2017-07-05 / Wine Notes

Virginia is for Wine Lovers

Robert D. Richards, CSW

While serving as the nation’s first Secretary of State, Thomas Jefferson developed a strong affinity for French wines. As his palate matured, he was convinced that the great grapes of Europe would thrive in his native Virginia, so much so that he planted grapes at his famed home Monticello.

It turned out that Jefferson was a better statesman than viticulturist — his grape-growing foray was not a huge success — but, in many ways, he set the stage for Virginia as an American wine region, and no doubt he would be proud today of how far the Commonwealth has come in the wine arena.

In fact, Monticello is its own AVA (American Viticultural Area), a federal designation that recognizes unique growing conditions in a prescribed location. Virginia has seven AVAs, the majority of which are planted with vitis vinifera, the very category of grapes Jefferson hoped to cultivate.

The climate of Virginia can be challenging, but some vinifera grapes do exceptionally well. Virginia has developed a reputation for Viognier, the floral, dry white that burst on the American wine scene a decade or so ago, and Cabernet Franc, the herbaceous red that once was known only as a blending wine but today often stands alone. Its location south of the Mason-Dixon Line provides a slightly longer growing season, enabling grapes to ripen appropriately.

Virginia now boasts more than 250 wineries and dozens of picturesque wine trails to entice tourists.

Moreover, Jefferson is not the only U.S. president to push Virginia wines. The state’s largest vineyard, with more than 200 acres of vinifera grapes, belongs to Trump Winery in Charlottesville.

Most Virginia wineries are open to visitors and host a variety of events. Checking out the vineyards that dot the various wine trails can be a pleasant way to drink in the scenery of this nearby state.

The state store typically has some offerings from the following wineries, but you can easily order the wines described through the store —  and a purchase of only one bottle is
required. •SCM

Barboursville Viognier Reserve Blend 2015
(#577298, $22.79)
Shows the floral notes that characterize Viognier, along with hints of peach and a touch of citrus.

Barboursville Cabernet Franc Reserve 2014
(#577307, $24.69)
Hints of plums and berries form the heart of this very drinkable varietal.

Williamsburg Winery Acte 12 Chardonnay 2013
(#556280, $16.59)
Shows notes of tropical fruit and citrus with just a hint of peach.

Williamsburg Winery Governor’s White
(#75049, $8.49)
A perfect summer, semi-dry blend noted for its refreshing hints of peach and herbs.

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