I find I’m getting fascinating articles on my social media feed. While some seem to be keeping me in a bubble and seeing reinforcing points of view, others stoke a little bit of annoyance and prompt me to write. Here is one such article… saying that Virginia Wine is finally ready to drink.
The article leads off with:
It’s a fact—somewhat startling—that wine is made in every state in the U.S. now. Of course, it’s fair to ask if wine should be made in every state. But I’d argue that it’s not fair to write off a state’s bottles simply because it’s not California or Washington or Oregon—or even New York.
Recent tastings have convinced me that one state in particular—probably the first, in fact, ever to be associated with wine—is almost ready for its closeup: Virginia. Our most public of early enophiles, Thomas Jefferson, might have done his darnedest to turn Virginia into America’s heartland of wine back in his day. But the truth is, the Bordeaux varieties preferred here have mostly turned out forgettable wines, commercially viable at best. Until recently.
The author then focuses on RdV as the premier example of what Virginia can do. Now, make no mistake, RdV is phenomenal, and I will gladly drink an entire bottle in one sitting because it’s so amazing. But if the broader public was waiting for an exceptional wine like that to drink Virginia wine, they’ve been missing out.
The author lists five specific bottles that she thinks (and so must those who grant wine awards, because they’ve all gotten great press and command high prices) are the standouts that grant Virginia status as a state making wine worth drinking. Her five Virginia wines are:
- RdV Lost Mountain 2015
- Barboursville Octagon 2014
- Early Mountain 2015 Eluvium (I’m still waiting to open mine!)
- 2016 Keswick Reserve Cab Franc
- 2014 King Family Meritage
Now all five of these have received amazing press, high point scores, etc. I think all of them have been in the Virginia Governor’s Cup and won awards too (except RdV, I don’t think he enters state-level contests).
But this article neglects the incredible range of Virginia wines, and frankly I wonder whether the author has bothered to check out the wine scene in Virginia in any depth. Her other articles on the Robb Report are heavily focused on Napa wines. Don’t get me wrong, I cut my teeth on California Wine and still love Cakebread, Silver Oak, Regusci, Cosentino and Elyse, and want to go back to Napa to find other gems there. But the reality is that Napa produces great big mouthfuls of wine that pack tons of punch and power. That style is wonderful and appealing in its own right, but it isn’t the be-all, end-all of wine.
I’d love to introduce the author to Linden and Arterra, where wine is being made that focuses on what the soil and climate can do with the grapes, and what the winemaker can highlight in them. In her article, she has focused on the big showstopper wines that mimic what Napa is doing, rather than wines that really show Virginia and what it brings out in the grapes. In order to really speak to whether Virginia wine is ready for prime time, I think we have to look past the conventional thinking about what the most amazing American wines should taste like, and instead look at what makes wines grown and produced in this area unique, interesting, and highlights what is special about this area.
So I leave you with that thought – love Virginia wine BECAUSE it is made here and highlights what is special here, how the terroir and climate emphasizes different aspects of the grape and develops into something unique, not because some people are producing wine that tastes like wines made in Napa or Bordeaux. Those are good too, and worth tasting and buying, but they are not the only good thing happening in Virginia.
Please understand, I’m glad she wrote this article highlighting and promoting Virginia Wine, but I think she missed so much by only focusing on these few that rival what Napa is doing. There is so much more and so much good happening here that is unique to our state. Virginia Wine isn’t just ready for its closeup – it’s taken a unique and exciting position in the wine world, and it’s well worth it to check out and enjoy. What would you show her in Virginia wine to help her realize that?
7 thoughts on “Is Virginia Wine Good Only Because of a Few Heavy Hitters?”
Fantastic article. Totally agree with you. There are so many great wines available at a cheaper price. To many people telling us what to drink and pushing up the price. I love wine and like to go out and look for the obscure ones. And sometimes you find a gem.
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Thanks for the comment – some of those five are more reasonable, around $40/bottle. The issue to me is really why does everything has to emulate the big CA reds in order to be considered “great?” We’re making GREAT Va Wine here in Virginia, and it’s because it’s different and has its own qualities. We also make great wines that are similar to Napa and Bordeaux. That’s cool too.
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Great article. Very informative and to the point. Truly most people are looking to match the “bar” that Bordeaux, Burgundy and California have set. They don’t realize that they are many “bars” set all over the world, one such being Virginia wines. Wines should be tasted within the context of their terroir and appreciated for the way each is made. As a wine producer myself, I get frustrated when my wines (from the island of Crete) receive comments like “tastes a bit like Chateauneuf”, or “big like Australian”. Virginia wine makers have worked very hard to make wine representative of Virginia terroir and that is exactly the point.
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Thanks for commenting! I agree wholeheartedly. I love Napa wines because they are Napa and represent Napa. I love Va wines because they represent Va. 🙂