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Who's Afraid of Virginia Wine?

By day, and often by night, I am a California wine guy. My personal tastes in wine are more catholic than that though. And I’m not referring to sacramental wine. I have studied the wines of the world, in books and classes and glasses and vineyards. I have tasted many thousands. If you don’t believe me, talk to my liver. It complains in French, German, Italian, Spanish and English (with an Aussie accent).

Despite (or perhaps because of) my foreign dalliances, I haven’t tasted much North American wine from states beyond the West Coast. Take Virginia. Here are things about which I know more than I do Virginia wine: Virginia country ham, Virginia Woolf, Virginia Mayo, extra virgin olive oil, Olive Oyl, Virginia Madsen, the Virgin Islands, Geena Davis, Queen Elizabeth I, Virginia Patterson Hensley, Virginia Dare, virgin cocktails, The Virginian and Ginny Weasley.

Screen capture from the trailer for "The Best Years of Our Lives"

I am not a Virginia wine virgin though. No. I have tasted Virginia’s wine. Some of it anyway. About 30 bottles if I’m honest. They didn’t leave me with a deep, longing thirst for more, but certainly lingering curiosity. A desire to know Virginia in the oenological sense.

Of those wines from Virginia I have tried, I found Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot varietals to be the most convincing. Is that universally true of Virginia, I wonder? I have heard that Viognier is special there, but have not experienced that myself. I love the delicate honeysuckle and tender peach of great Viognier. Can Virginia do that?

Cabernet Franc, grown and vinified in Virginia. Photo: Southern Foodways Alliance

I will soon find out. Mrs. NorCalWine and I fly to Virginia soon for the 2011 North American Wine Bloggers Conference. There, I expect to see, swirl, sniff, sip, swish and spit hundreds of Virginian wines. The state government there encourages that type of behavior. They would love for you to love their wine. Wine tourism is a big part of their plans for economic development in the Commonwealth of Virginia. I'm looking forward to getting a better understand of what Virginia has to offer in that regard.

The Virginia State Flag. The motto translates to "Thus Always to Tyrants." The
in blue looks like he could stomp some grapes.

The conference begins on Friday. I’ll be posting quick articles (Friday and over the weekend) about my experiences in Virginia and my honest thoughts on the wines. If you’re a Twitterer, keep an eye out there too. My Twitter handle is @NorCalWine. You will also be able to see the mostly coherent thoughts of all those in attendance by searching for the hashtag #WBC11. I'll have some conference related updates on my personal Facebook and Google + pages too.

Here are some of the things I’ll be experiencing and, as possible, relaying to you:

  • A keynote address by Jancis Robinson (that alone might be worth the flight to Virginia)
  • A wine reception and dinner at Monticello, home of Virginia’s most famous frustrated wine grower, Thomas Jefferson. Dinners at Monticello are rare (as in “it never happens”), so feel free to be jealous. I wonder if they have WiFi there...
  • An overview of the Virginia wine industry and its growing areas
  • A keynote address by Eric Asimov (always thought-provoking)
  • Live blogging/tweeting as we taste a gazillion Virginian red wines
  • A trip to wineries and vineyards near Charlottesville, VA


Thomas Jefferson's estate, Monticello.
Photo: YF12s 

For now, I’ll leave you with a little trivia quiz about Virginia. Post your guesses in the comments section of this article if you like. The answers are in this post.

1. What is Virginia's biggest export?
a) ham b) computer chips c) wine d) tomatoes e) CIA operatives

2. One of Virginia's nicknames is "Mother to Presidents." How many U.S. presidents were born in Virginia?
a) ten b) nine c) seven d) eight e) too many

3. What is the Virginia state song?
a) they don't have one b) Carry Me Back to Old Virginny c) Oh, Shenandoah d) Old Dominion e) Who Let The Dogs Out

And, in case you were wondering who she is I'll close this article with one of my favorites from Virginia Patterson Hensley:


Follow NorCalWine on Twitter for breaking wine news, information on events and more. Become a fan and join the NorCal Wine community on FacebookAlso check out our comprehensive Northern California winery listings. They are very useful for planning a tasting trip or just getting in touch with a winery.

This article is original to Copyright 2011 NorCal Wine. Banner photo from a photo by Tony. All rights reserved.