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Virginia Wine Top 20 Summary and Analysis – What Does All This Opinion Goodness Mean (if anything)?

As a follow up to my previous post and the current ‘top 20’ post-a-thon going around the Virginia wine blogosphere, I’ve done a little analysis on the data to highlight a few items I found interesting.  (NOTE:  Post Updated – During my original recap/summary, I missed two other Top 20 Virginia Wine lists – from Kurt at Wine About Virginia, and from Nancy & Rick at Virginia Wine In My Pocket.  My apologies.)

Since the source data for this analysis only includes ten discrete inputs I realize this is far from scientific, but I do feel this data provides a reasonably accurate representation of larger views on Virginia wine.   Included in the raw data for this analysis are ten different ‘top 20 Virginia wine’ lists from:

The information presented below is simply a cursory analysis of the available data.  No doubt, more time can be spent analyzing the raw data for more interesting corollaries and conclusions.  I look forward to others sharing their analysis on the data.

Most Popular Winery:
The most obvious result is the fact that Linden wines represented about 10% of all wines in the top 20 lists.  Breaux Vineyards was the second most noted winery with 12 wines listed, followed by Glen Manor 11 wines listed.  Collectively, these three wineries represent 20% of the all the wines included in the ten Top 20 lists (41 wines out of a total of 200 wines listed).  There are over 180 wineries in Virginia, yet three wineries represent 20% of ten wine enthusiasts most favorite list.  Interesting.  (An example of the Pareto Principle?)  

The Jim Law Effect:
The fact that Linden finished well ahead of all other wines is interesting, but not surprising, and worthy of further study and discussion.  What do these arbitrary rankings say about Linden wines (if anything)?  On the whole, are Linden wines better than offerings from other Virginia wineries? Does this small sample size provide enough data to conclude that Jim is the ‘best’ winemaker in Virginia?  Note:  Obviously this is impossible to determine no matter how much data we have.

If a large group of wine enthusiasts with a reasonable level of familiarity with Virginia wine were sampled, I feel strongly that Linden would be at the top of most lists. Informal discussions with other Virginia wine enthusiasts have indicated that Linden wines are at the top of most ‘favorite Virginia wine’ lists, and Jim is at the top of many ‘top winemaker’ lists.

Since I know next to nothing about farming and winemaking I’m not the best source for a conclusion on this subject, but my opinion is that Jim does poses one of the best overall skill sets in the Virginia wine industry.   ‘Best overall skill set’ defined as experience with his land, serious knowledge of agriculture, benefit of many vintages, and raw knowledge of the process.

Given all of the amazing talent in the Virginia winemaking crowd, ‘I’ do not feel that Jim is the ‘best’ Virginia winemaker.  Again, this would be impossible to reasonably conclude.  However, someone could make the case that the popularity of his final product – Linden wines – does suggest that he is one of the very top winemakers here in Virginia, if not the top (either that, or he’s been very lucky for a long time).  I do feel Linden wines, on the whole, are one of the top two wine lineups in the state (Chester Gap being the other).  This is simply ‘my’ opinion – feel free to disagree.

The Jim Law effect reaches further than just Linden wines – he has worked with (trained?) a number of the winemakers represented on this list.

Most Popular Wines (without vintage):
Linden Hardscrabble Red, 5
Linden Hardscrabble Chardonnay, 5
Glen Manor Sauvignon Blanc, 5
Delaplane Honah Lee Viognier, 4
Chester Gap Viognier, 4
Chrysalis Albarino, 4

Most Popular Varietal:

  • Viognier was the most popular varietal with 26 different listings (representing over 10% of all wines listed).
  • Petit Verdot wines were noted 13 different times.
  • Cab Franc wines were noted 17 different times a well.
  • There were nearly 35 red blends listed.
  • Eight Virginia sparkling wines were listed.
  • Chambourcin wines were listed five times.
  • Somehow Norton found it’s way on the list six separate times.  Ugh. My own personal disdain for Norton prevents me from making any further comment regarding this weed, er, um, grape.  Repeating, I respect the opinions of others, I respect the opinions of others, I respect the opinions of others…

Random Odds and Ends:

  • I was disappointed to see that only one wine from Virginia’s Eastern Shore was represented on the lists – the Chatham 2009 Steel Fermented Chardonnay.
  • Jordan Harris made the most notable and declarative statements of this ranking exercise with the following, ‘Delaplane Syrah 2007 – possibly the best wine ever mad in Virginia.‘   Wow – this is a very, very strong statement, and a huge endorsement from a talented winemaker like Jordan.  I clearly need to taste this Syrah.  I’ve tasted a few of Delaplane’s wines, but clearly missed this one.

In reading other’s lists, I’m motivated to get out on the wine trail and revisit several wineries – King Family and Chrysalis in particular.  And, of course taste that Delaplane 2007 Syrah.

At the end of the day, all of this information is just a bunch of opinions – that’s it!  Doesn’t much matter what wines I like, or what wines Paul or Warren or Jordan like.  What matters is what wines ‘you’ like – Drink What You Like!


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