Travel Tuesday: Jefferson Vineyards, Virginia

“We could in the United States make as great a variety of wines as are made in Europe, not exactly of the same kinds, but doubtless as good.” ~ Thomas Jefferson

Many believe Thomas Jefferson was a man ahead of his time [a visionary] and his vision for establishing vineyards in Virginia while difficult at the time, it can now be said that his vision has been realized. It can also now be said that Virginia wine has a firm foothold on the ever-expanding wine scene here and around the world and is set to become a force to be reckoned with on the worlds wine stage. If you'd like to read my review of some of the wines I encountered on my journey to Jefferson Vineyards, feel free to click here.

In 1787, Thomas Jefferson visited Bordeaux where fell in love with the region, becoming its first unofficial ambassador here in the United States, you can find the rest of that story here. He brought that passion and some vine cuttings back to his native Virginia where he attempted but unfortunately failed to start his own vineyards here.

But despite those setbacks, today, there's a thriving wine culture in Virginia and on the very grounds where he planted his first vines at Monticello. In fact, it has been more than 240 years since old TJ attempted to launch his own wine industry in Virginia, but that vision has been picked up by others, and it is now one the top five wine producing states in America.

The west coast far and away dominates wine production in the United States. Yet, every single state has at least one bonded winery and probably two or more by this point. While many regions will never have the cache of a Napa or Sonoma when it comes to premium wines, there are a number of well-made respectable wines made beyond the borders of California.

Over the course of a conversation with other like-minded wine enthusiasts, the discussion about wine regions outside of the big three came up. We were asking, have you tried wines from any other states beyond California, Washington, or Oregon? Which ones? How did the wines compare to the premium wines you're accustomed to? Are there any areas you see having real promise as a place for fine wine production? Finally, what types of wines do you see doing well in those locations? As you can see this was a spirited conversation, in a nutshell, here are some of my answers. 

Charlottesville is a great place for a visit, for the wine traveling enthusiasts. There are many well marked, and mapped out tasting routes to fully explore this great destination. It's also a place full of our country's history to explore as well, much of which is relatively close by. Charlottesville is a great place to hang out for the day as well, very touristy, downtown tasting rooms, trendy restaurants, etc. But my advice, go in the spring, before the summer high heat and oppressive humidity kicks into overdrive. I have a new found admiration for the people of this city and the excellent wine scene any wandering wino would be proud to call home.

I also experienced quite a few Chardonnay and Cabernet Franc wines, in Virginia, which I thought were quite good. One winery, in particular, stood out as a leader in substance and quality, that winery is none other than Jefferson's Vineyards. Here's a quote from an influential member of the recognized wine writing community, who had this to say regarding the wines of Virginia, "Nearly 240 years later, Virginia has become Jefferson's land of the free-run, home of the grape" ~ Amy Zavatto. The Chardonnay I tasted here was in a word stunning, and I was more than a bit surprised at how good it was. The fruit was estate and other purchased grapes from the Monticello AVA which combined to create the overall balance, so few wines achieve in places like Napa, let alone Virginia. I found the wine to be delicate, yet very detailed.

The Cab-Franc I spoke of was, also mind-blowing good, I don't say these things lightly. The Jefferson Vineyards Cab Franc, 2007, I opened many years later, was absolutely gorgeous, rich, round, acid to fruit ratio spot on, varietally true and expressive. Thomas Jefferson's dream of growing the wine bearing grape in Virginia came true. While I agree it's not an easy place to grow grapes to make quality wine, with the significant disease pressure, crazy storms and the like, there is still a thriving wine community doing well there. 


Popular Posts