Virginia wines: How a few vineyards are putting the state on the fine-winery map
By Dana Milbank, The Washington Post
Posted: 12/31/13, 12:03 PM EST |
And for the next 200 years, wines in Virginia — based on native grapes not susceptible to the dreaded louse — were mostly undrinkable. When oenological pioneers revived winemaking in Virginia 40 years ago, the result was, as often as not, something that tasted like detergent. Gradually, the wines became tolerable, if usually unremarkable.
The past several years, however, have brought Jefferson vindication. A new generation of Virginia winemakers has begun to produce wines that can compete with the best of those from California and Europe. Here in the Mid-Atlantic, a petite Bordeaux is taking root. Technological advances in vineyard site selection, viticulture and winemaking have combined to create a critical mass for Virginia, establishing this area as what Decanter magazine in July called “the next big thing in American wine.”
“The current renaissance of serious vintners in the Virginia wine community has made Virginia a major contender,” says Jennifer Knowles, wine director at the Inn at Little Washington, which has 52 Virginia wines in its cellar and this year won a Wine Spectator Grand Award. She calls the wines “beautiful in their balance” and, ranging from $30 to $240 at the Rappahannock County restaurant, competitive with similarly priced wines from California and Europe.
“You look at our climate, and you don’t jump up and down and say, ‘Oh, my God, this is a perfect place to grow grapes,’ ” said de Vink, the RdV proprietor.
“Here, we adjust our winemaking practices to the vintage,” he explains. He cites the example of 2011, “probably the worst year ever in Virginia for growing grapes.” There was Hurricane Irene and a tropical storm. There were 30-odd rainy days before the harvest, causing rot and under-ripe grapes. “We processed very, very gently,” he says. “We didn’t try to extract much at all from the grapes.” He fermented the grapes at a cooler temperature. And, as it turned out, the 2011 wines from Delaplane are, if not memorable, at least clean and without flaws.