Sometimes when I visit a wine region it all makes instant sense, the topography, the climate, the soils and the traditions. Virginia was not like that and I found it hard to get a real grip on the place. As it is so large and the conditions vary, there appears to be no single statewide solution to any grape growing problem and no one perfect grape variety. What is more we are so used to being able to dismiss vintage variation on anything but the finest wines nowadays, that it is a shock to find a region where no two years are the same and where there is no such thing as an average year – vintage is crucial to Virginia.
In so many ways Virginia is the heart of the United States of America. It contains the original English Colony of Jamestown which was founded in 1607 – as well as the Lost Colony of Roanoke which was there from 1585-1587.
Virginia was the site of America’s first experiment with representative democracy when the House of Burgesses was established in Jamestown in 1619. Many of the greatest characters and thinkers of the American Revolution were from here; George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Patrick Henry, James Monroe, James Madison. Seven signatories of the Declaration of Independence were Virginian, as was Robert E. Lee. Unsurprisingly the area around Washington and Richmond is littered with Revolutionary and Civil War battlefields. Continue reading →
Well, it’s early days in my visit to Virginia’s wine country, but already I know that I am experiencing something pretty exciting.
Virginia doesn’t have that many wineries and most of them are very small, but the winemakers and owners seem a very dedicated and enthusiastic bunch so far.
The countryside is beautiful, so far I have only seen the northernmost tip of Virginia, the Shenandoah Valley – just to the northwest of Washington – where the Blue Ridge Mountains form a stunning backdrop. Everywhere you look the scenery is a delight, rolling hills with the dramatic mountains a constant presence in the distance. Many of the towns, like Middleburg, in Loudon County are astonishingly beautiful, where flower covered antique shops, glorious Georgian buildings and bustling cafes line the streets.
I am still processing what I am learning and free time is rare, so for now here a a few photographs to give you a feel of the place. I will try and find some more time soon – so keep checking back.
sunset over Virginia's Hickory Hill Vineyards & Winery
I really do seem to have become a bit obsessed about American wine of late, but then they are very interesting and can be exceedingly good and I really enjoy visiting the country. Quite a while ago I wrote a couple of pieces about wines from the Commonwealth of Virginia.
Well, I had never tried them before and became pretty excited about them and now I am about to set off to see the wine growing areas of Virginia for myself. I am really looking forward to learning about them properly and being able to report back on anything interesting and exciting. Continue reading →