Monday, March 26, 2012


I am Richard Leahy's editor at Sterling Epicure. I also want to acknowledge Diane Abrams, the senior editor there, and Mary Hern, editor, both put a lot of time into this project. I feel compelled to write about this particular book because East Coast Wineries, and Virginia in particular, are my normal realm of coverage. I have reviewed other books on East Coast wine, and more reviews are due. This book, in particular, falls into the wheelhouse of the editorial concerns of this blog, and thus it would be odd for me to not review or say something about this book. That said, this is more a letter from the editor than it is a review.

For 30 years, Thomas Jefferson grew grapes in his Monticello vineyards in hopes of producing fine wine—but to no avail. Today, that has completely changed. Virginia Wines have never been hotter, with markets now evolving in the U.K. and the Far East. From Wine Enthusiast Magazine—which recently named Virginia one of its top ten wine destinations for 2012, to Wine Spectator, the New York Times and the Washington Post, everyone is raving about Virginia wine. Some of the world’s foremost oenophiles, including Jancis Robinson, Kevin Zraly and Dave McIntyre, have all endorsed Virginia as a promising new wine region. Virginia’s wines now have a reputation as some of the best in America, with increasing sales and more wineries (over 200) welcoming an ever-larger number of visitors.

Now, with his forthcoming title Beyond Jefferson’s Vines, (Sterling Epicure/May 1, 2012) Richard G. Leahy, has written the essential book on Virginia wine, covering its history, interviews with the state's top winemakers, and updates on the latest industry developments.

Why Virginia wine? Well, it's one of the fastest growing wine regions in the country. In the last five years, the states number of wines has almost doubled. It has six or seven bloggers who cover its wine industry. It has a state government that has embraced the industry. The state's First Lady has made it her personal mission to promote the industry. The state of Virginia has awarded $4.5 million to help promoting wine and tourism. And it has a fantastic wine promotion director in Annette Boyd, one of the most social active wine region directors in the entire industry (her and Morgen McLaughlin). They also have a dedicated exporter who has established their wines in the UK quite successfully. And most importantly? Virginia is making fantastic wines.

From light crisp, complex whites like Chardonnay, Viognier and Petitie Manseng, to Norton, to Cabernet Franc, to Petite Verdot, to Meritage blends, the wines, one after the other, are fantastic. There are passionate people making wine in Virginia. And now finally there is a book that highlightes them, their devotion to making great wines, and their stories.

The book gives you an insider’s tour of the Virginia wine region, from its early days when Thomas Jefferson established his vineyard at Monticello to a place where yet another new revolution is brewing today—that of great wine. It focuses on the last thirty years but also sheds light on previously unexamined chapters of the eighteenth-century Virginia wine experiment. You’ll see the vast diversity of Virginia wine, from large wineries to brands without wineries that hire custom-crush facilities to make the wine for them.

This is the single best book on what is happening in Virgina wine today. It chock-a-block with the people, the places, and the things that are catapulting this region into a whole new level.

Richard Leahy began writing about wine with a regular column in the Connection Newspaper Group in 1986, and In 1993 he began contributing to the Charlottesville Business Journal on the emerging Virginia wine business, as well as to Vineyard & Winery Management, where he was made East Coast Editor, a position he held for a decade. Under Bruce Cass and Jancis Robinson MW he was Mid-Atlantic and Southern Editor for the groundbreaking Oxford Companion to the Wines of North America (2000) and a regional editor for Kevin Zraly's American Wine Guide (Sterling, 2008-09). He wrote the foreword to Virginia Wine From Grapes to Glass by Walker Elliott Rowe (2009, The History Press) and was featured by Todd Kliman in his book The Wild Vine (2010, Crown Publishing/Random House). He is a member of the Society of Wine Educators and the Circle of Wine Writers and was enrolled in the Master of Wine program for four years. He presented a seminar at the annual conference of the Society of Wine Educators in July 2010 on “Top Virginia Wines Today” and is a member of the Board of Directors of “Drink Local Wine.”

Praise for Beyond Jefferson’s Vines
"Few wine books are written with the kind of attention to detail and research that serve as the foundation for Beyond Jefferson's Vines. Richard Leahy has very obviously poured his heart and his time into this book. The reward for readers is a kind of travel writing that will serve them well on their maiden voyage through one of the country's truly exciting wine regions. Leahy reminds us of the heritage embedded in Virginian soils, and that history pervades the evolution of Virginia wine from ambitious failure to breakthrough success."--Evan Dawson, author of Summer in a Glass, and Managing Editor, New York Cork Report

“Nobody has a better grip on the historic and modern Virginia wine industry than Richard Leahy, who brings a lifetime of studying and tasting wine and living in the heart of Virginia wine country to this project.”-- Sandra Silfven, The Detroit News

"There hasn’t been such an informative, in-depth, and interesting discussion of Virginian wine since Thomas Jefferson first planted vines at his beloved Monticello. A great read and practical guide for oenophiles looking to learn more about some of the wonderful wines made on America’s East Coast."--Mike DeSimone and Jeff Jenssen, The World Wine Guys, Entertaining and Lifestyle Editors, Wine Enthusiast magazine

“Richard Leahy has woven a rich tapestry of Virginia’s wineries and winemakers. If Jefferson could peruse this book a satisfied smile would surely grace his countenance because his dream of quality Virginia wine has been fulfilled. This volume will be referenced often for those seeking to better understand the Old Dominion’s wine ascendency. A riveting and rewarding read.” --John Hagarty,

“Richard Leahy’s Beyond Jefferson’s Vines, is a must-read book for anyone interested in Virginia wine. Richard takes the reader through a fascinating tour of the history of winemaking in Virginia, followed by an enjoyable tour of Virginia wine regions and wineries; biographies of key figures of Virginia winemaking; and a glimpse of the future of quality Virginia wines in an easy-to-read narrative. I thoroughly enjoyed it.”--Kurt Jensen,

“Richard Leahy masterfully captures the past, present and future of a wine region that has grown dramatically in recent years. Pour yourself a glass of a favorite Virginia wine and follow Leahy as he tastes his way through Virginia wine country. Wine aficionados at all levels who want to know more about this emerging wine region will find Beyond Jefferson’s Vines to be indispensable.”–Warren Richard,

"Through direct personal experiences, Richard Leahy is one of the few people who can tell the story of the modern resurgence of the history-rich Virginia wine scene from circa 1970's to the flourishing and diverse industry it is today.”—Dezel Quillen,