaked. The renovation began in earnest when the old cement floor was broken up and removed and replaced with reinforced concrete. The roof traded the old tin for new shingles, and four holes were cut into the loft floor to accommodate the taller fermenting tanks.
Remodeling the interior was the next task. To cut costs, the Heidigs did as much of the work as they could, stretching the forbearance of family and friends to the limit. Two neighbors, Elmo Proffitt and Charley Gentry, were of tremendous help. They spent many weekends constructing the large front door, framing all the doors and windows, and serving as advisors, telling Bill and Ann that certain jobs were not as easy as they thought, and then showing them the right way to do it. In the spring of 1990 the winery was completed.
THE NEXT PHASE
About the same time, the well-respected winemaking consultant, Brad McCarthy, had been hired to oversee cellar operations and in the spring of 2001 suggested that the hiring of a winemaker would give Ann and Bill time to pursue their own interests and allow them to step back a bit from the day-to-day operations. In May of 2001, Graham Bell was brought on board, and in late 2002, the winery business was sold to the two brothers. Bill continues to manage the vineyard, with Jeff and Eric owning and operating the winery business. The goal for future expansion is to further expand production to 8-10,000 cases per year in order to be able to have Jeff involved full-time. In 2002, production grew to 4,000 cases, and in 2003 production reached 5,500 cases.