In a recent conversation about the emergence of the ‘regional wine’ movement, an Oregon-based winegrower told me that Virginia’s Governor, Bob McDonnell, is considered by many in the industry — in and out of Virginia — as ‘the wine Governor‘ because of his administration’s unwavering support of the Virginia wine industry. This is not news to those familiar with Virginia and other similar wine regions.
In one of his first press releases before taking office, Governor-elect McDonnell is quoted, “agriculture and Forestry are Virginia’s biggest industry. They account for 10% of our jobs, and contribute $79 billion a year to the economy of our state.” Even before taking the oath of office to become the 71st governor of the Virginia in January 2010, it was clear that McDonnell had an appreciation for the importance of agriculture in the Commonwealth’s economy and would make growth of the industry a focal point of his administration’s economic plan.
Soon after taking office, Governor McDonnell committed to making the promotion and growth of the Virginia wine industry a priority in his administration.
With record year-over-year wine sales and wine tourism growth coupled with the number of new wineries opening the last four years and notable international expansion to new markets, Governor and Mrs. McDonnell along with Secretary of Agriculture and Forestry Todd Haymore, have set a very high wine bar for the other 49 state executives as well as the next administration.
Last week I had the opportunity to attend a reception at the Governor’s residence in Richmond where that bar was raised a bit higher. To celebrate Virginia’s growing wine industry and commemorate the bicentennial anniversary of the Virginia Executive Mansion — the oldest continually occupied governors residence in the U.S. — Governor and Mrs. McDonnell, Secretary Haymore and several winemakers introduced Virginia’s newest red wine, 1813.
Believed to be the first statewide red blend, 1813 includes fruit from nine different vineyards throughout Virginia provided by each member of the Virginia Wine Board:
- Breaux Vineyards 2010 Merlot
- Chatham Vineyards 2010 Merlot
- Barboursville Vineyards 2010 Octagon
- King Family Vineyards 2011 Merlot
- Barboursville Vineyards 2011 Nebbiolo
- James River Cellars Winery 2012 Chambourcin
- Executive Mansion Vineyard 2012 Chambourcin
- Silver Creek & Seaman’s Orchards 2012 Petit Verdot
- The Vineyard at Point Breeze 2012 Petit Verdot
- Veritas Vineyard & Winery 2012 Petit Verdot
- Barboursville Vineyards 2012 Viognier
Luca Paschina, winemaker at Barboursville Vineyards, served as the lead winemaker for 1813 along with Emily Pelton of Veritas Vineyards, Matthieu Finot from King Family Vineyards and vineyard consultant Lucie Morton.
Virginia’s rich history served as inspiration for 1813. Mrs. McDonnell planted ten Chambourcin vines in the Executive Mansion garden as a tribute to Act 12, one of the nation’s earliest laws passed by the Virginia House of Burgesses in 1619, which required each male colonist to plant and tend at least ten grapevines.
As a further historical tie-in, 1813 was vinted at Barboursville Vineyards in Orange County, which sits on the home site of James Barbour, Virginia’s 18th Governor and first resident of the current Executive Mansion in Richmond.
Asked about the challenges of working with so many different grape varieties from multiple vineyards throughout the state, Paschina said “the challenging part in order of difficulty was the coordination, blending which required a tweak with some tannin by including some Nebbiolo.”
“I do not know yet what the future will bring, for now the goal is to pick again and conduct a small batch fermentation” noted Paschina, when I asked him if there is a plan for a Chambourcin only blend in the future.
1813 is not available for sale, but all bottles “will be utilized by the Virginia Wine Board Marketing Office to market and promote further the Virginia wine and wine tourism industries on statewide, national, and international fronts” according to the official press release.
Congratulations to Governor McDonnell, Mrs. McDonnell, Secretary Haymore and to all the winegrowers that made 1813 possible.