We recently saw a Twitter tweet from the Rhone Rangers regarding the Wine Bloggers Conference 2011 (#VAWine producers at #WBC11 - We will be present, love to meet with any interested in becoming a @RhoneRangers). The Rhone Rangers is "America's leading non-profit organization dedicated to promoting American Rhone varietal wines". Now, its widely known - or becoming widely known - that Virginia's new signature grape is the Rhone varietal Viognier. And please check out the interesting commentary regarding that decision at DrinkWhatYouLike: Viognier – Virginia’s Signature Grape?. But what about other Rhone varietals. Syrah is relatively popular with about 20 wineries crafting that varietal. And several are quite good: Delaplane Cellars, Tarara Vineyard & Winery, and Fox Meadow Winery among others. Viognier and Syrah are basically it for Rhone grapes, although Horton Vineyards and Hillsborough Vineyards do craft wines using Roussanne.
Yet, even with Viognier being Virginia's signature grape, Bordeaux and Burgundy varietals are still the most popular. In fact, Meritage and Chardonnay wines have won the last few Governors Cup and at one point in recent history some observers where predicting that Cabernet Franc may become the Commonwealth's signature grape. Here's an interesting post and commentary at MyVineSpot: Making a case for Chardonnay and Merlot. Yet the future for red wine in Virginia may be the Bordeaux blending grapes: Petit Verdot and Malbec. Crafted as single varietals, these are full bodied, tannic wines. And let's not forget grapes from South West France, where Tannat and Petit Menseng wines do quite well in Virginia. Interestingly, the later was first introduced into the United States by Alan Kinne, of Chrysalis Vineyards.
Speaking of Chrysalis Vineyards, the vineyard holds the world's largest planting of Virginia's native grape: Norton. Many winemakers choose to avoid Norton, considering it less than a noble grape, but Jennifer McCloud thinks otherwise and is the grape's most vocal proponent. Please check out this VirginiaWineTV episode featuring McCloud in Talking Norton and DLW with Jennifer McCloud.
Finally, there's the hybrids, which remain quite popular and are the wine grapes that grow best in many mountainous and arid regions of the state. Vidal Blanc is the most popular and is used primarily as a dessert wine. Next popular is Chambourcin which has the versatility to be crafted into a range of styles from dry to sweet. Our friends at Corcoran Vineyards have now aged their Chambourcin in used bourbon barrels to create a port styled wine that tastes pure Virginia - as in Virginia Gentlemen.
For more information on a compendium of wine grapes used in Virginia please visit our post at The Wine Grapes of Virginia. See you at the Wine Bloggers Conference 2011 in Charlottesville Virginia.