16 May Wine in the Commonwealth
Virginia is Wine Country! This historic part of our country was challenged for centuries to make good wine is indeed at last producing some VERY good wines! When the Pilgrims landed they found a countryside with wild grapes growing abundantly and the crown was pleased! This would be their opportunity to have British wine and not have to import and pay the taxes for wine from France! Unfortunately, the grapes did not make good wine. Often noted as “foxy” with a funky musky aroma the grapes here were not the European V. vinifera. These were rather V. Labrusca, the fox grape. In an effort to try to cultivate the grapes landholders were required to plant a small vineyard. After a while with no success they all just gave up. Even Thomas Jefferson.
We did our tastings in and around Charlottesville and passed by Monticello where Jefferson’s one failure haunted him. He was never able to produce a wine of quality. The land in Virginia so different from Europe and France where he had grown to truly appreciate wine. He spent 30 years trying to cultivate European vines to no success.
At long last wines in Virginia are coming into their own. The Viogniers and Cabernet Francs here are becoming first class, as I can attest to after tasting them. Still with almost 200 wineries in the state, it is a stuggle to find them on a wine list. We had a lovely dinner in Charlottesville at the Downtown Grille and I made sure to let the waitress know that the reason I was getting the Viognier was because it was the ONLY Virginia wine on their wine list that I could purchase by the glass! When you dine support local wine!
Norton is the official native Virginia Grape while Missouri also grows quite a bit. I was reading “The Wild Vine” while traveling, but unfortunately the vineyards that grow Norton were further North than we were going. It gives me an excuse for more tastings on my next trip that way.
Norton we believe is a hybrid of the grape Bland and Petite Meunier. This grape abounded in the state and in the late 1800’s garnered high awards in Vienna and Paris at the World’s Fairs. Unfortunately Prohibition hit and the wine industry in Virginia was a long time coming back. In the mid 70’s 6 vineyards popped up and now with almost 200 only California, Washington, Oregon and New York have more vineyards.
We drove in to Charlottesville in the morning and headed to the Boar’s Head Inn where we were staying. As we were 3 friends from College meeting for a reunion to wine taste, we had booked a suite which was more affordable than 3 individual rooms. The suite was across from the main hotel and encompassed the entire upstairs above the Inn Gift shop. It had recently been renovated and unfortunately the heating and cooling was not working, but the night was pleasant and we ended up opening windows for a cross breeze. There was a sitting room with a pull out sofa bed and a fireplace as well as a small area with a sink and beverage service a bedroom with 2 queen beds and a lovely bathroom. I wish we had been able to spend more time exploring the property. As it was we managed a stroll down to the lake between the beautiful period buildings after a wonderful and elegant breakfast at the Old Mill Restaurant in the main building.
One of my friends has a wonderful husband who insisted on hiring a car service to take us to the vineyards. He is my hero. This allowed us plenty of time to chat and catch up as we drove from vineyard to vineyard. More on that in the next post!
For great in depth information on Virginia Wineries go to Virginia Wine! The site is overflowing with information on the history of Virginia Wines as well as directions for the different wine trails and all the vineyards and wineries!