8 Chains North is part of Furnace Mountain Vineyards, LLC, owned and operated by Ben Renshaw. Founded in 2006, Ben and his father planted the first vineyard, Furnace Mountain, on Ben’s sister’s farm north of Leesburg, Va. on the Potomac River. The first bottling under the 8 Chains North brand occurred in 2007, and in 2010, Renshaw created a permanent home for the winery in a renovated barn in Waterford, Va.
Renshaw is, at his core, a vineyard guy. He manages 8 Chains North’s three Loudoun County vineyards—Furnace Mountain, Waterford (the site of the winery), and Shoemaker School—plus another local winery’s vineyards. Ben’s tireless work in the field makes the critical difference in the cellar, where his style can best be described as hands-off. His commitment to viticulture is renowned in the region, and we are proud to play a vital part in the Virginia—and especially the Loudoun County—wine community.
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Importantly, Ben has established 8 Chains North to embody the true spirit of a boutique Virginia farm winery. We own it, grow it, make it, and sell it. As the owner, he, along with his staff, must navigate the myriad issues involved with being a farm winery—federal, state and county rules and regulations, planning for the growth of the business, including expanding our vineyards and identifying the most suitable grapes to plant. He is our grower; Ben cultivates all of our vineyards from planting to harvest. Ben is also our winemaker, and creates handcrafted Old-World-style wines. Finally, and the point of it all, his greatest pleasure is for you, the customer, to appreciate his craft—the wine!
8 chains north of what?
First, a chain is a unit of measurement—66 ft. to be exact. In 1620, English clergyman Edmund Gunter developed an accurate, low-tech method of surveying land using a chain that consisted of 100 links. In the U.S. during the 19th century, it was commonplace for surveyors to use the chain to lay out townships and map the country along train routes. And in 1785, the U.S. government passed a federal law that required all official government surveys be conducted using a Gunter’s chain.
The second part of this riddle has to do with the location of our original vineyard, Furnace Mountain, which is planted on the owner’s sister and brother-in-law’s farm of several hundred acres along the Potomac River north of Leesburg. During the Civil War, Confederate engineers dug down the banks of the river to make a crossing for the wagons and artillery of the Army of Northern Virginia. The site of this riverbank cut is on the farm and is 1.8 chains (118.8 ft.) upriver of White’s Ford where army crossed the Potomac into Maryland. So why “8 chains north” instead of “1.8 chains north,” you ask? Frankly, the former just sounds better.
Take a look at our wine labels, where you’ll see a map of Loudoun County and a dot or star next to the Potomac River, designating the location of farm. And in our tasting room, you’ll find a large photo of the farm, vineyard and the banks of the Potomac River where the riverbank cut was made.