Thomas Jefferson, favorite son of Virginia, author of the Declaration of Independence and the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom and founder of the University of Virginia to list only those accomplishments for which he most wanted to be remembered, had another idea for which he is less well known. He thought Virginia would be a good place to raise grapes and thus to make wine. Just as it took nearly two-and-a-half centuries for his proclamation that “all men (persons) are created equal” to be realized, it took almost that long for Virginians to be successful in raising grapes and making wine.
Virginia’s growth as a major wine-producing state has been phenomenal. A few decades ago Virginia would not have made the list of wine-producing states. Now, there are over 250 wineries in the Commonwealth. According to Wine America, the National Association of American Wineries, in their listing of the top 10 wineries by state, Virginia ranks number 5.
Virginia wine offers special opportunities for local residents. Certainly try the Virginia brands as they become available in local shops, but also consider checking them out at their sources: the wineries themselves. The Wine Council’s website links to a list (https://www.virginiawine.org/wineries) that could fill your weekends for years or you can pick and choose for proximity or reputation. Combine your visit with a tour of historic homes, natural beauty or recreation and relaxation. You can even visit Mr. Jefferson’s Monticello or James Madison’s Montpelier as part of your vineyard hopping. Or the Skyline Drive and the Shenandoah National Park, the Luray Caverns and the Shenandoah Valley—all have wineries nearby.
In planning your wine exploration, a map that I can make available to you for free (request at firstname.lastname@example.org) may be helpful in laying out your adventure as would a map of Virginia’s scenic highways that I can also provide to you upon request. The Virginia Tourism Corporation website at http://www.virginia.org/ is filled with ideas. Travel services can be helpful, and some bus and limousine companies have wine tours.
I am not enough of a wine aficionado to make recommendations on the quality of one wine over another. They each appeal to someone’s taste. I am most into the adventure of finding the vineyards on back country roads in beautiful regions of the state than in the discovery of new and different wines.
Happy touring and happy learning. Mr. Jefferson was right again—Virginia is a great place for wine.