We Broke Some Glasses at the Virginia Wine Expo
By Kristina Headrick
Amongst hordes of wine loving Virginians, I was lucky enough to to attend the 6th Annual Wine Expo this past Saturday. Hosted at the massive Greater Richmond Convention Center, the event benefited FeedMore, Central Virginia’s core hunger relief organization. More than a collection of wineries, the event featured vendors selling specialty foods, art, jewelry, and “wine accessories” whose categories ranged from zany furry wine koozies to logoed aprons geared towards the soccer mom crowd. All tasters were given a snazzy Riedel wine glass, many of which broke throughout the afternoon, but more on that later.
Featuring 61 wineries with a grand total of 425 varieties to try, I had to prioritize my tastings. I faced a daunting task, but given an extensive background in wine tasting (re: hanging out at beautiful Piedmont area vineyards on warm days), I was up for the challenge. At 3 pm I arrived at an event that had been in full swing. Given these circumstances, the mood in the vast convention center felt boisterous. Eyelids hung wine-heavy, but people seemed undeniably happy. Once I picked up my glass, I realized immediately I needed a strategy to tackle such a huge event. I decided to start meandering around one of the isles with the goal of initially testing wines from the vineyards that were unknown to me. I felt a bit overwhelmed by the general buzz of the room and the sheer number of wineries I had to choose from, so I started off with some artisanal jam tasting. Besides, I figured it’d be prudent to get some snacks in my belly before the drinking commenced.
I ended up tasting 10 vineyards worth of wine: Lazy Days Winery, Corcoran Brewing and Vineyards, Wisteria Farm and Vineyard, Good Luck Cellars, Hill Top Berry Farm and Winery, Lovingston Winery, King Family Vineyards, DuCard Vineyards, Philip Carter Winery of Virginia, and Flying Fox Vineyard. Despite having done my fair share of wine tasting in this lovely state, King Family was the only vineyard I’d visited.
The first wines I tried were from Lazy Days in Amherst, VA. They had six wines for tasting. Since I arrived to the event a bit late, I decided to dive into the experience and try all of their offerings. My favorites were their whites, notably the “Capuchin White,” a fruity, well-balanced wine that also happened to win a bronze medal in the 2012 Governor’s Cup. (who knew our Governor had good taste in wine?) Lazy Days also hosts the Virginia Summer Solstice Wine Festival in June, something I deem worth attending given that I love celebrating the cyclical nature of this human existence along with all things pagan. See also: my secret altar to Dionysus.
Next, I tried Corcoran’s offerings of fruity wines, which were unlike anything I’ve had before. The first wine was a dry white made from 100% Virginia grown apples, which they suggest you pair with chicken or pancakes. I don’t know much about combining wine and pancakes but this tasted a bit like alcoholic apple juice, so I see no real harm in that suggestion. My favorite of their selections was the “Blackjack,” a Chambourcin based wine fermented with blackberries. It was sweet but not overwhelmingly so. Their “USB” port offering, pun intended, had a smooth caramel/chocolate aftertaste. If anything, it deserved a medal for wit.
My next two stops, Good Luck Cellars of Kilmarnock and Wisteria of Stanley proved that, in my humble opinion, Virginia produces better quality white wines than reds. I really enjoyed Wisteria’s Viognier, which they rightfully described as “smooth and dangerous,” this stuff was too easy to drink! The Viognier grape has become a signature of our state’s wine, and Good Luck’s citrusy Viognier, recipient of a Governor’s Cup silver medal, was equally pleasing to my palate. At this point I started to feel the wine and remembered that the VA Wine expo website suggested spitting post tasting. I saw none of that happen and the few vendors I quizzed on the topic said that they’d only witnessed full fledged consumption. People were there to get a buzz. I decided to follow suit. What can I say? I’m highly impressionable.
