A Guide to Wine

Not Sure What You Like? When To Swirl? How To Sip? Some Of Our Region’s Top Wine Experts Share Both Basic And Insider Tips.



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Do you have a favorite grape (or two) grown in the state?

JH: Virginia has a climate that is conducive to growing many grape varietals. The two that win the most accolades are viognier and cabernet franc.

SH: I love big, complex red wines. There are a few producers making wonderful petit verdot in Virginia. The grape is not produced in mass quantities, keeping the availability down and cost up. If you come across one in a tasting room across Virginia, do yourself a favor a taste it! My favorite is Linden.

AS: I’m a big fan of viognier, as it’s done well in Virginia for years, but lately I’ve been really impressed by traminette, an aromatic hybrid. On the red side, for years I would have said cabernet franc—and they’re still good—but my money these days is on petit verdot. Wow!

MS: The best two red grapes in Virginia are cabernet franc and petit verdot. I personally think petit verdot will eventually become our best red grape. Our best white grape hands down is viognier; it adapts to our humid climate and is something that, done right, we can really be proud of.

What is a favorite Virginia wine of the moment?

JH: I have always liked Barboursville’s Octagon. It is a Bordeaux-style blend that consistently is solid every year. I like the structure of it, and even though it’s a cabernet sauvignon, merlot and cabernet franc blend, it is still food friendly.

CR: King Estate 2008 Petit Verdot because of its complexity and brooding dark fruit profile. Also, Chatham Vineyards 2011 Church Creek “Steel” Chardonnay because I think it can compete and beat the majority of California stainless steel chardonnays.

JS: RdV Vineyards Rendezvous. This winery (with Eric Boissenot behind it) has put Virginia on the map in the wine world as a big hitter comparing Virginia to the Medoc. I highly recommend this wine often.

AS: Brut NV from Thibaut Janisson—I am a champagne nut, and we’ve never had anything this good.

MS: My two favorite producers in Virginia are Michael Shaps and Veritas. Both are my go to when I have a skeptical out-of-towner that I want to introduce to Virginia wines.