On a recent trip back from Richmond, my girlfriend and I decided to stop at a few wineries on our way home. Being relatively new to Virginia wines, I was excited to see what was happening in the vineyards of Old Dominion. I knew Virginia had a long history with Vitis Vinifera and attempts to plant vines here, but I had not tasted much in recent years aside from that famous indigenous grape made by the winery that rhymes with the variety. I was eager to set out and see for myself the vineyards and surrounding land that give this commonwealth such great potential.
As you may know, Thomas Jefferson tried many times to plant French vines on his estate at Monticello to no avail. Jefferson thought the land was just not suited for the grape vines he loved so much in Bordeaux, France. However, a recent study suggests that the vines never took because of a pest called phylloxera, which was responsible for decimating the vines of his beloved Bordeaux about 100 years later. If he could only taste what we are tasting now: Cabernet Franc, Viognier, sparkling wines made from Chardonnay, and the indigenous and oh-so-interesting Norton!
Despite the great wines of this region, global market viability of Virginia wines is, well, low. We fall to fifth place in wine production just within the U.S. However, this humble student of wine strongly believes that Virginia is on the path to overtaking several of its fellow countrymen and becoming one of the “big boys” of American wine production. I predict we will have a place on the global wine scene within the decade. We have the soil, the climate, the diversity and the passion to accomplish much in the coming years. I think Thomas Jefferson would be proud to see the figurative fruit of the literal seed (okay, it was a vine cutting) he planted approximately 240 years ago.
Interested in taking your own trip around Virginia wine country? Here are a few Virginia wineries I recommend visiting:
- Cedar Creek Winery
7384 Zepp Road
Star Tannery, VA 22654
- Bluemont Vineyard
18755 Foggy Bottom Road
Bluemont, VA 20135
- Cooper Vineyards
13372 Shannon Hill Road
Louisa, VA 23093
What are some of your favorite spots in Virginia wine country?
Timothy Clune is a Certified Sommelier with the Court of Master Sommelier and has an Advanced Certificate from the Wine & Spirits Education Trust. He is the AGM/Beverage Director at Ovvio Osteria in Merrifield, and he teaches classes and hosts tastings as his alter ego, The Wandering Somm. You can follow Tim on Facebook and on Twitter via @wanderingsomm.