First Post, Close to Home

Wow! Finally, my first real post. I must say that I have also been waiting patiently for this moment, as I know you have.

What wine are you currently drinking as you write this inaugural post? (You ask impatiently.) Well, I can’t say that I recommend this one. I’m currently sipping on an Australian Shiraz from the aisles of your finest Northern Virginia grocery store– Giant. This was one of my cheap wine purchases, and not one to brag about either. (Unlike the $3 Shiraz from Trader Joes that is borderline amazing cheap wine.) However, if you must know, it is called Rosemount Estate, 2010. Check it out if you so choose, but make sure you leave me with your own notes.

Now, on to today’s history lesson.

History and Wine; me thinks a combination of the two is a good place to start. Genius.

Virginia.

Has. a. wine country. HOLY SHIT. No one even told me this before I moved up here over two years ago. Here I was leaving California and all its grape glory only to stumble right into the wine country of the Mid-Atlantic. In fact, Travel and Leisure magazine’s Bruce Schoenfeld called Virginia one of the five up-and-coming wine regions IN THE WORLD.

You, dear sad, sad reader of my blog, may have never experienced this wine country before. You may not even know it exists. What a gem you are missing out on in your wine-deprived life, if you have not experienced Virginia wine country.

Here’s some background.

Virginia has actually been making wine for 400 years. 400 freakin’ years. This goes all the way back to Jamestown. The new settlers wanted a way to impress their British home boys by making wine so delicious everyone in Britain would drunkenly claim American independence. (just kidding) But really, the first few crops planted by the new settlers went bad. Turns out, European vines didn’t take well to American soil and climate. The Brits yawned, and the new wannabe Americans ate Turkey with the Natives. It wasn’t until 2007 that people in London even got to taste Virginia wine, and they LOVED it. Finally, the mother-land approval we Americans have all been longing for.

My most favorite of Presidents, Mr. Thomas Jefferson, was a wine man himself.

By the way, I can’t promise that you won’t ever hear about him again in my blog.

TJ once proclaimed in 1818 that “in nothing have the habits of the palate more decisive influence than in our relish of wines.” 

Near his small cottage called Monticello, Jefferson worked with some Italian dude named, Philip Mazzei, to start up some vineyards. From some stories that I have read about these two, you might almost think there was some funny business going on between them. Apparently, they took a really long walk and then were “best friends.” Uh-huh. Yea.

The first plantings of these vines at Monticello and Mazzei’s “Colle” estate took place in 1774, under the name “Virginia Wine Company.” Unfortunately, a lot of bad stuff happened–like a nasty Virginia winter, some plant diseases, horse trampling, and this Revolution thing. Mazzei wanted to be a Patriot and abandoned his vines. New ones weren’t planted until 1807, but with no real success.

Although he was a born and bred Virginian, TJ loved him some French and Italian wine. None of that crap that the Brits typically drank. He probably got his  real refined wine snob taste when he was U.S. Minister to France starting in 1785. He toured French Wine Country ON HIS OWN DIME (Are you reading this, Obama?) several times during his 5 years abroad. Glad that he returned to us before he drank himself French.

Jefferson even attributed his success in age to his wine drinking, saying, “Wine from long habit has become an indispensable for my health.”

But I digress.

In 1979, Virginia only had 6 wineries. Today, over 130 exist in this beauty land of a Commonwealth. This area is considered the country’s sixth most important when it comes to wine making. But who is counting, Napa?

In most recent history, (yes, 2000 counts as history now) Chardonnay is the most produced grape variety, with Cabernet Sauvignon, Viognier, and Cabernet Franc following. Personally, I have been very impressed with the Cab Francs in the area. Very.

This weekend, I will be visiting the winery where I have chosen to be a wine club member. They are doing a special tasting of their “1762” Port, recognizing the year that the original wine of the old-time Virginia Carter family was first made. This winery is called Philip Carter,  and it claims to be a descendant of some of the first wine growers in Virginia, Charles and Landon Carter. Apparently, Charles Carter grew some American and European grapes at his plantation, Cleve, and made some wine. He sent a proposal to England that winemaking should be one of the economic reforms in Virginia, and he even sent some of his American grape wine over to the London society for a taste.

Philip Carter Winery Today, Virginia

Well, those crazy Englishmen liked it. Some even made comments about how it was good. And thus, we have the first internationally recognized wines from America.

Folks, I will be drinking that wine on Saturday. History comes full circle.

I won’t bore you with any more stories right now. I’m sure you can google them until your heart is content. I will, however, share a new story with you soon. As always, suggestions are welcomed.

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4 thoughts on “First Post, Close to Home

  1. What a coincidence, we have much in common. I buy Rosemont Estates, or Yellow Tail, if I want something simple to drink at home. I especially like Shiraz. I’m not too familiar with VA vineyards, but stopped at one 10 years ago. Wasn’t terribly impressed, but was enjoyable. Also, TJ, as you call him, is one of my favorite characters from history. A visionary ahead of his time who excelled in many disciplines. I will be checking your blog. It was a fun read. U.B.

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