Saturday, February 09, 2008

First Virginia Wine Expo February 16 & 17

Photo by Lindy Keast

Wednesday, January 30, 2008
Richmond Dispatch-Times

If you haven't experienced the taste of Virginia wine, now's the time to do it.

If you have tasted Virginia wine in the past and didn't like it, now's the time to try it again.

The first Virginia Wine Expo will give you that chance.

At least 42 state wineries will be pouring more than 200 wines in a two-day event that is described by the originator and executive director as one of a kind.

"This is totally different," said Alex Papajohn of the Feb. 16-17 affair at the Greater Richmond Convention Center. "This is a trade and consumer event. This is exclusive. It's educational."

That trade component will feature wholesalers, distributors, wine shops, restaurants, specialty food retailers, grocery stores, bed-and-breakfast inns and the travel and leisure industry interacting with a goal to promote Virginia wine.

But of greater interest to most people will be the wine itself. For those who ignore state wines, or worse, for those who have turned their noses up at these wines after trying them, the event is an opportunity for the state to create new fans.

"One of the challenges the Virginia wine industry faces is how do you change the perception on the part of many wine consumers that Virginia wine is inferior to that of California, France and Australia?" said Papajohn, a 42-year-old University of Richmond graduate and self-described entrepreneur who was hired by the Virginia Wine Association to be executive director of the expo.

"There's no question that the quality of Virginia wine is inching up and up and getting better and better and better, and quite quickly."

Papajohn is right. In recent years, numerous wines from many of the state's 127 wineries have placed high in judgings across the country. Their reputations are growing.

Papajohn conceived the idea of the expo a year ago while attending the prestigious Washington D.C. International Wine & Food Festival. At first, he wanted an international festival with Virginia wines as the focus but with wines from around the world included.

He approached the Virginia Wine Board, which liked the idea to a certain extent. Papajohn said the idea started to come to fruition when David King of King Family Vineyards and the head of the board approached him and said he would almost certainly get support of the state wine industry if this was an all-Virginia event.

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