Wine: A Virginia newcomer wins big
The Virginia Governor's Cup wine competition crowned a surprise newcomer last month when it gave top honors for the Commonwealth's best white wine to a spanking new winery: Fairfax County's own Paradise Springs for its 2009 chardonnay.
The Governor's Cup was presented to winery co-owner Kirk Wiles by the state's first lady, Maureen McDonnell, at a ceremony at Monticello on Sept. 29. The setting evoked Virginia's oldest and most famous oenophile, Thomas Jefferson, even as it honored one of the state's youngest wineries.
Paradise Springs faced tremendous obstacles before it could open for business. Fairfax County tried to deny it a license, and neighbors in
Clinton Clifton tried to prevent it from opening, fearing a winery down the road might cause traffic jams with weddings or concerts or other events typically hosted by wineries.
Instead, Paradise Springs has made a statement with quality. This year, the Virginia Wineries Association split the Governor's Cup into two competitions, for red and white wine. Paradise Springs took a gold medal in the red competition for its Norton. It also took a gold medal for cabernet franc and a Best in Category for its Sommet Blanc white blend at the Atlantic Seaboard Wine Competition. Not bad for a winery that released its first wines and opened to the public less than a year ago.
"It is very gratifying to win this award, especially after the difficulties we had opening this winery," Wiles said.
The 2009 chardonnay, which was recently released at a price of $27 at the winery, was fermented in barrel and aged for nine months in oak. I tasted the 2008 at the recent Virginia wine festival, and it was delicious, with the oak well integrated and balanced with the fruit. Consulting winemaker Chris Pearmund works on Paradise Springs wines; he also makes wine at Pearmund Cellars, the Winery at La Grange and Vint Hill Craft Winery.
Paradise Springs has made a definite statement of quality with its early releases. That you can taste them at the winery, just 40 minutes from Washington, on a farm that was part of Lord Fairfax's original land grant, in an 1800s log cabin renovated by a protégé of Frank Lloyd Wright? That's just gravy.
Note: Next week is Regional Wine Week on DrinkLocalWine.com, a Web site I co-founded that links to blog posts about wines and wineries around the country.
-- Dave McIntyre
(Follow me on Twitter.)
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