Last weekend I went to the Virginia Wine Expo in Richmond, a 3 day event featuring 350+ wines from 60+ Virginia wineries. I was impressed by the event and all that was on offer. While I have tried many Virginia wines by the glass at restaurants and bought a few I know/like, I have been hesitant to buy bottles due to the rumored average quality and perceived high price point. Many feel the same way and this is the challenge for the Virginia wine industry. The Expo was my chance to taste many wines (I hit 15 wineries and sampled 88 wines) and find some favorites (I did!).

Having only one day at the Expo, I prioritized the wineries I would visit with ones I had heard/read good things about, a few I have tried, as well as some of my tasting table chats with fellow samplers. My list of 15 included: King Family Vineyards, Holly Grove Vineyards, Sans Soucy Vineyards, Wisteria Farm and Vineyard, White Fences Vineyard, DuCard Vineyards, Delfosse Wines, Jefferson Vineyards, Veritas Winery and Vineyard, Pollack Vineyards, Afton Mountain Vineyards, Cardinal Point Vineyard and Winery, Rosemont Vineyards & Winery, Blenheim Vineyards and Virginia Wineworks.

By the end of my day at the Expo, my barriers to purchase were lifted… I found some fabulous wines and some great price points! There were a few standout favorites…fantastic wine and I really enjoyed talking to the owner/winemaker. And yes, there were some bad wines… its amazing how sweet sells! In the end, I walked away with 6 bottles purchased but could have purchased a bottle from almost every winery I visited.

Now to some of my favorites:

* Blenheim Vineyards: This was my favorite winery of the day! Every wine I tasted was delicious (all 7), they have great price points and I spent a few minutes with their super cool, knowledgable Winemaker and General Manager Kirsty Harmon. The winery wasn’t on my radar for the day but a fellow taster said ‘you have to check out Dave Matthews’ winery so I did (I heard Dave’s mom had a winery in Charlottesville). And what a surprise the whole experience was! As I said, I truly liked all their wines but I brought two home…

  • Painted Red 2009: This yummy wine has fresh scents of violet, blueberry and cinnamon with flavors of blackberry jam, anise and soft tannins. It’s combination of 41% Merlot, 36% Cabernet Franc, 17% Cabernet Sauvignon, 6% Petit Verdot is aged in French Oak 10-12 months. Label designed by Dave himself. $30
  • Rosé 2009: I was pleasantly surprised during the day to find a couple of nice rosés. Having spent the last 4 years in Amsterdam, I got into rosé as they love their French rosé in the summer! This rosé is a light, crisp, refreshing wine with a nose of strawberry and ginger finished by watermelon. Aged in a stainless tank, its clean and bright to finish. $14

The Cabernet Sauvignon and Petit Verdot were also fabulous! Blenheim produced their first vintage in 2001 and Kirsty has been with them since 2008. She’s a University of Virginia graduate and apprenticed for famed Virginia winemaker Gabriele Rausse. You can visit them everyday 20 minutes south of Charlottesville or visit their website for more details and to purchase their wines. More to come on this winery!

* DuCard Vineyards: I had a great time at DuCard’s booth sampling their wines and chatting with Scott Elliff, owner and operator, and Marty. This lovely winery is located on the eastern edge of the Shenandoah National Park, an hour north of Charlottesville in Madison County. They’ve been growing grapes for ten years, initially selling the grapes to a winery up the road. When the wines they were part of started to win awards, they decied to bottle their own three years ago and have sold out each year. They were sampling 7 wines at the Expo and I really liked their…

  • Signature Viognier: I’m a fan of Viognier and this dry white with aromas of peaches, honeysuckle and wildflowers was quite nice. As they say “it evokes summer mornings int the Virginia countryside.” Brought a bottle of this home. $22
  • Popham Run Red: A rich red bursting with ripe cherry and raspberry aromas and a spicy, peppery taste. $22

DuCard has also started a Rosé that was very impressive. And they are one of the wineries that grows/bottles the Virginia Native Norton. Their wines are not available in stores/restaurants but in the DC/Virginia area you can order them direct from the Vineyard. Best bet is to make a trip to their Vineyard and enjoy one of their events!

More of my favorites tomorrow.