As we have come to another year of tremendous growth in the Virginia wine industry, it is important that we take stock in where we were, where we are and where we are going. I was fortunate enough to attend the Virginia Wine Summit that was held in Richmond at the end of October. Being the productionist that I am, I usually skip the events that are more marketing based. My decision to attend was aided by the fact that the organizers chose our 2011 Cabernet Franc Reserve to pour alongside some other Cabernet Francs from around the world and our own neighborhood.
The big name at this event was Oz Clarke, a well-known wine writer and a true advocate for quality wines across the world. His honest and well-spoken style engaged the room. Oz recognized the challenges that the growers and winemakers took on in committing to growing grapes and making wine in our climate. He encouraged us to continue developing our own style, the Virginia style, which will always be different from California and France. His words and recognition were encouraging. We get caught in our own world sometimes. As a winemaker, I never want to kid myself about the quality of our wines. Humility is a great tool to keep things honest and real. But it sure feels good when a world renowned critic has some great things to say about your wines and your burgeoning industry. There is a great video on You Tube titled Virginia Wine Summit 2013 that I feel is well worth watching. We also had the governor speak to us at the event. His recognition of the industry has been tremendous as well. It is great to be working in a field where there is true bipartisanship in the support.
Oz Clarke also toured around the state visiting wineries, cider mills and restaurants. There were a few points where he was able to taste wines with the winemakers and give individual feedback. I was lucky enough to be one of the winemakers to participate in this individual attention. He was quite elegant and passionate in his expressions, but he was honest as well. I truly enjoyed that he recognized my style as a bootstrapper and a craftsman. His tasting of the pear wine brought him back to his grandmother’s cellar in the countryside many years ago. I know that my fellow vintners were moved by this visit as well, but I can only express my experiences.
I have been growing grapes and making wine in Virginia for 16 years now. I was very fortunate to grow right along with the industry in size and quality reputation. We will always have challenges ahead, but at this point we all should take a breath and be proud of our accomplishments. Thanks go out to the state leaders for supporting and encouraging the industry. Also thanks go to the consumers who not only purchase our wines but share them with their friends. The people of the industry deserve the strongest nod. Through the challenges of weather, competition and financial disasters, we have remained collaborative, quality conscious, and truly pleasant to work with over the years. Cheers to us for making it to the grown up table for the holiday meal!
~ Written by: Doug Fabbioli