I LOVE Virginia wine. However, it wasn’t love at first sight (or in this case, love at first taste).
I didn’t always like wine. I typically prefer sweet drinks and on the rare occasions that I drank wine, my go-to was White Zinfandel (don’t judge).
A friend I used to hang out with was a big wine lover and a member of a wine club. When I told him that I didn’t like wine, he took it as a personal challenge.
From then on, every time we’d hang out, he’d bring over a bottle of wine for me to taste. I didn’t like any of them until he brought over a bottle of German Riesling (so delicious!!) After that, I liked wine (at least German Rielsling) and drank only that.
My love affair with Virginia wine began when I moved from Maryland to Northern Virginia.
I couldn’t believe how many wineries there were within an hour of where I live! Then, when I went with my boyfriend to visit his family in Central Virginia (near Charlottesville), there were even more wineries. They seemed to be everywhere we went!
So I began visiting wineries all over Virginia and continue doing so to this day. With hundreds of wineries throughout Virginia, it’ll take me some time to visit them all…but I’m up for the challenge!
Now, its time for you to get to know Virginia wine, too.
WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW ABOUT VIRGINIA WINE
1. The first grape vines were planted in Virginia nearly 400 years ago.
In 1619, a law was passed by the Virginia House of Burgesses requiring the first colonists to plant 10 vines for each man. The reason? It was thought that in the years to come, vineyards would be one of three key factors in the growth and success of the New Colony; farming and cattle were the other two factors.
In 1771, Thomas Jefferson returned from a trip to Europe, determined to produce wine similar to those he tasted in Italy. He imported some grape vines and brought an Italian man over to tend to them on his land at Monticello. However, despite his efforts, Jefferson was unsuccessful in cultivating the vines and never produced a bottle.
2. Virginia offers the ideal environment for vineyards.
Despite Jefferson’s failed attempt at wine production on his Monticello estate in Charlottesville, Virginia’s “terroir” (pronounced “ter–wahr,” the total natural environment in which the wine is produced) is perfect for growing grapes.
Don’t believe me? Just look at the vast number of wineries across Virginia (several hundred and growing).
The combination of the climate, soil, and elevation have attracted winegrowers, resulting in a thriving wine industry and the nickname “the Napa Valley of the East Coast. ”
3. Virginia has become a top destination on the East Coast for wine and winery tourism.
In the 5 years between 2010 – 2015, winery tourism in Virginia grew 39%. (Source: Virginia.gov)
On any given weekend (typically during the Spring, Summer & Fall), the parking lots and tasting rooms at Virginia wineries are packed with customers.
Wine tastings (sometimes paired with food, truffles, and even Girl Scout cookies) and winery tours are popular. Many wineries feature live music and serve food (or have food available on site or from food trucks) as well.
4. Virginia has its own “official” grapes.
Although a wide variety of wines are produced throughout the Commonwealth, there are two grapes that are recognized as Virginia grapes: (1) Viognier (“vee-own-yay”) and (2) Norton.
Viognier grapes can be used to produce dry white wines or sweet, late harvest wines. Norton grapes are used to produce red wines with taste profiles similar to those found in Europe. These native American grapes are named after Dr. Daniel Norton who discovered that they were well suited for growth in Virginia soil.
5. Virginia produces many award-winning wines.
When you visit the wineries throughout Virginia, you will notice many award-winning wines proudly displayed for visitors to see. And proud they should be!
Blood, sweat, and tears…along with a great palate and a lot of know-how…go into every bottle of wine produced.
The annual Governor’s Cup competition was held. Over 490 wines – from traditional table wines to fruit-centric dessert wines – were submitted for evaluation to the Virginia Winery Association. All wine entered into the competition were produced using fruit grown in Virginia.
Out of 490 entries, 12 Virginia wines outscored the others and made it into the Virginia Wineries Association 2017 Governor’s Cup Case.
|Michael Shaps WIneworks 2014 Monticello Meritage||King Family Vineyards 2014 Loreley|
|Veritas Vineyards and Winery 2014 Petit Manseng||Breaux Vineyards 2012 Meritage|
|Ingleside Vineyards 2014 Petit Verdot||Jefferson Vineyard 2014 Petit Verdot|
|The Barns at Hamilton Station 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon||Barboursville Vineyards 2014 Paxxito|
|Veritas Winery and Vineyard 2014 Petit Verdot||Horton Vineyards 2015 Viognier|
|Valley Road Vineyards 2014 Petit Verdot||King Family Vineyards 2014 Petit Verdot|
6. Wine festivals are offered throughout the year.
Each year, there are a variety of wine festivals throughout Virginia. At each festival, attendees can taste the wine from numerous wineries in one place, making Virginia wine very accessible. For example, the annual Virginia Wine Festival typically showcases 50+ wineries.
In addition to the great selection of wines, festivals also feature a wide array of food, live music, and a variety of vendors.
For a list of Virginia wine festivals, click here.
7. The Virginia wine industry is one of the fastest-growing agricultural segments in Virginia.
The wine industry in Virginia contributes $1.37 billion to the economy annually. It is the 5th largest wine producer in the U.S. with the 5th highest number of wineries. As the industry continues to grow, new jobs will be created, thereby lowering the unemployment rate. Win-win!
Many wineries offer amazing scenic views and often, the drive to get to them is just as awe-inspiring.
There are nearly 300 wineries, 28 wine trails, 10 winemaking regions, and 7 American Viticultural Areas (AVAs) in Virginia so get going. You have a lot of wine tasting in your future!