When you think of wine in the United States, you probably think of California, Washington, and Oregon. At least I did when I first started noticing these regions listed specifically in the wine aisle of grocery stores – if it isn’t mainstream enough to be sold at your local Giant, it must not exist, right? Wrong.
I grew up in the suburbs of Loudoun County, Virginia, and my parents started visiting VA wineries back when there were only about 8 of them in Loudoun (now there are over 40), so I grew up with the vague concept of wine as an activity. In my early 20’s I finally got to tag along and see what all the fuss was about – and I fell in love.
But not with the wines – not yet anyway. I think I started my love of wine much like everyone else: being freshly 21 and feeling elegant with a glass of Arbor Mist in hand, because wine equaled sophistication but the only thing you can stomach at that time is pumped full of sugar to mask the natural wine flavors. Who were we kidding? Might as well have poured ourselves a wine glass full of Welch’s grape juice.
No, I wasn’t a huge fan of the wines at first; my love of Virginia wineries started with simply being there. It felt like an instant escape, being out in the country away from the hustle and bustle of the city and suburbs. It was quiet, beautiful, and to me, magical.
My graduation from Arbor Mist happened rather abruptly, later in my 20’s, but much in the same way my initiation into wine began. I’d ordered myself a glass of Cabernet Sauvignon at a bar with a friend, not really expecting to enjoy it, but again because it felt like the sophisticated thing to do. Now, I know most people progress slowly through types of wine they like: you start with your Arbor Mists, then move on to sweet whites, then dry whites, then mellow reds, before hitting the bolder, dry reds… But this first sip of Cabernet Sauvignon hit my tongue and I was intrigued and excited. It was called Greystone (or Graystone) and I found out that it was brought into local bars and restaurants from Moldova by some guy in Sterling, VA. Of course by the time I discovered my love for it, he had already stopped importing it and the limited supply left at each venue was selling out pretty quickly.
But this sparked my interest in wine in general, and I started buying bottles at random from Total Wine, trying to find ones I loved as much as Greystone. Weirdly, it hadn’t occurred to me yet at this time to revisit some of the nearby wineries – I was busy exploring and comparing other regions and trying to find more wines from Moldova thinking they’d have a similar flavor profile (I never could).
My first reintroduction to VA wine was at my parent’s house for dinner one night – they had opened a bottle of Cabernet Franc from Fabbioli Cellars. Holy crap. This was what I’d been waiting for, that same “omg this is the best wine ever” moment. It wasn’t long after that that I started going back to those same wineries I had fallen in love with for the atmosphere, and started to really appreciate the wines. Others may prefer a California Zinfandel, or an Oregon Pinot Noir, but I’ve become very partial to Virginia reds – from Cab Francs to Petit Verdots to Merlots – I can’t get enough!
Over the years, I’ve become known amongst my friends and coworkers as the Virginia winery expert. People would joke and say that I’d been to every winery in Virginia – that was silly, I thought – there are hundreds! But then I thought “Wouldn’t that be cool? To be able to say I’ve been to every winery in Virginia”? And that became my personal mission: to check off every VA winery on the map. It’s a lofty goal, and I may never achieve it since Virginia is pretty big and new ones are popping up all the time. But I’m certainly going to have fun trying!
People were also always asking for recommendations and wondering where I went over the weekend and what I thought about the vibe and the wines of each vineyard. It was this reputation I’d inadvertently built for myself that got me thinking about starting a blog about Virginia wineries. I figured, why not? I’m already going from winery to winery to discover what I think and share that with my peers – might as well post it online!
Virginia Vine started as an Instagram account (which I still plan to primarily use, so follow me @virginia.vine)! But I sometimes find I have more to say than a simple Instagram post can convey, so I’ve decided to start this blog. I plan to continue checking off one VA winery at a time and share my experiences here. I’ll also likely dig back through the archives from older Instagram posts to elaborate on those experiences.
For any fellow Virginia wine lovers out there who are reading and want to follow my adventures, I hope you enjoy!