Thursday, April 20, 2006

Westcoast Raves for Eastcoast Wines!!!!

Read this fascinating article about raves for eastcoast wines by a Napa Valley reporter!

Dan Berger
Thursday, February 16, 2006 1:12 AM PST

Virginia's vinous bounty

Gordon Murchie must believe in bringing flamingos to Florida or beer to Germany since he has, for the last 15 years, brought wine to California's wine country.

Virginian wine, to be specific, and his latest foray into the darkest reaches of Napa and Sonoma came earlier this month with wine tastings intending to raise the awareness of locals about the fact that the home state of Thomas Jefferson also makes darn good wine.

But where California boasts it is king with cabernet sauvignon and chardonnay, Virginia is proud of cabernet franc and viognier. The state now has 122 bonded wineries and a growing list of fans.

I judged the 1989 Virginia Governor's Cup wine competition and saw a nascent industry at a stage when only a tiny number of the wines were even commercially sound. Far too many were undrinkable.

Today's tasting at the Sonoma County Welcome Center wasn't heavily attended. But those who showed up got a chance to try some remarkably fine wines, many from the personal cellar of Murchie, a lifelong Foreign Service officer and now the president of his state's Vinifera Wine Growers Association.

"A number of these wines are sold out," said Murchie, pointing to a handful of newly released cabernet francs. "Demand for them is pretty strong."

Murchie's quest to enlighten the Californian heathens to Virginia's vinous bounty is selfless. No one pays his way. He's sort of the Johnny Wineseed of the Old Dominion state.

What was evident in the tasting was that as good as the white wines of Virginia are, it was cabernet franc that stood out. I found many to recommend.

Cabernet franc is a potentially superb red wine grape for many states that cannot hope to compete with California's cabernet sauvignon in terms of weight, concentration, power and overall "impressiveness."

There is nothing "impressive" about Virginia's cabernet francs except the fact that they smell good, taste good and go great with food. In fact, where most of California's cabernet sauvignons today are 14.5 percent alcohol or higher, most of the cabernet francs from Virginia weighed in at a refreshing 12.5 percent, with a few of the "heavyweights" at 13.0 percent!

Another impressive thing about Virginia cabernet francs is that most hover under the $20 price barrier, and are francly (pun intended) terrific red wines to pour with dinner.

The best for me was the 2004 Barboursville Cabernet Franc ($20), with a deep earthy-cherry aroma and a faint black pepper note for complexity. I also liked the Wintergreen Cabernet Franc ($18), with its fresh and dried cherry complexity and great structure, and the 2003 Lake Anna Cabernet Franc ($18), with cherry and spice characteristics.

Cabernet franc is also a superb grape variety in New York's Finger Lakes district, and it has been made into an attractive wine by a number of California wine makers, from Cosentino and Clos du Val in the Napa Valley to Raymond Burr in Sonoma.

Murchie's two-person march through California wine country with the Virginia wines (his wife, Anita, was an integral part of his passionate trek) shows him to be extremely knowledgeable about wine in general, and he doesn't tout Virginia the way Sheldon Leonard touted horses to Jack Benny.

Despite his pleasure in how fast Virginia has leapt into the world of great wine, he doesn't overplay his hand and merely suggests that those with an interest in wine visit Virginia and try them on site.

To do that painlessly, he suggests calling (703) 373-6000 for a copy of the free, informative guide to Virginia wineries, just published.

Wine of the Week: 2005 Four Emus Sauvignon Blanc-Semillon, Western Australia ($11) -- Very stylish white wine that has a trace of fresh fruit, new mown hay and melon from the former grape, and a bit of a stalky quality from the latter. Nice crisp finish. Should work well with a wide variety of seafood dishes finished with lemon rather than butter or cream.

Dan Berger resides in Sonoma County. Berger publishes a weekly newsletter on wine and can be reached at

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