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This story originally appeared in the Napa Valley Register.

After spending a few days tasting wine in Central Virginia, I was already impressed by the quality of wines being produced by winemakers in both the Monticello and Shenandoah Valley AVAs.

Aromatic yet acidic viognier, velvety cabernet francs, as well as albariño, sauvignon blanc, chardonnay, petit manseng, petit verdot are all being made with success. And, while anyone who had tasted Virginia wine in the past might remember thinking, “I’ll drink the white wines, but the red wines…nope,” that is changing.

There is a quality revolution happening in the mid-Atlantic and that was the theme this year at USBevX, a conference and trade show dedicated to helping drive the quality reputation for eastern and midwest wine and beverage producers, when they hosted the second annual conference in Washington, D.C. in February.

Winemaker Gabriele Rausse, who has been called “The Father of the Modern Virginia Wine Industry,” was one of the first to plant vinifera in Virginia. He came to Virginia from Italy and was quoted in the feature documentary “Vintage: The Winemaker’s Year” as saying that when he arrived in 1976, it was a dark landscape, a somewhat primitive situation and he did not have much hope. But, “Everybody was against it so what can be better than the challenge of what they say you cannot do.”

Today, there are 250 wineries in Virginia; there are 50 producers on Long Island; there are 75 wines in Maryland. There is wine in Ohio, North Carolina, Michigan, Pennsylvania and beyond.

This story originally appeared in the Napa Valley Register. The famous Blue Ridge Mountains have been written about in songs. These mountains are the first major eastern line of the Appalachian Mountains, running from north to south though Virginia. Along the east side of the Blue Ridge in central Virginia are the historic homes of Thomas Jefferson, James Monroe and James Madison Monticello. And Monticello, named after Jefferson’s famed estate, is one of the seven established AVA’s in Virginia.
Lined along the eastern side of the of the mountains is home to a large percentage of the wineries in Virginia, which is more than 200. As winery owner David Pollak best explained, with a mix of humor and seriousness, “It is no more challenging than anywhere else to make wine here, except that we have frost, humidity and hurricanes.”
But with high elevations, sloped vineyards and good wind flow, if the winter is not too treacherous, this is as good area to make wine as anywhere else. And my host, Brian Yost of The Virginia Grape, a resource to all things Virginia wine, took me out to show me this.
Viognier, the white grape that originated in the south of France, was named Virginia's official state grape in 2011. Perhaps it was because both start with the letter "v". Regardless, there is a lot of the highly aromatic viognier grown in Virginia. This week I traveled to the east coast for a few events. I arrived a few days early so that I could head to Charlottesville, Virginia to stay with friends and explore the wines of the Monticello region. From the east side of the Blue Ridge Mountains, to the Shenandoah Valley, my guide, The Virginia Grape, demonstrated the diversity and the quality of the wines in the area. I tasted some delicious sparkling wines, white wines (viognier, albarino, chardonnay, sauvignon blanc, pinot gris) and red wines (cabernet franc, petit verdot, cabernet sauvignon) but the wine that stood out this week and pleased my palate was..... Pollak Vineyards 2015 Viognier, Monticello, Virginia
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