Winning Wineries

Good wine and good times sum up Eastern Virginia.

(Photo by Sera Petras)

You’ll find 74 wineries in Virginia Living’s Central Region, more than any other part of the state. And the wines here are succeeding spectacularly. What’s their secret? You might think competition spurs each winemaker to new and more exciting heights. Instead, it’s collaboration.

“When one experiment succeeds, everyone benefits from the results,” says Joy Ting, research oenologist and exchange coordinator at the Winemaker’s Research Exchange (WRE). Ting explains that the WRE “brings winemakers together to taste experimental wines and share ideas for innovation and quality improvement.”

Launched by a group of Central Virginia winemakers as the Monticello Research Exchange in 2014, the organization now serves vintners around the state. “We’re all working together to produce distinctive, world-class wines right here in Virginia,” Ting says, adding that the WRE was founded under the guiding principle that “a rising tide lifts all boats.”

This year’s top three winery winners, Barboursville Vineyards, King Family Vineyards, and Trump Winery, are all located in Central Virginia. And in March, when the Governor announced this year’s Gold Medal Winners in the prestigious Governor’s Cup Case, six of the 12 winning wines were from the Central region: Barboursville’s 2020 Vermentino Reserve, Trump Winery’s 2015 Brut Reserve, Michael Shaps Wineworks’ 2019 Chardonnay, Pollak Vineyards’ 2017 Meritage, Stinson Vineyards’ 2017 Meritage, and Wisdom Oak Winery’s 2019 Bordeaux blend, called, simply, Nineteen.

Now in its fifth decade, Barboursville Vineyards, this year’s Best of Virginia first place winner—their 10th win—sets the standard for viticulture in Virginia. But nothing was assured when Gianni Zonin, a prominent Italian winemaker, acquired the property in 1976 with plans to open a vineyard there. At the time, the region had none, and Thomas Jefferson, who designed Barboursville 170 years earlier, had spent decades tinkering with grapes at nearby Monticello without a single harvest.

Winemaker Luca Paschina oversees operations at Barboursville, which is located near Gordonsville, and now offers wine tastings, tours, overnight stays at its 1804 Inn & Cottages, and fine dining at its Palladio restaurant. It’s the perfect place to immerse yourself in Central Virginia’s rich wine tradition.

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