Over 200 years ago Thomas Jefferson dreamed of producing quality American wines from vitis vinifera vines in Virginia. Today his dream is rapidly coming to fruition, as we show in our just-released report on the wines of Virginia. The numbers of wineries and vineyards have exploded over the past two decades. More importantly, Virginia is today producing world quality wines thanks to the research of Bruce Zoecklein and Tony Wolf of Virginia Tech and the pioneering efforts of winemakers like Jim Law, Dennis Horton, Luca Paschina, and many others.
Growing conditions in Virginia are difficult, more similar to Bordeaux than California. Perhaps that’s one reason why one finds more winemakers and winemaking consultants from France, Italy and South Africa than from California. But growers have discovered good sites with well-draining soils and learned how to select the best rootstocks, clones, and grape varieties for Virginia’s terroir. Varieties like Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Petit Manseng [shown here], and Viognier do superbly in much of Virginia.
Although Virginia has 250+ wineries, most are small with limited outreach beyond the commonwealth’s borders. But new investments by Steve Case at Early Mountain, Donald Trump at the former Kluge Estate, John Kent Cooke at Boxwood, and Rutger de Vink at RdV Vineyards reflect the bright future for Virginia wine. Trump and Jean Claude Thibaut have even shown that Virginia can make superb sparkling wine.
The International Wine Review’s Report #45 Virginia Wine Comes of Age explores the past, present and future of Virginia wine. Read the introduction to the report here. The full report can be purchased by non-subscribers here.
Mike Potashnik and Don Winkler