By ML Hilton
(VIRGINA) -- The journey to Virginia wine country (with a side, sightseeing trip to Washington DC) certainly started in a rather early and mundane fashion late last week: a trip through Oakland airport at o’dark thirty. But getting into Virginia turned out to be more rollin’ and rockin’ than most of the passengers cared to enjoy. We hit the tail end of a hurricane, and ended up diverting to Richmond after the pilot decided the ride down to Dulles was getting bumpier than even he cared for.
Starved and airsick, I was game for bailing out and driving the two hours from Richmond toward that evening’s destination, the incomparable Goodstone Inn. I felt mildly guilty, because leaving the plane had the feeling of rats departing a sinking ship. In truth, I was just ready to start my adventure and get off my butt and out of the airplane seat.
Admittedly, I use the word adventure loosely. But, it really does apply. There is always something you take home from your travels beyond what you learn about a place – whether it’s your first visit, or one of many.
It’s not just adventures, it is the surprises as well. My first was that evening over an incredible steak served at your basically garish truck stop. Even in top restaurants in Napa, I have not tasted a more tender or flavorful cut of meat. Liberally marbled with fat (which probably was part of the trick), this was the type of steak that you pick the bone up and gnaw on. Of course, there was not a flick of green on the plate – just a nice white baked potato, no veggies within miles. I guess you can’t have everything, especially for $13.99.
My other surprise was the nonchalance with which the vintners and growers viewed the rain. While final harvest at the beginning of October was still up to four weeks away for several Virginia wineries, many people only mildly reacted to the cool drizzle. In Napa, rain at harvest makes headlines.
Because of the year-round precipitation, dry-farming was something that was not overly discussed with the vineyard managers, though soil types did get a more enthusiastic, and interesting exchange.
History was everywhere; neither of my accommodations for the nights spent in Virginia were younger than 250 years old. Many wine tasting rooms were converted barns or homes from the 1700’s and it was easy to see that the entire building(s) were put together by hand, and without the benefit of electric tools.
Beyond the testaments to both the Revolutionary and Civil wars, local and current politics was not overlooked, and was heatedly discussed in a few tasting rooms. Many boutique wineries are not, or will not, ship or sell wines outside the state of Virginia. So, be prepared to make your own arrangements for getting your wine home if you live outside the state. If you are interested in which side of the issue the wineries are on, just drop into a tasting room and get the local scoop yourself. They won’t be shy in telling you what they think.
The juxtaposition of the old history: an intimate part in the birth of our nation; and the new history: an emerging wine industry was a refreshing experience. Virginian’s seem to take things a bit in stride. A sort of (not to) hasty pudding philosophy.
Go to Virginia.winecountry.com to get tips and information to help you enjoy your trip to Virginia Wine Country.