The Rise of Virginia Wine
Virginia is rich in history dating back to the original settlement in Jamestown in 1607. Surprisingly, Virginians have been growing vinifera ever since then. Original settlers were mandated to grow at least 10 grape vines in an effort to be a main source of wine to the British Empire. However, an unknown disease, phylloxera and pests made it impossible to sustain. Thomas Jefferson and George Washington even had vineyards on their historic properties in Virginia but were unable to produce wine. The tide turned in 1873 during the Vienna World’s Fair when a Virginia Norton was named “best red wine of all nations”. By the 1950’s and into the 70’s, the industry was full steam ahead by recruiting European vintners to assist with the revitalization. And today, it’s thriving more than ever.
With more than 230 wineries currently operating in Virginia, there are 7 AVA’s in the state:
Shenandoah Valley AVA
Eastern Shore AVA
Washington Birthplace AVA
North Fork AVA
Rocky Knob AVA
Virginia is holding steady at #5 in the United States for grape production and acreage. The total acreage under vine in Virginia is 3,000 acres, harvesting 7,500 tons. But this number keeps growing. As popularity rises, more vintners are moving to the area to get a piece of the pie.
The vineyard managers and winemakers do have a tough job however, fighting the humidity and Mid-Atlantic weather we experience here in Virginia. But this hurdle does not stop the best from making fantastic, taste-worthy wines. You will find that most of the wineries produce Bordeaux-style blends, both white and red. The most popular grapes grown in the state are Chardonnay, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Vidal blanc and Viognier. Other popular grapes include Norton and Petit Verdot which you will find in many blends.
The number of wineries is increasing, year after year. Quite a few of these are producing nationally and internationally awarded wines. Many of those wineries are located in Loudoun and Charlottesville Counties. These regions prove to have the best growing conditions. Barboursville, RdV, Linden, Boxwood and Veritas vineyards are highly awarded locally, nationally and internationally. Thanks to these producers who have put Virginia on the map!
Every popular wine region in Virginia comes with deep history that is worth learning about along with tasting the wine. Loudoun County, aptly named DC’s Wine Country, is only 60 miles west of the nation’s Capital, Washington DC, and an easy day trip for tourists and locals alike.
Charlottesville is also rich in history with Thomas Jefferson’s estate, Monticello. Learn about the pioneer of the American wine industry that started right here in Virginia. Jefferson Vineyards is a must-visit when in this area.
Don’t miss the original settlement of Jamestown in the eastern part of the state. A visit to Williamsburg Winery is a must. One of the largest wineries in the state, the tasting room is a historic building and has its own Inn on the property.
There is an abundance of information on Virginia wine at www.virginiawine.org including a full list of wineries to visit. Stay tuned for many more Virginia wine articles going more in depth with the AVA’s, places to eat and stay while visiting and those must-visit wineries.
Jess Hagadorn is a blogger of all things food, wine and entertaining. Founder of the group, Young Winos of DC, Jess has a passion for bringing people together over wine and social media. Her knowledge of wine extends from her experiences working in the industry from retail, to bar, to winery and currently distribution. You can find her on twitter and Instagram at @jesshagadorn