This past weekend (April 24th-26th, 2010) I had the pleasure of attending the DrinkLocalWine.com conference 2010 at Lansdowne Resort in Leesburg, Virginia. The focal point of DrinkLocalWine.com is to highlight wines grown and made in North America – especially from states that would you make you scratch your head and say, “They make wine there?” This year the spotlight was put on Virginia wine, and I have to tell you friends – Virginia wine shone back!
Getting a one day head-start on the conference, (we) wine bloggers, coined the “Virginia Wine Mafia” by Lenn Thompson, founder of the New York Cork Report, started supporting the local wine cause with a Friday evening pre-tasting. We enjoyed approximately twenty-five labels from states such as Virginia, New York, Texas, North Carolina, Colorado, Utah, and Hawaii. The two big hits of the night among all the bloggers was an Old World-style 2004 Windham Vineyards (now called Doukenie) Cabernet Franc made by winemaker Doug Fabbioli of Fabbioli Cellars. I have come to learn over the past few years that Doug Fab is good for a solid Cabernet Franc wine. The second selection was an elegantly-styled and expressive 2001 Lenz Vineyards Long Island Merlot. This is the type of wine that Thomas Jefferson would call “a wine of distinction.”
The conference provided attendees the opportunity to learn about the Virginia wine industry and sample some of the fine vintages offered by select producers who focus on pushing the quality barometer. During the course of the weekend event, we had the opportunity to visit with Breaux Vineyards and Corcoran Vineyards , two popular Loudoun County wine destinations.
Breaux Vineyards was our official “Tweep Up” location and this has a lot to do with Jen Breaux. Even though a lot of Virginia producers sign up to use the social media services of Twitter and FaceBook, very few actually engage their Twitter followers or FaceBook friends. Most will inform you when they are having an event or a wine sale, but very little meaningful social media interaction goes on. Social media is where Jen Breaux shines and we were delighted to tour the Breaux facility, meet with winemaker David Collins to review barrel samples, and enjoy lunch with Paul Breaux, Jen’s father and founder of Breaux Vineyards. I would be remiss if I did not mention Grandale Farms who catered our delicious grilled chicken lunch. Grandale Farms is a big supporter of the farm-to-table concept with an emphasis on “local foods.” The lunch paired nicely with the wide selection of Breaux premium wines we tasted. I personally enjoyed the Reserve Merlot 2002 and Nebbiolo 2001 with lunch.
Wine Education session with Jim Corcoran
Jim Corcoran, owner of Corcoran Vineyards, along with the Virginia Wine Board, was instrumental in the success of the conference. We had the pleasure of visiting with Jim at his winery for an educational tasting that focused on identifying aromatic components in wine and the influence that oak (e.g. French, American, Hungarian) has on wine. After an hour or so of good discussion we opened up a few bottles of Virginia wine, including the tasty Mary’s Cuvee red wine blend, which is a joint effort by Virginia wine superstar Mary Watson and Jim’s wife Lori Corcoran, who is both co-owner and winemaker of Corcoran Vineyards.
On Saturday and Sunday evenings I had the pleasure of attending Virginia winemaker dinners at both Tuscarora Mill and Magnolias at the Mill. Both restaurants are owned by the same family and are restored historic grain mills. Both restaurants also share a commitment of having a large number of Virginia labels on the wine list which are served by glass or bottle. Both wine dinners featured menus that recognized the local farms from which the food was sourced and each course was accompanied by a glass or two of Virginia wine. The winemakers who produced the wines being poured were all present and had the opportunity to speak about their wines – the vintage, style, pairing, etc. At one point during the evening, Chris Pearmund, founder of Pearmund Cellars, and, as one attendee joked, “A half dozen other Virginia wineries”, cited that years ago when no other restaurant carried Virginia wine, Tuskies, as the locals call it, was one of the first to carry Virginia wine by the glass and by the bottle. Today you can stop by Tuskies or Magnolias at the Mill and enjoy a delicious local plate and a glass or bottle of Virginia wine.
The conference also featured three informative discussion panels that focused on the Virginia wine industry. One discussion dealt with which grapes work best for Virginia. That’s always an interesting topic and one I have had with other Virginia wine lovers. I always say that winegrowers have to target varieties that have market viability and Virginia climate survivability. Two varieties I was glad to hear the panel mention were Petit Verdot and Petit Manseng. Petit Verdot is all the buzz nowadays because it is Virginia’s answer to those looking for a wine with size. I look for Petit Manseng to increase in both vine planting and popularity in the near future as the variety is well adaptable to our overall hot and humid climate.
Other panels discussed how Virginia wineries can brand build using social media and why restaurants that support local food don’t always have local wine selections. I have only seen a few Virginia wineries use social media to engage consumers and push their brand. I’m not sure why Virginia producers have had such a slow start with social media. My best guess is that many producers are fortunate enough to be situated on popular wine trails and their tasting rooms are filled with Virginia wine lovers every weekend. Based on what I know and what I have heard, I think social media is just a matter of time for local producers who have not subscribed yet.
Another fun-filled event was the Twitter Taste-off. A number of Virginia producers and a handful of Maryland producers poured their best red and white wine selections. Participants reviewed and scored the wines and posted tweets to Twitter that were identifiable by hash tags (e.g. #DLW10VA, #DLW10MD). A big Twitter screen was on display so everyone could track the tweets of others. There were many good Virginia wines poured and enjoyed and to my delight I also found several solid red and white wine selections coming out of Maryland -especially the Black Ankle Vineyards Syrah 2007. At the end of the Twitter Taste-off the winner in the white wine category was the Chrysalis Albariño 2008 and the winner in the red wine category was the Breaux Vineyards Reserve Merlot 2002. I have enjoyed both of these fine wine selections in the past and I highly recommend them if you have not tried them yet.
In closing, a special event like this would not be possible without the awesome Virginia wine industry people, the bloggers, Jim Corcoran of Corcoran Vineyards, The Virginia Wine Board, Visit Loudoun, Executive Director Katy Bothum, and the Washington Post's Dave McIntyre and wine blogger Jeff Siegel of the Wine Curmudgeon, who are co-founders of DrinkLocalWine.com.“Thank You” to all of you and to whomever I may have missed.
PS. Big shout-out to all my wine blogging pals too; check these blogs out folks: Virginia Wine Time, NewYork Cork Report, Cellar Blog, The Other 46, Swirl, Sip, & Snark, Caveman Wines, Wine Ophelia, HR Junkyard, Empty Bottles, Drink-What-U-Like, Anything Wine and the Washinton Wine Report ~ Great hanging out with you all!
Have a question about this post, friends? Feel free to leave a comment or send me an e-mail at email@example.com, and as always, Happy Sipping!
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