Friday, May 12, 2006

Sandra Silfven, Detroit Free Press Laud Virginia Wines!!!!

Highly acclaimed Detroit Free Press and Detroit News wine writer Sandra Silfven has written a wonderful column about Viriginia Wines in her most recent wine column.

Entitled, Race for 2006 Virginia Governor's Cup shows wineries making progress, Silfven writes, "Virginia wineries are where New York’s were about five years ago – building a reputation for certain varieties and knocking on every door to get recognition for them. The vintners fight the same battle that plagues all the American wineries outside the West Coast –– they aren’t on the West Coast.

"As the second most vibrant wine industry in the East behind New York, the modern Virginia wine industry has been doing enough research and development for 25 to 30 years to figure out that Viognier, Cabernet Franc, Merlot and Norton usually can ripen without disease or loss of balance from the hot, sticky climate. Other varieties of interest include Petit Verdot, Petit Mensang and the southern French varietal Tannat.

Rockbridge Vineyard in western Virginia's Shenandoah Valley.

Chris Breiner of Stone Mountain Vineyards is the winemaker of the estate founded by his father, Al Breiner.

"At this writing, the wineries were being informed of their medals, but the big winner will remain a secret until the presentation of the Virginia Cup by Gov. Tim Kaine in June.

"I found some great wines, which I hope either got gold medals or the Cup itself," wrote are some of her recommendations....

2005 Stone Mountain Chardonnay, grown high up in the Blue Ridge Mountains in Greene County, at an elevation of 1,700 feet. The wine has vibrant fruit, palate-cleansing acidity and a nice mineral finish. The winery gets lots of attention because of its location. Judges who visited the winery in the past described the drive there as up a rough and tumble (and scary) one-lane “road” so steep you found yourself only able to view the hood of your car. Founder Al Breiner selected the site for its gorgeous location and is famous for saying he should charge for the view and give the wine away. The Breiners have done a great job of getting the wine into Northern Virginia restaurants. At some spots I visited, it was the only Virginia wine available there. Read more about Stone Mountain.

2005 Rockbridge V d’Or dessert wine, with amazing balance from its blend of Vidal Blanc, White Riesling, Traminette and Vignoles. Owner/winemaker Shep Rouse, a Virginian who got a Master’s degree in enology at UC-Davis, worked at top properties in California and returned home in 1988. He bought a farm in northern Rockbridge County, in the Shenandoah Valley, at a higher elevation than most Virginia vineyards. This particular wine, given its name by John Curtis, co-owner of the Trellis restaurant in Williamsburg, is notable for its acidity, which gives structure to the sweet fruit. Rouse said in a phone interview that he is the only grower of Vignoles in Virginia, a varietal that has plenty of acid. He explained that the hot, humid nights in the late summer in Virginia can dilute acidity and become a problem. Rouse also makes a Riesling (amazing for Virginia) with 2 percent sugar and bottles it with a screwcap. See a Photo Tour of Rockbridge.

2002 Barboursville Malvaxia Passito, another dessert wine, with huge body and mouthfeel. This most unusual wine is a blend of Malvasia, Moscato and Vidal grapes, which are air-dried on woven mats before being gently pressed. It’s a rich, honeyed wine that could handle foie gras or rich shellfish quite nicely. Barboursville is owned by the Zonin family of Italy and is a pioneer in the modern Virginia wine industry with its founding in 1976. Claudio Salvador, now winemaker and owner of Firelands and Mon Ami in Ohio, helped build this winery. Now, with Luca Paschina as winemaker and general manager, Barboursville is a leader in the state. Learn more about Barboursville Winery.

Read about the winner of the Virginia Governor's Cup in this column next month. Check out the state's official winery Web site. Also check out the Virginia Wine Guide by the Virginia Wine and Food Society.

For her columns, go to:
And you can write to her at:

Race for 2006 Virginia Governor's Cup shows wineries making progress, by Sandra Silfven, Detroit News, Detroit Free Press, May 11, 2006