– Steve Spurrier, Legendary Wine Connoisseur, Offers Keynote Address –
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(Photo Courtesy of Michaele White, Governor’s Photographer)
RICHMOND – Governor Bob McDonnell and First Lady Maureen McDonnell hosted the first annual Virginia Wine Summit on October 2 at the Richmond Marriott. The sold-out event brought together domestic and international wine experts and industry leaders to taste Virginia wines and discuss key topics on the future of the Virginia wine industry.
Internationally acclaimed British wine authority Steven Spurrier was the keynote speaker. Spurrier, a consultant editor to Decanter and president of the Circle of Wine Writers, also led a blind tasting of wines from Virginia and other globally recognized wine producing regions. During his presentation, Spurrier praised Virginia’s wine industry and said that Virginia is now a solid competitor in the global wine industry. After giving an overview of the Virginia wine industry he remarked, “I will quote my friend Warren Winiarski of Stag Leap Cellars in Napa, who said that for him the wine was the ‘three Gs’ – the ground, the grape, and the guy or gal. 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.”
The event’s first session was a comparative tasting of eight Virginia wines against top wines from other globally recognized wine regions. The tasting of 16 wines included two each of Viognier, Cabernet Franc, Bordeaux blends, Petite Verdot, Nebbiolo, Touriga Nacional, and hard cider. The discussion was led by Spurrier and a panel of top wine professionals including: Anthony Giglio of Food & Wine; noted wine importer and lecturer Bartholomew Broadbent; and Master of Wine Jay Youmans. After each set of the comparative tastings the audience was encouraged to show what wines they preferred prior to the lead panel’s comments. The audience clearly responded to not only the preferences but also the differences of the panelists leading the discussion. Virginia wines showed very well, decisively ‘winning’ five of the eight match-ups, including victories for: Barboursville Vineyards’ 2009 Cabernet Franc Reserve over a 2010 Bernard Baudry Les Grezeaux Chinon from the Loire Valley; Potomac Point Vineyards’ 2009 Heritage Richland Reserve, a Bordeaux-blend style wine, over a 2008 Chateau du Tertre Margaux; and Foggy Ridge Cider’s Sweet Stayman Cider over Crispin’s Original Hard Apple Cider.
The tasting revealed significant surprises for the Commonwealth wine industry. Keswick Vineyards’ 2009 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon edged out the 2009 Chateau Montelena Cabernet Sauvignon. Additionally, a strong showing was made by another Virginia vineyard when 2008 Barboursville Nebbiolo was preferred over 2008 Vietti Barolo. Other tastings yielded varying preferences to due stylistic differences with only one comparative tasting clearly going to the Portuguese Quinta do Crasto Touriga Nacional.
Other sessions had discussions about leading Virginia wine varieties, trends in wine tasting and pairing Virginia wines and foods. Food & Wine’s Giglio led the panel on food and wine pairings. Dave McIntyre, wine writer for the Washington Post led a discussion on Virginia red wines varieties, and Master Sommelier Kathy Morgan led a discussion on wine tasting. Other noted national experts participated in the panel discussion including: cheese expert Liz Thorpe; Grassroots Wine owner Harry Root; and noted sommeliers Matt Tunstall of Husk Restaurant in South Carolina, Charlie Berg of Bourbon Steak House in Washington D.C., and Jason Carlen of Spiaggia in Chicago. These experts led panels, tastings, and general discussions for an audience filled with winemakers, restaurateurs, sommeliers, connoisseurs, media, wine-shop owners, and other industry professionals. The day-long event culminated with a Virginia wine reception.
The Virginia Wine Summit kicked off the Commonwealth’s annual October Virginia Wine Month activities. 2012 has been an exciting year for Virginia wines, most notably with Wine Enthusiast’s recognition of Virginia as one of the 10 Best Wine Travel Destinations of 2012 and Andrew Harper’s inclusion of Virginia on his list of Top 10 Wine Regions in America. More recently, Fodor’s listed Virginia as a top wine travel destination.
Sales of Virginia wine reached a record high in fiscal year 2011 with more than 462,000 cases, or more than 5.5 million bottles, sold. Virginia currently ranks fifth in the number of wineries in the nation with 210. Virginia is also the nation’s fifth largest wine grape producer. According to a recently released economic impact study, the Virginia wine industry employs more than 4,700 and contributes almost $750 million to the Virginia economy on an annual basis. For more information about the Virginia wine industry, please visit the Virginia Wine Marketing Office’s website at www.virginiawine.org/ or call 804-344-8200.
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