Daily Archives: October 1, 2008

Virginia Wine Making Headway on The National Scale

There is a great article on the Virginia Business Magazine’s website today detailing the growing presence on Virginia Wine on the national scale.  What a great way to kick off the 20th Anniversary of VA Wine Month!


Here are a few of the highlights – (my comments to each are in blue) Click the article link above to read it in its entirety.

“At restaurant Tru in Chicago husband and wife chefs Rick Tramonto and Gale Gand preside over one of the nation’s most innovative kitchens. The wine list alone tempts patrons with 1,700 labels from venerable producers throughout the world. So why would Chad Ellegood, the restaurant’s wine director, be striding through the dining room clutching a bottle of Barboursville Vineyards 2006 Reserve Viognier from upstart Virginia?

Tru has been offering a 10-course dining experience called the “Sommelier Collection” at the prix fixe of $350 per person, including tax and tip. One of the lineups featured in this special program begins with the Barboursville Viognier. It’s served with a grape gelee topped with a crab and cucumber salad. The meal moves on to nine other courses anchored by ultrapremium wines such as a French Meursault, Italian Brunello and German Traminer Trockenbeerenauslese”

This is great to see Virginia wines being offered on restaurant wine lists outside of the state, especially at James Beard Award winning restaurant in a dining mecca like Chicago.  Barboursville is quite large on the VA wine scale as far as case production goes so I hope to see some of the smaller wineries reaching out across state lines in the future. I realize that this is not in the best interest for in the short term though as it reduces profit margins for the smaller wineries, but in the long term, it will bring more business and recognition to the state.

“These days, insiders describe the industry as “distinctive” and “understated.” Yet the label some people yearn for is “blockbuster.” To get there, they say Virginia and its winemakers need more production, marketing and distribution. Plus, they need to make the price point more accessible. Not everyone is willing to pay the going rate of $20 to $45 for one of the better bottles of Virginia wine.” 

The price-point is where I feel a lot of Virginia wineries get hurt. Production costs are higher due to the small production of most of the wineries and without established reputation it hard to stomach the usually doubled or tripled price points of similar quality wines from around the world.  This is not to say that a good percentage of wineries are charging what I feel is proper pricing for their wines, but a lot of wineries get away with over pricing their product to customers willing to pay for locally produced goods.

“Many of Virginia’s longtime winemakers agree. “We are a provincial, regional industry and always have been, but now there are some big players and people are focused on competition, global competition,” says Jim Law, the owner-winemaker of Linden Vineyards in Northern Virginia’s Fauquier County. “So far, it’s been easy to sell Virginia wine to Virginians, but we will soon saturate that local, patriotic market, and we won’t be able to sell wines just because they are from Virginia. We’ll sell wines because they are of high quality.””

Well said!

“Reports about Virginia wines in influential publications have been kinder recently, after some rocky decades. The watershed tribute to Virginia winemaking that appeared in the New York Times in 2000 — written by the late Times staffer and gourmand R.W. “Johnny” Apple Jr. — reflected the critical skepticism of the 1980s and ‘90s.  The headline read, “Jefferson Gets His Wish: At Last, a Decent Bottle of Virginia Wine.”

Then came Virginia’s anointment last year by Travel & Leisure magazine. Wine and spirits editor Bruce Schoenfeld gave the state’s industry a big boost by including it, along with regions in Italy, Spain, Chile and New Zealand, as one of the world’s up-and-coming wine destinations. “Until recently,” he wrote, “I’d felt that [Virginia] had been trading on the grape-growing reputation of noted wine lover Thomas Jefferson for 200 years without producing anything worthy of mention. Then a single bottle convinced me that Virginia was ready for consideration.” That bottle was a Barboursville 1999 Nebbiolo. Schoenfeld later in the article also praised the Linden 1999 Hardscrabble Chardonnay.”

In the short 5 years that I have been drinking Virginia, I have seen a dramatic improvement in the quality across the board. So I can only imagine, what kind of changes people are realizing that have been following the Virginia wine industry for 15-20 years.  

So in the spirit of VA Wine Month, get out and experience Virginia wines, find you favorites and buy it up! For out of state folks, a good percentage of the Virginia wineries now ship out of state so there are no excuses. That is unless you are in one of those states that cannot be shipped too. L


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