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Wine: Virginia puts money where mouth is

Barboursville Vineyard in Virginia. (T.A. Larson)

If you start hearing more about Virginia wine soon, it won’t just be through coverage here in The Washington Post. New legislation passed this year and signed by Gov. Bob McDonnell effectively doubles the state’s financial support for the Virginia Wine Board to use in marketing and research.

This dedicated funding for the Board, which is part of the state agriculture department, essentially reinvests taxes and fees the wine industry pays into efforts to promote and expand the industry. With the stroke of McDonnell’s pen, the Board’s annual budget rose from $580,000 to $1.35 million.

In addition, the Commonwealth Transportation Board has allocated $3.5 million to a wine tourism initiative that will let visitors to tourist attractions such as Monticello, Colonial Williamsburg or Civil War battlefields know that there are wineries nearby, too. This effort will also target short-term visitors who are merely passing through but wish to take advantage of the Old Dominion’s roadside amenities (i.e., rest stops).

Part of the Wine Board’s expanded efforts will focus on getting the word about Virginia wine into the media, said Annette Boyd, director of the board’s marketing office. The Board is a major sponsor of the national Wine Bloggers Conference 2011, which will be held in Charlottesville. It is also sponsoring a visit next month by the Circle of Wine Writers, a British group of wine reporters. The board also sponsored this year's conference in Leesburg.

First Lady Maureen McDonnell has championed Virginia’s wine industry as well, backing efforts to promote exports to Britain during the governor’s trade mission there earlier this year. We can expect to see her playing a visible role in Virginia Wine Month in October, and she is planning an effort to push Virginia wines onto wine lists at restaurants in D.C., Maryland and Northern Virginia.

Not all the noise coming from Richmond this year has been positive. Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli (R) signed a letter of state attorneys general supporting legislation in Congress that would sharply limit the ability of wineries or consumers to challenge restrictive state alcohol distribution laws in court. While that bill, H.R. 5034, is not given much chance of passing, it could be devastating to many small wineries by restricting or eliminating their ability to ship wines directly to consumers.

-- Dave McIntyre
(Follow me on Twitter.)

By The Food Section  |  August 5, 2010; 10:00 AM ET
Categories:  Wine  | Tags: Dave McIntyre, wine  
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