That governor of ours — always breaking the good news about Virginia wine first. Hard on the heels of the announcement of the 2015 Virginia Governor's Cup winner (Muse Vineyards’ 2009 Clio) comes this week's announcement that grape production was up 17 percent in the commonwealth last year.
We have good weather to thank for it, plus a lot of vintners putting in the hard work to squeeze out the juice to produce world-class wines. It’s a tough business, wine-making, and the margins are thin. Grape varietals can be fickle and global warming isn’t helping anything.
“Although Virginia wines are garnering global acclaim and sales continue to grow, the industry’s greatest challenge is to plant more vines to meet the increased product demand,” says Todd Haymore, secretary of agriculture and forestry, in the governor’s office’s news release. “The growth in wine sales is outpacing wine grape production figures and that is a trend that must be addressed.”
That’s why the 17 percent figure is so heartening. More juice equals more wine. Right now Virginia has more than 255 vineyards. Given that it takes about three years for vines to grow harvestable grapes, that means not only are established vineyards expanding, but newer ones will start to see a return this year on all of the back-breaking labor involved and potential heartbreak of the business.
Haven’t tried a bottle of Virginia wine? Here are a few of my favorites:
Barboursville Vineyard’s Octagon: This special occasion wine is a bordeaux blend that brings the complex flavors of the grapes to the fore and seems consistently unaffected by vintage — and that’s a good thing. (Governor’s Cup winner) $50.
Williamsburg Winery’s Adagio: A close second for me to the Octagon, this is also a bordeaux blend that you’ll want to bring out for guests you want to impress. (Governor’s Cup winner) $78.
And here a few that are a little easier on the wallet. Remember, Virginia vineyards are small, and you’re going to have to pay a little more than you would for two-buck Chuck or a bottle of chardonnay from Mommy’s Time Out:
Cardinal Point Winery’s Green: One of my favorite all summer long — this crisp wine is a nod to Spain’s famous white varietal, Albariño. $18.
King Family Vineyard’s Crosé: I don’t let the season stop me from drinking rosé. This dry variety still retains delicate fruit flavors and frankly, is too easy to drink. Buy two bottles just in case. $19.
Veritas’ Viognier: The climate in Virginia is perfectly suited for this varietal that’s becoming the state’s most well-known. You’ll find a perfumed white with lots of peach and honey flavor. $23.
Linden Vineyards’ Petit Verdot: This is another varietal that’s usually a blending grape and has been coaxing the spotlight over to our wine industry. It’s a different take on the standard red and a powerhouse of tannins and berries. $30.
Thibaut-Janssen's Blanc de Chardonnay: This sparkling wine makes me wish I lived a champagne lifestyle with a refrigerator full of it. Tiny bubbles, gracious fruit and a crisp finish — what more do you need? $26.