In Defense of Facts, Virginia’s Grape Farmers and the Virginia Wine Brand — An Open Letter to Drew Wilder, Julie Carey, NBC 4 Northern Virginia Bureau

UPDATE: Monday, October 12, 2020 — Truth prevailed! After receiving a letter from Annette Boyd, Director, Virginia Wine Board Marketing Office, to correct the record, NBC4 removed the baseless story.

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Dear Ms. Carey and Mr. Wilder:

I read and watched your segment ‘Virginia Wine Industry Suffers as California Wildfires Burn’ posted on the NBC 4 Washington website on Friday, October 9, with much surprise and disappointment.

The Virginia wine industry is certainly deserving of coverage from prominent news organizations like NBC4 Washington.  From new winery openings to expanded vineyard plantings to talented young winemakers carrying on the work of local wine pioneers, there is no shortage of compelling stories to report.

Wish so much positive news to share, it’s disappointing you chose to fabricate a story about California wildfires impacting the Virginia wine industry.

Like everyone, I’ve watched in horror as fires in California have taken lives and destroyed property, including the complete destruction of historic vineyards and wineries.  Sadly, these fires will likely have a lasting impact on the California wine industry.

Of the many challenges — torrential rains at harvest, all-nighters in vineyards fighting late spring frosts that can decimate vines, hail, fighting invasive species like the spotted wing drosophila (SWD), reshaping operations due to COVID — local grape growers and winemakers overcome to make Virginian wine, ‘torched grapes’ from the fires in California is not one of them. 

It takes professional-level mental gymnastics to report on and believe that the fires in California are impacting the Virginia wine industry.  

During the segment you interviewed Doug Fabbioli, founder and winemaker at Fabbioli Cellars in Loudoun County, who stated, “Some of us, myself included, reach out to California sometimes to pick up some fruit and bring it here [to Virginia].”

Mr. Fabbioli’s reference to ‘some’ local wineries using grapes from California became this gross misrepresentation, “East Coast and West Coast grapes are used together in many of Virginia’s wines, but crops in California are burning, torching the grapes Virginia winemakers need.”

Mr. Fabbioli may source ‘some’ grapes from California but he is among a small number of local winemakers who use west coast fruit to make wine in Virginia.

“They [that’s you, Mr. Wilder] knew what they wanted the story to be long before they asked,” wrote Fabbioli in response to my Facebook post linking to your article and video segment. “The story did not reflect my answers to their questions. Not quality journalism…”

Your exaggerated reporting style to support a pre-determined sensationalized headline is better suited for the hyper-politicized world of politics.  Integrity, facts and accuracy matter in wine and everywhere else. 

Mr. Wilder, I challenge you to provide facts to support your claim that “many of Virginia’s wines” are made with west coast grapes. 

Your baseless claim marginalizes the work of hundreds of grape farmers, vineyard team members and winemakers across the state who have invested years of sweat equity and financial resources to make wine made from 100% grapes cultivated in Virginia.

If you can not support your claim that many ‘Virginia wines are made using west coast fruit,’ I call on you to exercise journalistic ethics and immediately post a retraction to correct the record.

If you are interested in fact-based reporting about the local wine industry, I’m happy to help.

Respectfully,

Frank Morgan