If you’ve followed the news, you know Mitt Romney isn’t the only winner out of Virginia.
In the semi-insular world of wine talk, Old Dominion is a hot commodity, the region célèbre of recent polls and trade media. Those in the know seem genuinely excited by the progress and accolades fortifying its surging rep. Heck, even Wine Enthusiast touted Virginia as a top 10 worldwide wine travel destination. I’ve never visited their wine country but some friends are beginning to make noises about the same and I’ve found myself talking to my wife about a family trip south.
Before we go there, let’s bring it back home and address a central question: Are Virginia wines available in our Commonwealth?
Happily, yes. A quick (and non-exhaustive) online search uncovered two reds: The 2004
Familiar with Barboursville’s status as one of the region’s most highly-regarded wineries, I opted for their product (available in a small handful of stores in the Philly area, including the Wayne outlet on Swedesford Road where I purchased it).
I was also eager to compare the “southern” Cabernet Franc, a vinifera variety familiar with the vagaries of northeast U.S. climates, to those I’ve sampled from New York and Pennsylvania. Some additional, surface research vaulted my expectations when I read (on the Barboursville website) that The Inn at Little Washington selected the Reserve as its house red. The price tag of $22.99 appeared more reasonable than the winery charges on-site and, furthermore, I’m forgiving of higher costs from emerging wineries that lack the economies of scale found in muscle-bound regions to the west.
From first pour, the Barboursville nose is unquestionably Old World – slightly Bordeaux – and its European constitution plays out to the bottom of the glass. It’s a hearty and full wine with earthy undertones, subtle spice and generous, dark red fruit. Despite a year in oak, there’s little wood contamination and inoffensive tannic resistance (but enough to merit another year of aging). This is a well-developed, finely crafted effort that had me leaning in the direction of Gaul (though its eminently pleasing, buxom qualities bloom after about 120 minutes of fresh air). It’s a complete package, with a 45-second-plus finish and fine acidity that aligns with a range of foods from stews and pasta to meatloaf and other proteins like lamb.
Tasting complete and flushed by excellence, I turned the Baboursville around in my hand and studied its refined label, only to release a final smile while spotting its commendably reserved 13.2% alcohol level. No ugly American, this. In an equally elegant turn, the type on the rear of the bottle proclaims, “Jefferson’s Dream.” Indeed. Jefferson’s dream, Washington’s and Lafayette’s dreams, and those of a legion of wine consumers to follow. This is wine that many can only hope to make a reality.