How much local is too much?

I find it amusing when people accuse me of not covering local wine enough in my weekly columns for The Washington Post. If anything, I’m leery that I may spend too much attention on local wines, which I find quite exciting and rather accessible, since I don’t have to purchase a plane ticket and use up a week of annual leave to visit the wineries. Aside from frequent features and newsy columns about local developments, I try to include local wines in regular columns or recommendations, for they don’t need special dispensation simply because they’re local – just recognition of their quality.

So this exchange in the April 9 Free Rangers food chat on The Washington Post’s website took me a bit by surprise. Not because of the “hate mail” aspect of the initial question – we’re pretty sure this is some bitter guy who chimes in regularly without actually reading or paying attention to what he’s saying – but also for the reactions from other readers.

Here are the relevant excerpts. You can read the whole chat here.

VIRGINIA WINES

You all are as bad F&W. Come on now if you all are on the local bandwagon for meat, produce and seafood then you also ahve to be on the local bandwagon for VA and MD wines. The WP needs to devout at least one column a month to local winea. Next we can work on local hard liquor and espeically moonshine. They have been making shine in Bath and Highland counites for almost 400 years. Longer than anywhere else in the US.

Dave McIntyre says:

Interestingly, nowadays I get the opposite complaint more often – that I write too much about local wine.

Did you miss my column in early March on the Virginia Governor’s Cup, won by Williamsburg Winery, and the Governor’s Case of the “12 Best” Virginia wines from the competition? My recommendations that week featured two Virginia tannats that are included in the Governor’s Case. Over the past five and a half years I’ve been writing this column I’ve regularly included wines from Virginia, Maryland, Texas, Idaho, Michigan, New York, Arizona. I’ve written features on Virginia and Maryland ciders, pairing Virginia wine with Szechuan cuisine, RdV Vineyards, Boordy Vineyards, the growth of a “Mid-Atlantic” wine region stretching from northern Georgia up the Blue Ridge through North Carolina into central and eastern Pennsylvania, the difficulty of finding local wines on local restaurant wine lists, efforts by Virginia’s (then) first lady to promote the state’s wines … Need I say more? Well, I am also co-founder of Drink Local Wine, the nation’s first locapour movement, which has held annual conferences in Texas, Virginia, Missouri, Colorado and Maryland to introduce bloggers and other writers to these regional wines. I’ve probably forgotten a few articles to mention here, but I think you get the picture.

It’s so much more than “local wine.” Our perception of “American Wine” is changing, because of the increase in quality of wines from Virginia, Maryland, and all the other states I mentioned above. A new generation of wine drinkers is receptive to wines that aren’t from California. This won’t diminish California’s dominance of US wine production, but it adds diversity, variety and interest. And we’re all better off for that.

And then another exchange:

THE WP NEEDS TO DEVOUT AT LEAST ONE COLUMN A MONTH TO LOCAL WINEA.

Oh please no. The rest of the wine-making world is making wines so superior even to Va’s (and Md wines, frankly, are largely lousy) that one column a month on local wines would cut out most of what most people like to drink.

Dave writes:

Well, here’s what I was talking about! I agree that there are many, many wonderful wines produced around the world, and I try to find those for you. It is not easy to keep up!
Yet while I agree that the world of wine is an extensive topic, what’s happening right around here is very exciting. I disagree with your premise that wine is inferior simply because it’s local, and hope you will try to search out the wineries that are making great quality strides. I will certainly be covering them in the column, as warranted, with no forced schedules. And remember, if I write about a local topic in the column, the recommendations may include wines from elsewhere.

And then the back-and-forth:

LOCAL WINES

Dave ever thought about running for office. Nice way to not answer the question lets strive for one column a month on local wines. actually it should be one column a month on none local wines. I make a $250 donation to a chatters favorite cahrity if in a blind tasting they can pick put thier favorite cult Cali cab from fines Virginny cabs.

Dave writes:

I believe I did answer your question – you complained that we never cover local wines. So there. And see my response to the chatter who disagrees with you. I’ll duck to get away from the cross-fire.

WHY?

Why do you keep posting Mr. Argumentative’s questions? Look, Dave covers some local wine, some US wine, and some international wine. (although I would like more coverage of US wine that’s not California, because it varies SO wildly, and I find it interesting.) But seriously, this guy has the same complaint every week. It gets old.

JOE YONAN  (Food section editor):

We want to make sure everybody’s complaints are heard — I never want to be accused of avoiding criticism. I think you’ll be able to find a way to live with it, right?

And these two came in right at the end, and I didn’t have an opportunity to answer, so I’ll include my thoughts here as asides.

IF I WRITE ABOUT A LOCAL TOPIC IN THE COLUMN, THE RECOMMENDATIONS MAY INCLUDE WINES FROM ELSEWHERE.

Which is good. If a local wine is compared to,say, a chenin blanc, which I don’t care for, that gives me more data points. If it’s compared to a California Cab, I’m going straight out to look for it.

[Hmm. Like I always say, I write for several audiences! :-)]

And finally, the second poster turns argumentative on me:

Q.

DISAGREE WITH YOUR PREMISE THAT WINE IS INFERIOR SIMPLY BECAUSE IT’S LOCAL,

This is certainly not my premise. You didn’t notice that I acknowledged that a lot of Virginia wines are good. And I certainly do not consider wine inferior merely because it is local. I do happen to have a palate.

[I never said he didn't have a palate, but he certainly isn't quoting himself correctly. Here's what he wrote: "The rest of the wine-making world is making wines so superior even to Va's (and Md wines, frankly, are largely lousy) that one column a month on local wines would cut out most of what most people like to drink. " I don't see an acknowledgement there that a lot of Virginia wines are good - rather a blanket statement that all Virginia and Maryland wines are inferior to the rest of the world's.]

As they say here in Washington, if they criticize you from both sides, you must be doing something right.

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About Dave McIntyre

Wine columnist for The Washington Post, co-founder of DrinkLocalWine.com, and blogger at Dave McIntyre's WineLine (dmwineline.com).
This entry was posted in Local Wine, Rants, Wine and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to How much local is too much?

  1. Norman Holly says:

    So, where are this week’s recommendations?

  2. Tommy G. says:

    Keep up the good work, Dave. I’ve always felt that you were and still are a champion for local wines both VA and MD.

  3. Pingback: Terroirist: A Daily Wine Blog » Daily Wine News: Coffee Smelling

  4. Jason Carey says:

    Well. I just moved down here and have not explored the wines that heavily, but what I have had so far don’t really express anything particularly unique or interesting at their price points. They are also to me made in a UC Davis mode or international mode. When there are more unique wines that to me express their local terroir and maybe are made without so much “winemaking” then I might have more interest. Its not that the VA wines aren’t drinkable,, they just are not that interesting to me so far.

    • Dave McIntyre says:

      Hi Jason – welcome to the blog and the area! Which local wines have you tried?

      Sent by Sheer Will Power

      >

  5. Diane Flynt says:

    Dave, you said it all—in DC, garnering criticism from both sides is a sign of relevance. I’ve always found your columns informative, balanced and full of the unexpected…the last quality being one of the most valued in my book. The reason I like learning about wine, spirits, beer and, of course, cider is that I’m often surprised and delighted by results of growers’ and makers’ art and craft in the cellar. Thank you for pointing me in new directions, sometimes close to home.

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