Made in Virginia 2017 Awards

Drink winners.

Ragged Branch

Virginia Straight Bourbon Whiskey (Wheated), Charlottesville

Making bourbon came naturally to Alex Toomy, founder and co-owner of Ragged Branch Distillery in Charlottesville, and his partners. “We’re farmers, builders and carpenters by trade. We know how to do things,” says Toomy, who has been distilling whiskey since 2014. But it was just this fall that he and Chris Sarpy and Russell Nance were ready to begin selling their Virginia Straight Bourbon Whiskey—and what a bourbon it is. The initial scent offers complexities ranging from a bouquet garni to the soft hints of honey, which also comes through with each sip. Wheat as the secondary grain provides a bit of a subtle, yet noticeable contrast to the traditional rye component of standard bourbons. It adds a creaminess to the  mouth feel and a sort of prickly sweet flavor that is slightly lighter than the sweetness typically derived from the mostly corn recipe.

The secret, Toomy says, is the crop that grows around his distillery. “It’s unique because it adds a hint of cinnamon and nutmeg-y flavor. The Virginia soil has been good to us, everything grown to make our bourbon is grown here.”

Although they are fairly new to the bourbon trade, Toomy and his partners make 270 bottles every day, and they are planning to move 8,000 bottles every month by next summer, when their first batch will have aged for four years. “We are small, but we are turning out a lot of bourbon,” he says. $48.99 per bottle.

Dead Reckoning Distillery

Tidewater Rum, Norfolk 

Sweet and savory. Smooth, but with character. This is what Derek Ungerecht, 33, was looking for in a rum when he began crafting spirits and developing his recipe two years ago. Distill a rum too many times, he warns, and it will taste like vodka. 

Launched this year, Ungerecht’s Tidewater Rum is made entirely of molasses sourced from the southeast U.S. and distilled only twice in a 240-gallon copper still he built himself. Distinct from the many white rums on the market that have been distilled five or even six times he says, Ungerecht’s rum has a floral nose and initial sweetness with hints of sugar cane that dissolves into a savory finish and makes an excellent mojito.

The name of the distillery pays homage to the Navy town in which Ungerecht, an Army Reserve officer, lives—Dead Reckoning refers to a method of navigation used by sailors. In Tidewater, he explains, “The ocean has shaped everybody’s lives.” $24.99 per bottle.

Veritas Vineyards & Winery

Veritas Petit Verdot (2014 Vintage), Afton 

Petit Verdot is a grape variety that originated in the Bordeaux region of France, where it is used to add complexity to a Bordeaux blend. But it has taken a liking to Virginia, where Afton’s Veritas Vineyards & Winery have used it—with great success—to create a Petit Verdot rich in both taste and body. With its robust scent of dark fruits and spices, concentrated over layers of mocha coffee and forest floor, and a silky texture, the 2014 vintage’s finish is complex and everlasting. 

The wine is aged in new French oak barrels for two years, following a careful process of fruit extraction, fermentation and extended maceration. “The 2014 vintage was one of the cooler vintages I have worked with, so the basic backbone of this wine was extremely strong,” says Veritas winemaker Emily Pelton. Lower temperatures create the right conditions for hanging the fruit out in the vineyard for an extended period of time, ripening the tannins. “This wine made itself, as the great wines do,” Pelton says.

Trussings Craft Fizz

Small Batch Craft Sodas, Midlothian

Refreshing and unique combinations, including blueberry and basil, apple and sage, and ginger and lime, put these small batch sodas front and center in the growing field of craft drinks. Brad Cooper, owner of Steam Bell Beer Works, developed the non-alcoholic beverages with help from his sister, Brittany Cooper, at the family’s Midlothian-based brewery. Blending local fruits and herbs with just the right touch of organic, no-calorie sweetener to produce the fizzy drinks, like most great creations, was born out of necessity. “We noticed that we had different people in our tasting room every week who, for one reason or another, weren’t drinking beer,” says Brittany. “Maybe they were pregnant, acting as their group’s designated driver, gluten-intolerant, diabetic, or simply not beer drinkers. Whatever the reason, we wanted to provide a better and higher-end experience for them than just sliding a can of cola across the bar.” Produced for the first time this spring, the Coopers sell out of the craft drinks week after week. To meet the growing demand, new production capabilities are coming next year which will enable them to package the drinks in smaller size cans and offer them to markets beyond their tasting room. $3 for a 16-ounce pour on draught.

See all of our Made in Virginia 2017 Award winners!

Nightingale Ice Cream, Richmond

Landcrafted Foods, Grayson County (category winner)
Happy Family Ranch, Midland
Northern Neck Popcorn Bag, Kilmarnock
Simply Cheddar, Waynesboro

Daniel Rickey Furniture, Richmond (category winner)
Gum Tree Farm, Middleburg
Evolution Glass, Charlottesville

Heart and Spade Forge, Roanoke (category winner)
Ledbury, Richmond
LC Fabrications, Grottoes
Yak Attack, Burkeville

Winners were selected by the editors from among hundreds of submissions received earlier this year.

Click here to see 2018 winners.
Click here to see 2016 winners.
Click here to see 2015 winners.
Click here to see 2014 winners.
Click here to see 2013 winners.
Click here to see 2012 winners.
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