Being as October is, for the 24th year, Virginia Wine Month, it seems appropriate to comment on the wines of the Old Dominion. The Governor certainly seemed to agree as he and the state’s First Lady last weekend hosted what has been reported to be a very sucessful get-together of noted international wine celebrities, producers from all over the state, and a widespread press cadre. Keynote speaker Steven Spurrier (Decanter columnist, founder of the Paris Wine Academy, and protagonist in the movie Bottle Shock) called Virginia a “solid competitor in the global wine marketplace” and credited that placement to “place, product, and people.”
The Governor called attention to what has become true throughout American wine country, that wine is an important link between agriculture and tourism causing people to see “our beautiful state” and experience our fine wines.
Data show that Virginia is the fifth largest wine production area in the United States, currently boasting 210 wineries. Last year, production exceeded five-and-a-half million bottles, generating for the state more than $750,000,000 and employing some 4,700 people.
But this summit meeting also established a quality factor for Virginia wines. In blind tastings of eight competitions of like wines from California, Italy, and France, Virginia wines took first in five of them. Attendees also predicted a splendid harvest in 2012. It started before the end of August, on average more than two weeks early around the state. Much of the Chardonnay and Viognier grapes had been harvested by the end of the first week in September.
As a Hoosier, I must also point out an Indiana connection. John H. (“Rock”) Stephens, the 2011 Virginia Grape Grower of the Year and a past-president of the Virginia Vineyards Association, is a graduate of Purdue. Now if we could only get Virginia wines into Indiana retail stores.