“…wine [is] a constant proof that God loves us, and loves to see us happy.”
― Benjamin Franklin, The Posthumous and Other Writings of Benjamin Franklin … Volume 1 of 2
When I’m not immersed in politics, I enjoy what my adopted home state has to offer.
Apart from being a gateway to Washington, D.C., Northern Virginia has a lot of great places to visit and things to do. (Yes, there’s a world beyond the concrete jungle.) That’s why I decided to venture out to Wine Country this past weekend.
One of the Commonwealth’s best hidden secrets is Wine Country. (Disclaimer: I’m not a wine expert; I’m just a connoisseur. All subsequent thoughts are purely subjective.) This was my third time visiting vineyards in Virginia. Since moving to Virginia in June 2012, I’ve been to Rappahannock Cellars near Front Royal (May 2013), Doukenie Winery, and Hillsborough Vineyards (August 2013). All these vineyards were unique and had individual appeal. I wouldn’t recommend going to Front Royal to sample wine–I found Rappahannock’s wine tasting option to be pricey and its premises to be too small. (Good wine, but certainly not worth the drive or price.) The other locations, both based in Purcellville, were reasonable and had better amenities for guests.
This past weekend, I visited Chrysalis Vineyards in Middleburg, Virginia–an hour drive from Alexandria and Arlington. Middleburg and the surrounding areas comprise Virginia Wine Country. (I hear that Charlottesville is also a great spot. I hope to sample wine there in the future!)
For $10, you get to sample about 10-11 varieties of red and white wine. (One wine–called Schitz and Giggels–is chuckle-worthy.) Also, this winery popularized the Norton grape:
Of particular interest to Chrysalis Vineyards is the native American grape, Norton (sometimes also known as Cynthiana). Recognized among North American varieties for its unique ability to produce premium quality red wines, the Norton was internationally recognized in the 1800’s as the source of distinctively robust reds with overtones of berry and pitted fruits. Today the Norton is enjoying a resurgence of popularity, and a key element of the Chrysalis Vineyards program is to restore this grape to its position of eminence among fine wines. Presently we have the largest planting of Norton in the world.
Overall, I was impressed with this vineyard and its amenities (which included picnic areas and corn hole.) Below are pictures:
You might be thinking, “Virginia has wine?” Growing up in California, I was in disbelief to hear that Virginia had good wine. However, this August 2013 article in Forbes put things into perspective and made a convincing case in dubbing Virginia the “East Coast Napa Valley”:
Over the past 30 years winemakers have steadily notched improvements. Virginia currently ranks fifth in the number of wineries in the nation and is also the nation’s fifth largest wine grape producer. As of 2012, the Virginia wine industry employs more than 4,700 individuals and contributes almost $750 million to the Virginia economy annually. More importantly, Virginia wines are surprising critics, winning awards and fans across the globe. World-renowned U.K. based wine critic Steven Spurrier characterized Virginia as a “national contender, producing wines of bright fresh character that call for a second glass.” In blind tastings the wines consistently beat out candidates from other parts of the globe (read about the Breakfast of Champions tasting here). Virginia has momentum, but concerns over grape supply, distribution and growth demands will keep things interesting. Yet, it’s a safe bet that the combination of strategic vision from the Cases and local winemaking zeal will keep the energy headed in the right direction—straight for the tipping point.
If you ever make it out to Virginia and want something fun to do, I recommend checking out the wine scene in Northern Virginia.