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Punch Drunk

This Week: Jack braves the uncorked masses at the 2011 Virginia Wine Expo


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The 2011 Virginia Wine Expo took over a huge hall in the Greater Richmond Convention Center last weekend. I'm not your typical wine snob but from time to time I appreciate the subtleties of a good red, so I secure a press ticket — plus, how much vodka can one man drink in a week?

The convention is massive in scope, featuring more than 60 Virginia wineries and a variety of other vendors, some more explicable than others. (A bathtub refitter? Really?) Strangely enough, the Virginia Lottery has a booth where you can buy your Mega Millions and Powerball tickets. The state really enjoys luring the older, monied Caucasian set into one big room, getting them sauced, then bleeding them dry. Who can blame Virginia? Have you seen our state budget?

The Friday night kickoff to the event, the awarding of the Virginia Governor's Cup, starts with the usual hour-long procession of boosters and sponsors and rah rah rah, wine is important to Virginia because of this, SunTrust Bank is integral to the Virginia wine industry that.

The usual long-winded displays of back-patting ensue.

I suppose that after growing from only six wineries in 1979 to more than 190 wineries today, the industry and the state deserved all the praise they lavish upon one another. There's no denying that Virginia is becoming a powerhouse on the domestic wine scene.

With the governor absent from the Governor's Cup, first lady Maureen McDonnell pinch hits with an appearance. Then we're released onto the tasting floor to sample Virginia's finest. For about an hour or so, I tolerate exaggerated tasting notes from enthusiastic — yet how in the hell are they financially solvent? — Virginia wineries about how their grapes were originally grown by James Monroe and have flourished in soil found only in Loudoun County and that the optimum seasonal climate change for this grape exists only on a picturesque 4-acre plantation in New Kent County and other such nonsense, if only to enjoy three measly drops of not-so-good wine per sales pitch.

Still, a minor deterrent on the path to wine inebriation. Until …

A pompous, salmon-panted prick is overheard trying to impress his date at the Williamsburg Winery booth: “Why yes, this wine is more aggressive.”


Bengal tigers are aggressive. Blake Griffin is aggressive. The combination of a large air attack and fast-moving Panzers mowing down Poland was aggressive. That $8 Meritage you're pretentiously swirling is not aggressive. Ass.

Suppressing the urge to scream, I shudder violently, turn heel and am out the door, the notes of the onstage string quartet wafting behind me, propelling me to a bar where a man would never “nose” his drink. No wine is worth having to hear people spout utter tripe like that.

Though I appreciate the hard-working small business owner, and in many cases small farmer, it's just difficult for me to stomach the amplified prose of these people. Foodies and wine-ies are one in the same. (Winos are cool though.)

I will tell you that just as in previous years, Barboursville Octagon, a Bordeaux-style blend, is my personal favorite, as well as the favorite of many others in the crowd. Another winery that never disappoints is Horton Vineyards, and this year is no exception.

As for the official awards, Fox Meadow's Le Renard Rouge wins the Governor's Cup, signifying that it's the best red wine in the Commonwealth. Which is basically like winning the best in show at Westminster. No one knows how it's judged and the only ones who care are some really silly people who would never be caught dead buying a Mega Millions ticket.

Fill Up Your Cup and Shoot 'Em Up: As predicted in my last column, State Sen. Donald McEachin's Bill 1395, which would make it illegal to drink while carrying a firearm, has failed. The powerful gun lobby's hypnotic hold over the state continues.

I'll see you at the bar later. Remember to pack your heat.

This is Libya, right?

Richmond bartender Jack Lauterback contributes to Mixology magazine in Germany, tweets @jackgoesforth and blogs at jackgoesforth.blogspot.com. E-mail: bartender@styleweekly.com.


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