October 1.   Today marks the beginning of Virginia Wine Month.

It’s the 34th year for the month-long celebration of local wines, wineries and winemakers established by then governor Gerald Baliles. 

While winemakers are busy destemming, sorting and pressing tons of grapes picked before Hurricane Ian brought torrential rains, local wine enthusiasts can take advantage of special tastings and events to celebrate.

It’s also the first day local vino fans can order the First Wine of Virginia — Cornus Virginicus, Edition I!

A collaboration between Luca Paschina, winemaker at Barboursville Vineyards, and First Lady of Virginia, Suzanne Youngkin, this limited-release wine is a blend of 57% Merlot and 14% Petit Verdot (14%) from the 2020 vintage with 29% Cabernet Franc harvested in 2021.  

All the grapes were cultivated and the wine was made at Barboursville by Paschina and his team.

“I made three blends and then tasted with the First Lady to select the final wine,” said Paschina. “It’s a big honor and has been fun to be part of this project.”

It’s no surprise the blend is based on Merlot, a grape that’s been the cornerstone of Paschina’s success at Barboursville Vineyards. It serves as the base in most years for his flagship wine, Octagon, which has been one of Virginia’s iconic red wines for two decades.

Latin for ‘Flowering tree of Virginia,’ Cornus Virginicus is a nod to the Virginia Dogwood, the Commonwealth’s official state flower and tree that adorns the label. 

I recently joined a small group for a first taste of the first edition of this exciting new collaborative wine. 

It’s young but expressive. Even in its youth, the wine is showing wonderful complexity. The wine opens with dark berry aromas. Earth, cocoa and black tea notes emerge with some time in glass. Toasty oak notes are prominent throughout. Grippy tannins.  Give this wine a couple/few years to show its full potential. 

One of the intentions of this wine is to celebrate and support Virginia agriculture. A portion of sales will be donated to the Virginia Future Farmers of America (FFA) and Virginia 4-H state foundations.

Just 199 cases of Edition I were produced. It will be available for sale at Barboursville Vineyards, online and at Virginia ABC stores.  Edition II is already in the works.