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.
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.
Dave Bauer said:
Well put, Frank. I hope it generates some thoughtful follow-up reporting.
Thank you, Dave. Appreciate your comment.
I’m not holding out much hope NBC4 practices some journalistic integrity but, we can hope!
Great response! That article is shocklingly inaccurate.
Thank you, Annette!
Lets hope NBC4 corrects the record.
Scott Elliff said:
Frank – thanks for picking up the lance here, but just among us girls let’s be a little bit careful here. Confidentially (though anyone could piece it together)
Grape tonnage in 2019, most recent report was 7400. Times 60 cases per ton that’s about 440000 cases. But the total sales of VA wine last reported several years ago was 557000 – so maybe 600000 now. So 1/3 west coast overall ? Sure, many of us small guys are 100 percent VA, always have, always will. But the VA brands that most people see (grocery store) are significantly imported grapes. From a winey count standpoint it might be that 90 percent are fully VA, but from a case sales standpoint, not so high. Two distinct industries here – as has been the case for many years.
Scott â Your point is well taken. I am always careful with that as well. And I appreciate that this is just between us. I also did the grape math and came up with this: 7412.5 tons x 150 gallons/ton = 1,111,875 gallons of wine divided by 2.377 gallons per case, brings you to 467,764 cases of wine from the 2019 harvest. We know that 559,689 cases of wine were sold in 2019. That means that with these numbers, 16.4% of juice came from somewhere else. We also know that only 67% of VA wineries completed the Commercial Grape Report while 100% fill out their ABC tax report forms, so that 16.4% is probably several points lower, though we canât prove it.
Iâve been to NOVA when Iâve heard wineries speculating about how much from Cali fruit their neighbors are bringing in, and Iâve sat behind the mirror in focus groups in NOVA when consumers directly state âVA wineries bring in all their juice from California, rightâ. This needs to stop. Itâs not true, and it will hurt our industry. By far, most VA wineries are working to grow and use their own fruit or VA fruit. Yes, some wineries supplement with juice that is not from VA. As long as it is clearly stated and marked, that is their prerogative, but I donât think that is the main story here. 84% or higher of wines produced in Virginia are grown here.
That story implied that most VA wineries were dependent on California fruit. That is simply not true and it is dangerous for the Virginia wineries. I suggested the reporter focus on the vineyard managers up at 3 and 4 am keeping trying to prevent frost in their vineyard or trying to stay afloat when their tasting rooms were closed. Those are real stories. Wineries nervous waiting for the trucks to get here from CA is not a story.
Annette Ringwood Boyd
Virginia Wine Board Marketing Office
600 East Main Street
Richmond, VA 23219
*From:* Scott Elliff [mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org] *Sent:* Tuesday, October 13, 2020 7:07 AM *To:* ‘Drink What YOU Like’; ‘Annette Boyd’ *Subject:* RE: [New post] In Defense of Facts, Virginiaâs Grape Farmers and the Virginia Wine Brand â An Open Letter to Drew Wilder, Julie Carey, NBC 4 Northern Virginia Bureau
Frank â thanks for picking up the lance here, but just among us girls letâs be a little bit careful here. Confidentially (though anyone could piece it together)
Grape tonnage in 2019, most recent report was 7400. Times 60 cases per ton thatâs about 440000 cases. But the total sales of VA wine last reported several years ago was 557000 â so maybe 600000 now. So 1/3 west coast overall ? Sure, many of us small guys are 100 percent VA, always have, always will. But the VA brands that most people see (grocery store) are significantly imported grapes. From a winey count standpoint it might be that 90 percent are fully VA, but from a case sales standpoint, not so high. Two distinct industries here â as has been the case for many years.
*From:* Drink What YOU Like [mailto:email@example.com] *Sent:* Sunday, October 11, 2020 10:07 AM *To:* firstname.lastname@example.org *Subject:* [New post] In Defense of Facts, Virginiaâs Grape Farmers and the Virginia Wine Brand â An Open Letter to Drew Wilder, Julie Carey, NBC 4 Northern Virginia Bureau
DrinkWhatYouLike.com posted: ” Dear Ms. Carey and Mr. Wilder: I read and watched your segment âVirginia Wine Industry Suffers as California Wildfires Burnâ posted on the NBC 4 Washington website on Friday, October 9, with much surprise and disappointment. The Virginia wine indus”