July 14, 2017

They Make Wine? Viginia Edition

Williamsburg winery

Photo: williamsburgwinery.com

Welcome to my new series entitled "They Make Wine?", where we explore both domestic and international areas not usually associated with grape growing and winemaking. Today we'll explore Virginia.

In November I was a part of the #VAWineChat virtual tasting. VA Wine Chat described by its founder Frank Morgan (of the Drink What You Like blog) is: a monthly winemaker interview series and virtual tasting focusing on the wines, winemakers, and wineries of Virginia. The intention was to post this blog in December, but alas Unit 3 studying started soon thereafter and all writing time was put on hold until NOW!

Super quick history lesson: Virginia, one of our original colonies, was settled in 1607. There were many native grapes grown in early America, but they were not necessarily used for winemaking; mostly just for table grapes. In 1771 Thomas Jefferson planted the first v. vinifera grapes in Virginia. Unfortunately they didn't take and not one bottle of wine was made. Since then, native grapes have been grown in Virginia and for a large part of the 1800’s and 1900s the wines were virtually undrinkable. Fast forward to 2017 and there are 230+ wineries in Virginia making a broad range of wines, including some quality ones! The downside is that all but 3% of the total Virginia wine production is consumed in Virginia. In other words, it is difficult to find Virginia wines outside of Virginia. I consider myself lucky that i got to enjoy 3 lovely wines from Williamsburg Winery in Williamsburg, Virginia!

The Williamsburg Winery, founded in 1985, lies on the Wessex Hundred, a 300-acre farm in Williamsburg, Virginia. The make wines from both hybrids (i.e. Vidal Blanc and Traminette) and v. vinifera (i.e. Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Chardonnay, Viognier, Petit Verdot, and Albarino).

The 3 wines I tasted are below:


2015 Reserve Chardonnay 11.6% ABV ($32 SRP)

This wine is made with 72% new french oak and 28% concrete egg. What in god’s name is a concrete egg you say? A concrete egg is a vessel that is used for the fermentation and/or aging of wine. Other, more common, vessel options include oak barrels and stainless steel vats. The concrete allows for oxygenation similar to oak barrels, but does not impart any oak flavor.

My notes: Unabashed oak on the nose and palate, bright fruit, with a clean finish. A delightful Chardonnay.

Winemaker Notes: The 2015 is showing some wonderful upfront tropical characters of pineapple, orange and banana with some apricot and plum to round out the fruits. There is a very clean creamy lemon note with some vanilla. The minerality of the wine is nicely balanced with the fruits. The oak is not overstated and blends nicely with the fruit and minerality of the wine. The finish is luscious with many layers and complexities. An elevated classic Chardonnay that will pair well with a lobster or ribeye steak.

2015 Viognier 12.7% ABV ($24 SRP)

Fun fact: Viognier is the state grape of Virginia!

My notes: Good fruit concentration, stone and tropical fruit on both the nose and palate, very youthful and approachable. A refreshing salinity on the palate with a hint of baking spices.

Winemaker notes: The 2016 Vintage (note the vintage I sampled was 2015) is showing a wonderful balance and finesse. The freshness of the fruits (pineapple, pear, apple, banana, peach and strawberry) are well integrated with the fresh herbal/flower tones along with a hint of minerality/chalky characters. The lemon nuisance is a nice segue into the crisp acidity of the wine, yet there remains the creamy rich texture.

2015 A Midsummer Night’s White 12.6% ABV, 59% Traminette/32% Vidal Blanc/9% Viognier ($14 SRP)

My notes: White flower and perfume on the nose, a hint of residual sugar (sweetness), and ripe pear on the palate.

Winemaker Notes: A lovely floral, tropical bouquet offering many layers of orange, tangerine, banana, pineapple and a bit of lemongrass. There is a very soft honeysuckle and vanilla that offers an additional richness to the wine, along with a touch of minerality and spice. The finish is rich and creamy with an elegant mouthfeel that blends well with the brightness of the wine.

I hope you learned a tidbit or two about Virginia wine! My goal is to help people learn more and have FUN with wine. There is so much wine to enjoy in this world and from many unexpected places. Who knows, maybe your next bottle of wine will be from the great state of Virginia!

Check out the articles below if you want to learn more about winemaking in Virginia:

Jancis Robinson "Virginia's New Star"

Wine Mag "The Old Dominin's Upswing"

Food & Wine "A Road Trip Into the Heart of American Terroir"

Washington Post "Vineyards That Are Putting Virginia on the Fine Wine Map"

I hope you enjoyed this post. If you’re looking to Up Your Wine Game and Drink Better, consider booking a private in-person or virtual wine tasting experience.
Brianne Cohen Wine Educator
Brianne Cohen is a certified sommelier, wine educator, consultant, and writer based out of Los Angeles.

Since March 2020, Brianne has educated and entertained over 5,000 people through her “Virtual Vino” online wine tastings.

Brianne holds the WSET (Wine & Spirits Education Trust) Diploma certificate, one of the most coveted wine certifications in the world. When she’s not helping others Up Their Wine Game, she can be found judging at international wine competitions.

Brianne aims to make wine approachable and conversational, to surprise and delight with unexpected, distinctive wine finds, and to give people knowledge (and confidence) about wine in their everyday lives.

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Sample Policy

As a wine writer, I frequently accept samples for review on my  website and on my social media channels. Please contact me at brianne@briannecohen.com to discuss sending samples for review. I promise to always be honorable with the samples. I will evaluate all wines in good tasting settings and with no distractions.

All reviews are my opinions, and mine only. Because of the volume of samples I receive, I cannot promise that all samples received will be reviewed, but I will do my best.

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