Tuesday’s Inaugural Virginia Wine Summit marked the official kick off of October as Virginia Wine Month, the 24th annual event, highlighting and celebrating the state’s 210 wineries.

Hosted by Virginia’s Governor Bob McDonnell and First Lady Maureen McDonnell in Richmond, the Summit was planned by the Virginia Wine Marketing Office and brought together domestic and international wine experts and industry leaders to taste Virginia wine and discuss the industry.

First Lady Maureen McDonnell, a huge proponent of the Virginia wine industry and a lovely lady, opened the day with news that the Governor’s Mansion grape vines had been harvested and the grapes will be joining others from across the state to produce the 1813 Virginia’s Historic Blend wine coming out next year.

The other big news of the day was Virginia’s performance in the Breakfast of Champions. This comparative tasting of eight Virginia wines against top wines from other globally recognized wine regions was led by a panel of wine experts including internationally acclaimed British wine authority Steven Spurrier, noted wine importer and lecturer Bartholomew Broadbent, Food & Wine‘s Anthony Giglio and Master of Wine Jay Youmans.

Virginia wines showed very well, ‘winning’ five of the eight match-ups, including victories for:

  • Barboursville Vineyards’ 2009 Cabernet Franc Reserve ($23) over a 2010 Bernard Baudry Les Grezeaux Chinon from the Loire Valley ($23)
  • Potomac Point Vineyards’ 2009 Heritage Richland Reserve ($27), a Bordeaux-blend style wine, over a 2008 Chateau du Tertre Margaux ($39)
  • Keswick Vineyards’ 2009 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon ($49) edged out the 2009 Chateau Montelena Cabernet Sauvignon ($37)
  • 2008 Barboursville Nebbiolo ($32) was preferred over 2008 Vietti Barolo ($39)
  • Foggy Ridge Cider’s Sweet Stayman Cider ($15) over Crispin’s Original Hard Apple Cider ($7.99 4 bottle pack)

The two other tastings, Virginia’s Ducard 2010 Signature Viognier ($24) vs 2010 Guigal Condrieu ($39) and Barren Ridge 2007 Touriga ($18) vs Quinta do Crasto Touriga Nacional ($70), showed varying preferences by the panel and attendees due to the stylistic differences.

Over lunch we heard from the Governor, Jean Case (owner of one of Virginia’s newest wineries Early Mountain Vineyards) and Steven Spurrier. The crowd anxiously awaited Steven’s comments. He was very complimentary of the region stating it is clearly a national contender. He also said….

  • Virginia wine goes well with food and it’s the kind that calls for a second glass.
  • Petit Verdot is a good grape for the state.
  • In the five years since he first tasted Virginia wine, he’s very impressed with how they’ve developed more definition and precision.
  • Virginia is eclipsing New York in wine quality.
  • “For me, it is more the ‘three Ps’ – the place, the product and the people. Before coming out here, I knew already that Virginia could stand tall for the product. But in just three days I now know that the place and the people fit perfectly into the equation and that Virginia stands tall on all three and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future.”

His closing words of advice, “Just BE Virginia.”

The morning and afternoon breakout sessions included food and wine pairings and focus on Virginia’s wine varieties. I attended Virginia’s Viognier Tasting (the state’s official grape) and What Will Be Virginia’s Red. More to come on those two sessions.

Overall it was a proud and celebratory day for Virginia wine. As Governor McDonnell said, “The Judgement of Richmond this morning showed Virginia wine can compete with the world’s best!”