Virginia on the Vine
In Virginia, more than anywhere else in the South, that promise rings true. The state is by far the leader in our region for consistently good wine. Virginia’s acreage devoted to wineries and the number of wineries here have more than doubled in the past 20 years. That translates into more feedback from the soil (telling vintners what grows best) and from consumers (telling them what sells best).
Come along for a tour. You’ll find great-tasting wine and a whole lot more.
Blend It Like Bordeaux: Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, and Petit Verdot--classic grapes from the Bordeaux region of France--are probably the most recognizable red wine-producing grapes in the state. In fact, if you see the word “Meritage” (which is a legal designation rhyming with “heritage”) on the label, you’ll find a combo of these grapes inside. Definitely Drink: 2006 King Family Meritage, 2006 Jefferson Meritage, 2006 La Grange Meritage, or 2006 Rappahannock Cellars 2nd Bottling Meritage.
Hometown Hero: Virginia’s own Norton grape produces a hearty, Zinfandel-esque red that shouldn’t be missed. Definitely Drink: 2004 Horton Cellars Norton or 2006 Chrysalis Vineyard Barrel Select Norton.
That’s Italian: The influence and growing popularity of Italian wines such as Pinot Grigio (white) and Sangiovese (red) in Virginia is unmistakable (and unmistakably delicious). Definitely Drink: 2005 Ingleside Vineyards Sangiovese, 2005 Villa Appalaccia “Toscanello” (a blend of Cabernet Franc and Sangiovese), 2005 Gabriele Rausse Pinot Grigio, or 2007 Barboursville Pinot Grigio.
A Couple More Surprises: Though not often talked about, Virginia turns out some pretty fabulous sparkling wine, particularly NV Thibaut-Janisson Winery Brut and NV Oasis Brut. If dessert wine is your thing, you’ll flip for Linden’s 2005 Late Harvest Petit Manseng and King Family 2006 “Loreley” Late Harvest Viognier.
At King Family Vineyards, every Sunday through the end of September, watch a polo match on the field just outside the winery. Tailgaters sip wine and watch the regal sport in a laid-back setting.
Get a crash course in all things Jefferson with a visit to Monticello, the former President’s heralded home. Then head just 1 mile down the road for a tasting at Jefferson Vineyards, where the President tried (unsuccessfully) to make wine in the mid-1770s.
Have a late lunch at Palladio, one of the finest restaurants in Virginia. (If it’s on the menu, try the beet-and-goat cheese ravioli with lump crabmeat.) Then, take a tour of the Barboursville ruins. The Jefferson-designed house, built in 1814 and burned in 1884, stands as a tangible and strangely compelling reminder of the living history in this area.
BRIX Marketplace: Across the street from Jefferson Vineyards, this gas station-turned-market sells gourmet sandwiches, olives, cookies, and more.
Greenwood Gourmet Grocery: Just down the road from King Family Vineyards, you’ll find everything local: cheese, honey, meats, you name it. The sandwiches are terrific, and they’ll recommend a wine to pair with the one you choose.
Kluge Estate Farm Shop: This store, adjacent to the Kluge Estate Winery and Vineyard, offers a great selection of cheeses, preserves, and gourmet meals.
Pick up the 2008 edition of the Virginia Winery Guide (available at wineries and tourist information kiosks or by calling 1-800-828-4637) for a travel map listing the state’s more than 130 wineries. Also, visit www.virginiawine.org/passport so you can participate in the Passport to Virginia Wineries program. Visit at least 15 wineries before the end of the year, and you’ll be entered into a drawing for various prizes, including a one-year membership for the Virginia Wine of the Month Club.