Photo: Joel Goldberg
Photo: Joel Goldberg

A Day in the Life: Cobbler Mountain’s Laura McCarthy Louden

Cobbler Mountain Cellars has a history that’s more than a half-century old, and it has been preserved largely thanks to its current owners, Jeff and Laura McCarthy Louden.

The winery-cidery resides at the foot of a small mountain, quietly hidden from nearby Interstate-66 in Delaplane, Virginia. There, Laura works alongside her husband to produce a medley of ciders – such as the seasonable harvest pumpkin – all while managing a house bustling with her children and their cousins.

With Cider Week VA quickly approaching on November 10-19, we decided to catch up with Louden about Cobbler Mountain. She shared some tricks that helped the couple grow their business and described her approach as DIY, which she evinced by battling through her interview with a broken tooth.

With a wholesome country drawl and in the company of her dog, Corky – who spent the entire interview snooping around the picnic table – Laura provided a glimpse into her life, and her experiences in the wine and cidery businesses.

On Tap: How did the farm come to be in your family?
Laura McCarthy Louden: My father wanted to take his writing into the classroom and teach in the countryside. He started spending a lot of weekends driving out here, and was able to make contact with the farmer. Together, they made a handshake deal on the steps of the old farmhouse – 90 acres for $100 an acre.

OT: At what point did you and Jeff become the owners?
LML: My mom held onto the farm for 40-plus years [following Laura’s father’s death]. He bought it in August of 1959, and we moved in in September of 2009. For us, it turned into, “Alright, what do we to do to get started?” We just got it into motion.

OT: What inspired you and Jeff to open a winery-cidery? Has producing wine and cider always been a shared passion of yours?
LML: When we were first married, he had small batches all over the place – wine, ciders, beer. [My daughter Olivia’s] bedroom closet backed up to our kitchen pantry, where [Jeff] always had a five-gallon vessel brewing. Olivia came down the hall and said, “Daddy, Daddy, the merlot has fermented. I can smell it in my closet!” That’s when the light bulb went off that I needed to introduce Jeff to the farm. I grew up wanting to be here. But until you meet the right person or something happens in your life, you don’t have that push.


COBBLER MUST-HAVES

Laura and Jeff’s partnership
Their customers, staff
and volunteers
Brand integrity
Quality fruit
Bottles


OT: What was it like getting the business up and running?
LML: Ten thousand visitors trickled in [during] the first 18 months. Over the years, it’s tripled. Production has expanded like crazy. Jeff is taking a break from new wine production. He’s produced many award-winning wines, and enjoyed making them. [But] he’s found his favorite to produce is the hard cider. And in order to keep up with that demand, which is grand, we’re focusing on channeling our time, energy and financial efforts into the cider production, allowing wine to pause.

OT: In what ways is Cobbler Mountain an eco-friendly business?
LML:
I have a lot of respect for the environment. When someone is planning a party out here, no Styrofoam is permitted by any of our customers. When we first opened, we recycled every single bottle – customers would return their bottle in exchange for a complimentary glass of wine. Now [with] the four-pack carrier, there’s an invitation to recycle it [and] bring it back to us ready to refill with four new bottles. And each time you take it on another trip and recycle it, I’ll pour you a complimentary pint.

OT: What’s your favorite style produced at Cobbler Mountain?
LML:
I don’t usually like to tell anyone that, so that I don’t influence them. [But we] both absolutely love the Traditional Jeffersonian – that is the classic. I’m a ginger fanatic, so I love both of his gingers.


CAN’T LIVE WITHOUT

Laura and Jeff’s partnership
Bath salts
Outdoor showers
Chaco shoes
Cider


OT: How would you describe the Cobbler Mountain community? Who visits?
LML:
I call it a baseball diamond day when customers have visited from the greater DC area, [or when] I discover a customer that is actually a neighbor surrounding the mountain. That is a huge difference – moving from the suburbs of South Carolina to farmland in Northern Virginia – because it’s not just a little neighborhood. You’re not living in the city where your block is your community. Our community is our customers, our farm community and our industry.

Visit Cobbler Mountain Cellars’ website at www.cobblermountain.com to learn more about the winery-cidery, and how they’re celebrating Cider Week VA.

Cobbler Mountain Cellars: 5909 Long Fall Ln. Delaplane, VA; 540-364-2802; www.cobblermountain.com

Joel Goldberg

Joel Goldberg is a proud Philadelphia area native, and has lived in DC off and on since starting college at George Washington University in 2008. In addition to reporting for outlets such as NPR and National Geographic Magazine, he has dabbled in literary and science fiction. He has performed readings at fellow On Tap writer Courtney Sexton's The Inner Loop, a literary series in DC. His work seeks to emphasize the human element of storytelling by examining people's behaviors, personalities, experiences and beliefs. Personally, he believes that his love for dogs and neglected 90s rock is unmatched.