Follow-up Post: “What works best for Virginia?”

Hello Friends,

Jason Burrus, winemaker at Rappahannock Cellars in Rappahannock County responds with a follow-up post on which red and white wine grape works best for Virginia. Many Virginia wine consumers think it to be Viognier and Cabernet Franc, while some in the industry would just as soon take Chardonnay and Merlot. In this follow-up post, Jason continues to make the case for Chardonnay and Merlot.

What works best for Virginia?

(Guest Post) Follow-up: "What works best for VA” by Jason Burrus:
There is an emotional resonance that many of us, including myself, have with Cabernet Franc and Viognier. No doubt we should continue to pursue these varieties in Virginia. It makes us unique and stand out in the market place. However, in reference to the original question "What works best for Virginia?" my thought is to put as many bottles of Virginia wine into the hands of those that have never tried it. Yes, we can continue to hand-sell unique varieties. And yes, they will continue to impress those few that taste them. But this seems to be the fastest road to remaining a boutique industry. I want to see bottles of Virginia Cabernet Franc and Viognier on the supermarket and wine shop shelves in San Francisco. I doubt we can achieve that by hand-selling Cabernet Franc and Viognier.

Chardonnay and Merlot

From a business perspective, sometimes being "unique" is the kiss of death. Pioneers make for great editorial content, but most are fantastic failures. Let's make what we're already critically successful with and what's already selling: Chardonnay and Merlot. Let's blaze a trail to mainstream wine culture without reinventing the wheel. Then, when we're successful, we can promote those unique varieties that we've developed an affection for and know makes great wines. If this is the direction we want for Virginia wine, then I doubt there's any other way we can do this. This formula has already worked before. Would we care about Chilean Carmenere if it weren't for their Cabernet Sauvignon? How about New Zealand Pinot Noir without their Sauvignon Blanc? We love California Syrah and Zinfandel. But there wouldn't be California Syrah and Zinfandel without the Chardonnay, Merlot, and Cabernet Sauvignon as the basis for their industry.

Viognier and Cabernet Franc

Finally, I want to address the idea that the industry is saturated with Merlot and Chardonnay. I suppose it is. But then again the alcohol industry in general is saturated with wine. For many of us with a business perspective, breaking the mold is the only way to the mainstream. It's been done before. If we can't do it, then we should get comfortable with always remaining a boutique industry. There's an unspoken feeling from our counterparts on the west coast that we pursue off-beat varieties because we can't compete with mainstream varieties. Let's prove them wrong.

Have a question about this post, friends? Feel free to leave a comment or send me an e-mail at, and as always, Happy Sipping! Stay tuned friends ...More to come!

Info: Rappahannock Cellars,14437 Hume Road,Huntly,VA 22640, T(540)635-9398

Click here to visit Jason's vintner's blog.

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