Nelson County’s Hill Top Berry Farm and Winery was my most memorable stop of the day. They offered a selection of self-described “true to fruit” wines made with a variety of berries. They also stood out for their meads, which they lured me into trying with the slogan: “a sip through time… in the beginning, there was mead.” Mead is merely wine made from fermented honey in lieu of sugar. I ended up purchasing their “Lavender Metheglin,” a fragrant mead spiced with lavender flowers. It was unlike anything I’d ever tasted before and I simply had to take it home with me.
Lovingston Winery was the only stop I made which featured solely reds. For Virginia reds I found theirs were quite nice. The friendly owner pointed me towards the Pinotage, a smoky wine whose “leather and suede notes” would supposedly age with grace. The wine was exceptional, but I suppose my palate is not quite refined enough to know the taste of leather when it hits me.
My next stop was King Family Vineyard, a place where I spent a lot of time while attending UVA. With the Blue Ridge as its backdrop, this vineyard is an incredible spot to spend a warm afternoon. They have horses and hold polo matches, which makes for the type of idyllic setting that embodies my personal archaic, romanticized vision of “old Virginia.” Their wines are consistently tasty, but there was no stand out favorite from their selection.
At this point in the afternoon I needed a break from drinking. Apparently, so did many of my fellow attendees. Each time someone broke a glass, the convention center erupted in cheers, which was happening at regular 10 minute intervals by 4 pm. As a Greek, I appreciated this nod to clumsiness, for we too enjoy shouting “Opa!” whenever someone breaks something- accidentally or otherwise. The Francophile in me decided to try some cheeses. After extensive sampling, I ended up purchasing a delicious sheep’s milk offering from Everona Dairy. If you haven’t heard of these guys, I suggest you check them out.
As people’s frontal lobes cease to work, the true nature of humankind reveals itself. Many let out their inner anger while others’ gaiety shines more brightly. At this point I almost threw in the towel on wine-drinking, but felt happy and knew I knew I could persevere in the name of Gay RVA.
DuCard had a delicious red bordeaux blend. They recently opened a tasting room at their Etlan, VA location. Located near Old Rag Mountain and White Oak Canyon, I’m sure the setting is majestic and I plan to pay them a visit come springtime. There are few pleasures greater than sipping Virginia wine with a mountainous backdrop! Philip Carter of the historic Virginia Carter family operates his vineyard in Hume. My notes from this point in the afternoon are sparse, but I recall enjoying their medium bodied Chardonnay. LIke many of the vineyards, Philip Carter offers a number of annual events, such as a Harvest Fete in November that includes vineyard rides and harvest tours.
Flying Fox Vineyard, located in Afton, VA was my final stop. The volunteer who poured my wine was incredibly friendly and our rapport left me feeling warm and fuzzy inside. In an aggressive move I ended the day’s adventure by trying all five of their wines. In true Virginia fashion, the Viognier was delicious, buttressed by notes of fresh apricot and pear. I liked all three of their reds, a pleasant surprise, and decided to take home a bottle of the 2009 Trio. A blend of Merlot, Cabernet Franc, and Petit Verdot, this wine received a Silver Medal in the 2012 Governor’s Cup. This wine rightfully deserved the title, in my opinion, and I paired with with a delicious steak the following evening as a salute to my experience at the exposition.
The 2012 Virginia wine expo imbued me with a true feeling of Virginia pride. (I’m sure the wine had NOTHING to do with said happy feelings). The event was incredibly informative and more importantly, a great deal of fun. If you’ve never gone wine tasting in Virginia, believing that our wines will forever fall under the shadows of Sonoma and Napa Valley, I beg you to reconsider! I met attendees from all over the state and learned that there are more of these “wine festivals” to discover, something I now plan to do. Armed with two delicious bottles of wine, some of the best cheese I’ve tasted, and a freshly minted list of vineyards to visit, I walked with my own heavy eyelids, feeling happier than I’ve ever felt in the middle of February.
Take a closer look at the first East Coast winery to receive LEED Platinum certification.July 24, 2012
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