“I apologize for the extremely late notice, but wanted to invite you ladies on our Virginia Crush Bus this Saturday,” began the e-mail from Danielle at the Virginia Tourism Corporation. You may remember from previous posts that October is Virginia Wine Month. For Virginia Wine Month’s 24th year, Virginia Wine and Virginia Tourism teamed up with Whole Foods to celebrate Virginia state wines, culminating in a sweepstakes for two one day excursions into two wine regions: Loudoun County and the Monticello Trail outside of Charlottesville. We would be joining the winners of the Loudoun County trip, visiting three wineries. Along the way, we would have lunch at the Market Table Bistro in Lovettesville. Since there is so much to talk about, I am breaking the experience down into a few posts. This first one is more or less a little background. Of course I will share my tasting notes with you, though I haven’t decided whether each winery will have its own post yet. Then I will share a recipe inspired by the dishes we had at lunch, which I also think might be a lovely addition to the Thanksgiving table.
Just as we arrived at the Fair Lakes Whole Foods, the Virginia Crush Bus was pulling into the town center. So exciting! We found Danielle setting things up outside. Coffee, juice, water, pastries, and fruits to keep us energized for a very full day, courtesy of Whole Foods. We were also joined by Jennifer from Visit Loudoun and Mary Catherine from Virginia Wine. Half an hour or so later everyone had arrived. The rules were read, and we were boarding the Crush Bus. Aaaaall aaabooaard! Yeah!
With some time to kill on our way to the first winery, we occupied ourselves talking about…you guessed it…wine! The contest winners came from all over the region: D.C., Maryland, Northern Virginia, even as far away as Virginia Beach. To my surprise, there were a few who had never had Virginia wine before nor had visited any of their local wineries. Hence the inspiration behind the Virginia Crush Bus, which was to show locals, “The gem in your own backyard,” as Danielle phrased it. You already know Emilie and I are fans and love visiting local wineries. It looks like others are starting to catch on, too. Recently rated by Wine Enthusiast Magazine as one of the Best 10 Wine Destinations in the world, a list which includes Napa Valley and Champagne, France, Virginia wine continues to grow on the state, national and international scenes. Loudoun County, with 33 of Virginia’s 200+ wineries, has more wineries than any other county in Virginia. With Washington, D.C. within an hour’s drive, multiple national, state, and regional parks, and steeped in American history, the wineries of Loudoun County is one of many things that attract visitors to the area.
As with other wine regions, Virginia also has its own “signature grape”. While Napa has Chardonnay, Willamette Valley its Pinot Noir, and Argentina the Malbec, Virginia’s star is the Viognier grape. Nicknamed Chardonnay’s “sexy sister” among the Virginia Wine folks, Viognier does share some key characteristics with Chardonnay, mainly its acidity. The twist, though, is the apple and orange blossom notes found in both the nose and flavor of Viognier wines. Almost every single Virginia winery I have visited produces a Viognier and each winery does Viognier different from all the others.
It is amazing how far Virginia wines have come over the centuries. From the early failures of the Jamestown settlers and the disappointments of Thomas Jefferson to finally succeeding in cultivating vines in the early 1980s and on to today’s growing, predominantly family owned, industry. I am very happy to know that “thinking locally” includes good wine!
Until next time, cheers!