A Taster's Journey is a newsletter on food, wine and travel. After 15 years of studying, tasting, teaching, and selling wine, I created this newsletter to not only share my passion about wine, but of food and travel as well. Each month I hope to share wines that I am drinking, food that is in season, restaurants that I have enjoyed, and places I have traveled. Enjoy!"

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Virginia Wine Country

March 15th, 2006

Art at Veritas Winery

Art at Veritas Winery

When you think of wine in the United States, Virginia is probably not the first state you think of. But I believe you would be surprised to know how rapidly it is growing. In 1979 there were 29 wineries, and that number grew to 92 wineries by 2005. Thomas Jefferson actually planted wine grapes immediately after purchasing Monticello in 1770, however commercial wine making really didn’t take off till the 1960’s.

The wineries in Virginia are scattered throughout the state with a large concentration near Charlottesville. But don’t think of Napa Valley where wineries sit side by side up the crowded Route 29. Virginia wineries are scattered, many are old dairy farms that are situated a couple miles off a main road. The highways have signs posted throughout the state guiding you to the wineries, and there are excellent guidebooks so that you get a layout of the region. This website www.virginiawines.org will get you started.

Virginia wineries grow many types of grapes, with the most common varietals being Chardonnay, Viognier, Cabernet Franc, and Merlot. Prior to heading to Virginia I was familiar with just two of the wineries Jefferson Vineyards and Kluge Estate, both quite close to Charlottesville, but for my tastings I ventured a little further southwest and was well rewarded. Del Fosse is a newer winery that is just starting to capture attention. The winery has several new buildings under construction, and acres of newly planted vines. Although quite new, they already produce eight wines, and the highlight of my visit was tasting a barrel sample of their next Cabernet Franc, it was a home run. King Family Vineyards is a huge estate with polo fields and acres of vineyards. King had nine wines to taste, and all were above average. They had a Burgundian style Chardonnay that excelled, and two late harvest wines (Viognier and Cabernet Franc) that were sensational. Veritas is another winery that I would highly recommend. They had a beautiful tasting room with picnic tables outside overlooking the vineyards. This would be a great spot to spend the afternoon. I really enjoyed their Chardonnay and Claret, and my favorite was their Sauvignon Blanc.

Virginia is now the fifth largest wine producing state, and I think you will see it continue to grow. This is a beautiful area of the country, and visiting wineries in this region is a lot of fun. With a lot of new wineries having newly planted vines it is to be expected that their will be plenty of “fair” wines, but on the bright side there will be some gems that will make the whole trip worthwhile.

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