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Wine: What Virginia and Maryland are up against

It's hard to gain respect. No matter how well you do, how much you improve, many people will continue to judge you by their first impressions. That was Maureen McDonnell's point as Virginia's first lady advocates for the state's wine industry. She has found that many people wrote off Virginia wine after an unfortunate experience years ago and haven't paid attention as the wines improved.

As I noted in this week's column, McDonnell has concentrated her efforts on restaurants and retail shops in Northern Virginia and the District. Well, maybe she should plan a trip to Hyde Park, N.Y.

I recently received in the mail a huge package containing a review copy of "Exploring Wine," by Steven Kolpan, Brian H. Smith and Michael A. Weiss. This is the "completely revised" third edition of the primary wine text book used at the Culinary Institute of America, written by its three eminent wine professors. It clocks in at 800 pages, and eight pounds. The press release tucked inside the front cover touted it as "the ever essential and dynamic reference" for wine lovers, with new updated info on India and China. The preface by Joy Sterling of Iron Horse Vineyards mentions that this book guides the next generation of American chefs and sommeliers in their wine education.

So naturally I turned to see what this authoritative text says about Virginia and Maryland. After a few desultory paragraphs on Thomas Jefferson and Virginia's six American Viticultural Areas (a discussion that demonstrates only that they can read a map), the authors point out that Virginia specializes in vinifera varieties, "especially Riesling, Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot." Never mind that most Virginia wineries gave up on Riesling long ago, where is the viognier, the Cabernet franc, petit verdot and petit manseng? The list of eminent Virginia wineries begins with Meredyth Vineyards, which ceased production a decade ago, and includes the shuttered Oakencroft as well as Montdomaine Cellars, now a little-used label of Horton Vineyards, which is not mentioned despite its importance to the state.

The one paragraph devoted to Maryland focuses on Philip Wagner, the founder of Boordy Vineyards who wrote an influential book in the 1940s on hybrid grape varieties. It then sings the praises of Byrd Vineyards, which went belly up on 1996, and Catoctin Cellars, which was sold a few years ago and now is little more than a label, if that.

"Completely revised"? Such deplorable lapses discredit an otherwise admirable book. Maybe it's too much to hope that the authors can keep abreast of all the exciting news in the regional wine movement, which has only spread to 50 states, after all. But they should do more than check to see if new AVAs have been approved.

What's most troubling is not that this $65 tome may be on the wine shelf at Borders, but that it is the primary text book for teaching young chefs and sommeliers about the world of wine. So next time you're in a restaurant that boasts a CIA-trained chef or somm, tell them about Virginia and Maryland wine. Their education is lacking.

-- Dave McIntyre
(Follow me on Twitter.)

By Dave McIntyre  | October 21, 2010; 7:00 AM ET
Categories:  Wine  | Tags:  Dave McIntyre, wine  
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Our Eden, MD home-grown prides are: Pinot Grigio, 3 types of Chardonnay, 2 Vidal Blanc, Sauvignon Blanc, Chambourcin, Cab Franc, Cab Sauvignon, Merlot, Viognier, Malbec and Petit Verdot. We will rock you! --Bordeleau Winery

Posted by: bordeleauwine | October 26, 2010 2:04 PM | Report abuse

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