Tuesday, April 27, 2010

The 2010 DrinkLocalWine Conference in Virginia, US

Pictures: DLW2010 and map of Virginia

DrinkLocalWine.com held its 2nd annual conference on April 24-26, 2010, in Loudoun County, Virginia, US. This year, the event focused on the wines from Virginia.

There is a Wine Industry in all 50 US States

The US is the 4th largest wine producing country in the world, after France, Italy, and Spain. Wine is now produced in all 50 States, with California, Washington State and Oregon leading the way. However, some States outside the Northwest do not grow popular vitis vinifera grapes such as Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay very easily, and some wineries in the smaller wine-producing States buy juice or grapes from other States. For reviews of wines from all 50 States go to here for an excellent Time Magazine article. http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,1837245,00.html


Picture: Jeff Siegel and Dave McIntrye

The goal of DrinkLocalWine.com is to spotlight wine made in the 47 US States and Canada that are not California, Washington, and Oregon. It's the brainchild of Washington Post wine columnist Dave McIntyre and wine blogger Jeff Siegel, the Wine Curmudgeon. They feel that the mainstream wine media acts as if American wine is only made in California, Oregon and Washington State and that it is difficult for other wine regions to get coverage. DrinkLocalWine.com was created with a view of linking to blogs and other articles about wines from the other 47 states.


Virginia is the 5th largest wine industry in the US, with nearly 200 wineries and 2,500 acres of vineyards. Over the past 50 years, Virginia wines have experienced a tremendous development - to elegant and balanced, mostly European vinifera-based wines.

As far as white wines are concerned, the European vinifera grapes Chardonnay and Viognier are the leading varieties today. Increasingly they are made “naked” or with little oak only, with the objective of retaining natural acidity and freshness.

For hybrid varieties, Seyval Blanc is still popular, but resembles now the fresh and crisp wines from France’s South West. Vidal has become the backbone of the artificially frozen ice wine, which I am not a great fan of.

The first ice wine was reportedly produced in Germany in 1794. Today, ice wines are highly prized wines that are made not only in Germany, but also in Austria and Canada as well as other countries, including the United States. Canada has experienced an amazing ice wine boom in the past decades. See about German and Canadian ice wine here.

In the context of ice wine, some wine regions, including Virginia, are pushing cryoextraction. This is an approach, which kind of simulates the frost in the vineyard in the wine cellar. It was developed by the French. Instead of waiting for mother nature to produce frosty temperatures in the vineyard, the winemaker subjects the grapes to frosty temperatures in the cellar and presses them while frozen.

As far as red wines are concerned, there was a shift in top Virginia reds from straight varietal wines to blends. And blends have gone from being dominated by Cabernet Sauvignon to Merlot and Cabernet Franc, with a significant amount of Petit Verdot. The latter grape may well be Virginia’s future signature style in this category. There is an increasing focus on neutral oak and clean, vibrant fruit, mirroring the evolution of Virginia white wines.

Tannat, Uruguay’ signature grape from the South West of France, is showing up in more Virginia wines, usually as a blend. The only red French hybrid which has performed consistently well in Virginia is Chambourcin, which, with its bright cherry aromas and flavors, crisp acidity and low tannin, resembles the Gamay grape of Beaujolais. In Germany, a new grape variety, Regent, has been developed as a crossing of Diana and Chambourcin, which is exceptionally fungal-resistant and hailed to be the first “green” grape.

Finally, Virginia sparkling wine from Claude Thibault was served at President Obama’s first state dinner a few months ago. While respectable sparkling wines have been made in Virginia in the past, sparkling wines have been taken to a new level in Virginia by the work of Claude Thibault, a native of Champagne. Thibault now consults for a number other Virginia wineries and produces his own sparkler, NV Thibault-Janisson, made from 100 percent Chardonnay, which President Obama offered his guests at the state dinner. See here.

The 2010 Drink Local Wine Conference

This was the 2nd DrinkLocalWine.com annual conference (DLW 2010). The 1st took place last year in Texas. DLW 2010 included three panel discussions; in addition there was a Twitter Taste-off, with a large number of Virginia wineries and some Maryland wineries participating. In attendance were bloggers, traditional print media writers, VA wine industry folks, consumers and other members of the wine trade.

1. Panel: Thomas Jefferson was right: The grapes that work best for Virginia

Moderator: Richard Leahy, Vineyard & Winery Management magazine. Panelists: Matthew Meyert, Williamsburg Winery; Jennifer McCloud, Chrysalis Vineyards; and Matthieu Finot, King Family Vineyards.

Picture: Richard Leahy, Matthew Meyert, Jennifer McCloud, Matthieu Finot (from left to right)

One thing that is not well known in Europe is the struggle in America in the past centuries to find the appropriate grapes for winemaking. In the original charter of the thirteen colonies was a royal commission to pursue three luxury items that England was unable to provide for itself: wine, silk, and olive oil. Every colony made attempts to satisfy the requirements of its charter. Despite many years of failure, the early Americans persisted in their efforts. A big step forward was made in 1740 when a natural cross pollination occurred between a native American grape and a European vitis vinifera. Other successful crossings followed. Today, European vinifera grapes dominate wine production.

Picture: Thomas Jefferson, Third President of the US and father of Virginia wine.

