If you’re not yet acquainted with Virginia Wine Country, now’s the time: On the cusp of decades of growth, and with a generation of bold winemakers guiding it forward, the windswept, salt-sprayed, lush green patchwork of Old Dominion terroir is coming into its own.
And while the state does have close to 400 years of (some sort of) enology behind it, it’s the last 40 or so that found Virginia hitting its stride, largely as winemakers stopped chasing popular wine styles and started reading the local terroir, figuring out which grapes excel where.
Not that the growing’s exactly easy. Yes, Virginia ranks sixth in the nation’s top wine-producing states, but Virginia’s also home to the kind of hot, sticky climate that can prove disastrous in wine country (wet weather encourages green, not grapes, not to mention it can cause rot in tight grape clusters). Fortunately, Virginia has (at least) two major things going for it to counterbalance climate issues: diverse geography and strong winemakers. The former means a variety of microclimates (and a diverse slew of grapes to match); the latter means skill and confidence in working with those grapes from year to year.
The result: Virginia is producing a whole new cast of exciting, intriguing, and award-winning wines that are finally beginning to make it beyond state lines, which means you’ll have to learn a few more names — see “Getting to Know the Grapes” below. But who says you have to wait for Virginia wines to reach you? The state has over 300 wineries (a number that’s doubled in the last decade or so) and more people are visiting Virginia tasting rooms every year. If you’re thinking about going, trust us: The wines are worth the trip.
The state of Virginia grows about two dozen wine grape varieties — some more familiar (like Chardonnay, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon) and some less so (Rkatsiteli, Petit Manseng, and Norton). While you’ll find plenty of familiar red and white grape varieties, some of Virginia’s best successes are a bit off the beaten path.
This article is sponsored by Virginia Wine.