Virginia’s Surprising Wine Industry

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My Marine son transferred to Quantico, Virginia last year and my wife and I were planning a trip to see him and our grandchildren soon. One of our favorite activities is to investigate wine growing in each state that we visit. My wife did live in Falls Church when her father was at the Pentagon and I have visited the Washington D.C. area many times on business. However, neither one of us knew much about the wine production of the state. Before our trip I knew some research would be needed. What I found out about Virginia’s wine industry surprised me.

Although grape growing first started in the infamous area of Jamestown in the 1600’s, the wine industry was pretty much a failure to begin with. Success finally started to become a reality in the early 1800’s. Notoriety for Virginia wines really came to light at the Vienna’s World Fair in 1873 when a Virginia Norton wine was named “Best Red Wine of All Nations”. The wine industry in the entire United States was drastically set back by Prohibition (1920-1933) and Virginia was no exception. Virginia commercial grape growing totaled only 15 acres in the early 1950’s. Since then, Virginia’s wine industry has experienced wide spread growth and now can claim over 190 different wineries in the state. Virginia is currently ranked 5th amongst U.S. states for wine production.

Virginia is divided into nine recognized wine growing regions. The Northern Virginia, Shenandoah and Central Virginia Regions have approximately 78 percent of all the wineries in the state. The Blue Ridge Highlands, Southern Virginia and Chesapeake Bay Regions account for another 17 percent of the wineries. The remaining regions, Heart of Appalachia, Hampton Roads and Eastern Virginia account for the remaining 5 percent of the state’s wineries. Annette Boyd is the Director of the Virginia Wine Board Marketing Office. In her presentation to the Virginia Vineyards Association in 2009, Annette stated that “Total grape production was up 25% in 2008 from the previous year” and “Total grape production was up 22.8% in 2009” from 2008. The wine industry in Virginia is definitely quickly on the rise.

Virginia’s climate, topography and soils allow growers to cultivate a broad range of great grapes. The combination of these special characteristics that affect wine helps vintners create wines that are especially tasteful with food. Standard wines include Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet France, Chardonnay, Gewurztraminer, Merlot, Virginia Norton, Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris, Pinot Noir, Sauvignon Blanc and Viognier. Virginia Viognier is now recognized as an acceptable term among wine fanciers. Virginia Viognier wine, along with Virginia Cabernet Franc and native Norton, are fast becoming the state’s most notable wines. You will most probably find a Virginia Wine available to enjoy in many upscale restaurants.

If you like to tour various areas that produce wine, Virginia offers an extensive choice of “wine trails” to explore. Bedford County, Blue Ridge, Chesapeake Bay, Loudoun, Monticello, Mountain Road, Shenandoah Valley and Tuskie are just a few of the wine trail names. The character of Virginia abounds with American history and small scattered communities across the state that will make any wine tour you decide to try a truly enlightened experience.

I intend to try some Virginia wines when I visit my son on our next trip. I am sure that I will find one or more to my liking. I am betting, given the broad range of grape varieties found in Virginia, that you also will find one to your liking. As I always say, buy the wine that you like, store it properly in a wine refrigerator and then serve it at the perfect temperature. Your enjoyment of that favorite vintage will be enhanced.


Source by Ron Senn

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