The views of the panelists varied. Matthew Meyert was pushing for Merlot and Chardonnay, which do very well in Virginia; Virignia can produce very nice Old World style vitis vinifera wines. Jennifer Cloud, by contrast, took the position that Virginia cannot produce first class vitis vinifera wines. So, instead of producing the 400th best Merlot in the world, she rather produces the 1st best Norton in the world. Chrysalis has the largest Norton plantation in the world. Matthieu Finot, the French winemaker of King Family Vineyards sided with the first speaker. He has learnt in school that hybrids are not up to the vitis vinifera in terms of quality and his winery only produces vitis vinfera wines. All panelists panelists felt that Cabernet Sauvingon was not well suited for Virginia. The esoteric grapes that do best are Viogner, Albarino, Petit Menseng for whites; Petit Verdot, Malbec, and Tannat for reds. There was a general consensus that blending is a key component of making fine wine in Virginia.

King Family Vineyards just won the prestigious Governor’s Cup award. See here.

2. Panel: Social media: How regional wineries can get the word out

Moderator: Michael Wangbicker DWS, CWE. Panelists: Lenn Thompson, New York Cork Report; Jennifer Breaux Blosser, Breaux Vineyards; Jeff Siegel, the Wine Curmudgeon.

Picture: Michael Wangbicker, Jennifer Breaux Blosser, Jeff Siegel, Lenn Thompson (from left to right)

A lot of talk about Facebook and Twitter. In particular Jennifer Breaux Blosser explained convincingly how she uses Facebook and Twitter to reach out to her customers. She also talked about a Skype tasting she did with the UK. Social media offers winemakers a direct way to link up with the consumer. Whether it is Twitter, Facebook, Blogging or Foursquare, Social media is there and it is gonna stay. Eventually print, social and other media will merge.

3. Panel: If local food, why not local wine?

Moderator: Dave McIntyre, Washington Post. Panelists: Mary Watson-DeLauder,
Lansdowne Resort; Andrew Stover, Chef Wino; Todd Kliman, Washingtonian magazine.

What you see on wine lists in Washington DC in terms of local wines is pitiful. The restaurants are slow to pick up on the developments occurring at Virginia and Maryland wineries. Maybe one wine, or two at the most from the region. As an exception, Oya is a powerhouse of the drink local movement, with wines from Arizona, Illinois, and Idaho among many other states. Another recommendation was the Boulevard Woodgrill in Arlington, which has an all domestic wine menu.

Twitter Taste-off

Moderator: Kenton Fabrick, Twitter guru extraordinaire

The fun part of the afternoon was a Twitter Taste-Off, where the participants could taste wines from about two dozens of wineries and then tweet their tasting notes via a live WiFi connection.

(1) It was a traditional walk-around tasting with two dozens of winemakers from Virginia each presenting one red and one white wine; there were also some Maryland wineries.
(2) People were tweeting while tasting with a #dlw10 hash tag and the tweets were shown on a large white board.
(3) Ken Fabrik was walking around with a micro and interviewing consumers and wine makers and the interviews were was transmitted via loudspeakers.
(4) I saw many people with flip cameras doing little videos. They appeared on wine blogs and facebook while we tasted and later.

DLW2010 Wine Awards

The winners of the 4 wine awards were:

Best red wine: 2002 Merlot Reserve, Breaux Vineyards
Best white wine: 2008 Albarino, Chrysalis Vineyards
Favorite media wine: 2002 Merlot Reserve, Breaux Vineyards
People's Choice: 2008 Viognier Monticello, Michael Shaps Wine

Picture: Jennifer Breaux Blosser and Chris Blosser, Breaux Vineyards

These wineries participated in the DLW10

• Boxwood Winery
• Breaux Vineyards
• Chrysalis Vineyards
• Corcoran Vineyards
• Fabbioli Cellars
• Sunset Hills
• Tarara Winery
• Barboursville
• Jefferson Vineyards
• Keswick Vineyards
• King Family Winery
• Michael Shaps Wines
• Chatham Vineyards
• Ingleside Vineyards
• Williamsburg Winery
• Potomac Point (Eastern)
• Lovingston
• White Hall
• Pollack

Selected DLW10 Participants

Christian G.E.Schiller , Schiller Wine, Washington DC and Frankfurt and Main, Germany
Lenn Thompson, New York Cork Report
Todd Kliman, Washingtonian Magazine, author
Lou Marmon, Grapelines blog
Olivia Wilder, Blog Talk Radio
Johnica Reed, Cuisine Noir Magazine
Andrew Stover, ChiefWino.com
Elizabeth Weigand, Blue Ridge Foodie, Carolina Foodie
Tanisha Townsend, Grapevine4Wine blog
Brian Kirby, The Other 46
Therese Howe, Loudoun Magazine
Elizabeth DeHoff, CrushworthyWines.com, Palate Press
Margaret McCann, Piedmont Virginian Magazine
Cathy Harding, C-Ville weekly
Jenn Seidel, Flavor Magazine
Richard Leahy, Vineyard & Winery Management, Richard Leahy’s Wine Report
Harold Baer, VinoTasting.com
Terry and Kathy Sullivan, Wine Trail Traveler
Mike Wangbickler,
Dave McIntyre, Washington Post, Dave McIntyre’s WineLine
Jeff Siegel, The Wine Curmudgeon
Kelly Magyarics, KellyMagyarics.com
John Witherspoon, Anything Wine
Dezel Quillen, My Vine Spot blog
Todd Godbout, Wine-Compass.com
Genevelyn Steele, Genevelyn Steele Swallows blog, Richmond.com
David Falchek, Scranton Times Tribune Empty Bottles blog

Picture: Dave McIntyre videotaping with his flip camera.

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1 comment:

  1. (owner and founder of London's famous Cork and Bottle wine bar)

    I have just read today’s piece on Virginia wines. I was in Williamsburg many years’ ago with my late mate who worked for Peter Max Sichel. We were pleasantly surprised with the quality of the whites, and it is amazing to read that it is the fifth largest wine industry in the USA.