Exploring VA Wines

Report from the Virginia Wine Summit

My wife and I just returned from the Virginia Wine Summit in Richmond and I wanted to get my thoughts down while they were still fresh. Rather than list a bunch of names of people and wines, I am going to focus on the experience and the take home messages.

The 3rd annual Virginia Wine Summit is a two day conference of wine and wine education that focuses on defining Virginia wines in the context of other wines of the world, as well as with food. Attendees included winemakers and winery management, distributors, restaurant buyers, media, bloggers and others in the industry. There were panelists from the region here as well as New York, California and the Carolinas.

During the grand tasting, we compared four Bordeaux style Virginia blends with similar blends from around the world. The take home message from this was that our wines can hold their own against the wines of the world. The wines were chosen ahead of time for quality, price point, and representing the region. There is no question that the chosen wines of Virginia are among the best, and we have about 30-40 wineries in Virginia that are producing world class wines. We also are a very young and small region on a production level that is spread out over a rather wide area. In my eyes this was a good presentation that helped to promote the quality of Virginia wine. Other sessions included a NY vs DC Chef competition of pairing Virginia wines with dishes, and a look at the not-so-well-known varieties that are doing well in Virginia.

That this event was scheduled in October dovetailed nicely with the promotion of Virginia wines during Virginia Wine Month. However, the October timing can also be a challenge since many winemakers are very busy on the crush pad processing the wines that will show at future summits. I have wondered myself at how I can step away to participate in this promotional event every year.

I recognize that as much as I am a winemaker, I am also a business owner and an industry leader, which gives me greater responsibility that goes beyond just making my wine. Also, I have taken on a much greater role as a grower of winemakers. I have taught and consulted many winemakers who then modeled their operation after mine. I now have a production team that can execute the plan that was created with me at the helm. I feel that me stepping away from the crush pad periodically allows the leadership skills and teamwork to flourish better than with me micro managing the operation.

We as an industry need this next generation of winemakers to have the leadership skills along with the winemaking skills in order to continue the growth of quality and volume as we have done over the past decade or so. So for me, my added leadership responsibilities on the state level turn into opportunities for my team to use and hone their leadership skills, where they may not have the chance before. I am glad to help in this growth. I do, however, look forward to the day where the helm is passed and I can take the old man farmer role of “consult when needed and drive the tractor when I want”.

So from a great statewide promotional event, to my eventual semi-retirement in one column, I think we got it covered.


Written by: Doug Fabbioli

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