April 10, 2009

A Day Trip or a Life Long Experience: Virginia Vineyards, the Next Bordeaux of America

The Great Wine, Food & Arts Festival, April 25 – 26, 2009


When media started polling last year on people’s preference of things to do in November, many said they were going to stay home, and take more day trips while we all weather the economic upheaval. Still, we are already way in April, and we are expecting to see the same deal – people making preference to stay or travel in the surrounding area rather than making an overseas’ travel commitment.

Friends think I'm nuts when I say that there is more to Virginia and Maryland than blue crabs, Cherry Blossoms, and Civil War landmarks. Others think I’m nuts when I say that you don’t have to go far to experience the tastes of European wines. You can go on a weekend, and the whole trip would be under $50 – that is if you are close enough to Virginia and Maryland: gas and wine tasting in the range of a mere $5-10 per person with at least 5-6 wines to taste (some wineries go up to 15 – which might not be such a good idea for a designated driver!)

Europe-inspired vineyards

(Toscany-inspired vineyard in Virginia)

There are many wineries in Virginia and Maryland, whose owners – the wine makers - go back to their European roots to take what they or their ancestors have grown up with and seed it here: in Virginia and Maryland lands.

Having lived in the Northern California, I had a chance to experience Napa and Sonoma wineries – not once, but many times over. And as many people in this country rave about those Northern Californian wineries, having generated large publicity over the years – as a result – these wineries do not posses the wine ‘home-maker’ personal feel anymore, but rather became too commercial to stand out one from another.

(Naked Mountain Winery, Virginia)

Did you know that it was neither Napa, nor Sonoma Valleys as where U.S. winemaking has originated?
Winemaking in the United States has its historical roots in Virginia, where this now thriving industry began in 1607. As a descendant of George Washington's Attorney General, Edmund Randolph, Randolph McElroy, Jr. wanted to continue his family history within the wine business. Buying and opening a winery seemed like a natural fit for this Virginia native, an so thought many of the Virginia and Maryland winemakers, who have decided to continue their family business, passing on to their children and grandchildren.

And many of those winemakers took a model for a winery from their European ancestors, from snuggling a grape seed from the Bordeaux and Chianti regions to studying winemaking abroad to learn the ins and outs of winemaking trade and merchandising. So next time you are visiting a vineyard in Virginia or Maryland, ask them about the history of their winery, and do not be surprised to learn that their grapes and the winemaking recipe goes as far as the Greek Gods’ lands of Santorini, Canava Roussos Wineries.

Each year you can learn about and taste your Virginia and Maryland wines at the annual and semi-annual wine festivals. Last year, The 33rd Annual Virginia Wine Festival took place on Sept. 27-28 in Prince William country Fiagrounds, Manassas, VA. This year, The Great Wine, Food & Arts Festival with more than 200 wines and 20 Virginia Wineries will take place in Reston Town Center on April 25 – 26. This festival is becoming one of the largest wine festivals in the region. Learn about participating wineries, wine and cooking demos and live music here.

The 34th Annual Virginia Wine Festival will take place September 19-20, 11:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m., at Bull Run Regional Park Special Events Center in Centreville, VA.

And if you can’t make it to the wineries and wine festival this time, learn about other Virginia festivals and events here. If you are one of the winemakers in the area, you can apply for the participation here.

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