Worth Reading This Week: A Californian’s perspective on Virginia wine

A visiting friend has kept me busy this weekend, but here’s a late roundup of (last) week’s wine writings worth weading:

What happens when a Californian wine writer with a sharp palate and an open mind visits Virginia? You get Patrick Comiskey’s delightful roundup of the Old Dominion’s wine scene in Zester Daily. I met Comiskey for the first time last month when he was in-state (we both were judges at the final round of the Virginia Governor’s Cup competition, which will announce its winners this Thursday), so he not only had the chance to visit several wineries on a whirlwind tour, but he tasted 135 of the state’s best wines over a three-day period. Of course, he didn’t know which they were, but they gave him a sense of where Virginia is, enologically speaking.

Comiskey is the main wine writer for the Los Angeles Times and editor for U.S.-Outside-of-California for Wine & Spirits magazine, so maybe his Zester Daily piece is only an introduction. It reads a bit like he’s trying to squeeze a lot of information into a stingy word count, and I for one would love to read more like this passage, in which Comiskey deftly captures all the things we natives take for granted about Virginia and weaves them together into a whiz-bang description of how the booming wine industry fits into the fabric of Virginia’s culture and society, rather than viewing it out of context as a distinct entity on its own:

… Virginia wine country, what I’ve seen of it, is wonderfully hard to pin down. It is wine country, for sure, but it’s wine country filtered through farm country and horse country and hunt club country and Civil War country and, most important, Jefferson country — Jefferson, America’s first wine geek …

The diversity of land use here perhaps accounts for the diversity of wine lovers, too. I’ve never seen anything quite like the demographic of a Virginia tasting room, where outdoorsmen in camo gear commingle with former debutantes and polo enthusiasts, duck and deer hunters elbow to elbow with Beltway weekenders and ladies who lunch. If Ralph Lauren wanted to start a winery, he’d be wise to come to Virginia.

If you follow Virginia wine regularly, you won’t learn anything new from Comiskey’s piece. But you will see the subject from a different perspective, that of a talented and thirsty outsider. And quite honestly, other thirsty outsiders are more likely to listen to him than to those of us who live here. Please write more, Patrick!

A flight of reds waiting to be tasted at the Virginia Governor's Cup final round judging in Richmond. And no, we were NOT wearing those lampshades by the end of the day.

It’s been a decade since Two-Buck Chuck set the wine world on its ear and proved that an inexpensive wine can be more than just “drinkable.” The anniversary didn’t escape the eye of The Wine Curmudgeon, cheap wine’s main champion. And the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat published an interview with Fred Franzia, the man behind the label, who is still flailing away at “wine snobs” who think their favorite drink should cost more than $10.

Finally, Robert M. Parker Jr. tweeted this last week after retasting some 2009 Bordeaux:

Almost immediately, James Suckling called 2009 “the greatest vintage ever” on his subscription website.

I guess it must be true, then.


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 Bordeaux, Eastern US, Local Wine, Parker, Uncategorized, Virginia, Wine, writers and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Worth Reading This Week: A Californian’s perspective on Virginia wine

  1. Allen Clark says:

    Parker just finished “retasting some 2009 Bordeaux”?! Are the wines even ready for an initial tasting? Surely there are great wines of the vintage, but “greatest vintage”? It’ll be a while before 2009 proves itself to be anything of the sort.

    • Well, of course as a writer giving buying advice to his subscribers, he needs to rate wines “before their time.” And his initial ratings were published in April 2010 after his en primeur tastings. Now that the wines are coming to market, he’s updating his scores for those who didn’t indulge in futures.

  2. George Christo says:

    2 things: On the 2009 Bordeaux, I have had a couple at “normal people” price points, and they have been really, really good on a value for taste ratio. That’s usually a pretty good indicator, if you’re not getting any stinkers there. I still haven’t touched the “good” ones. That said, I have a visceral reaction to the declaration of the “best I have ever tasted” before their time, as well. On the outsider’s view of Virginia, I must say, Comiskey’s very much on it with his description of the scene. Much different from the up Route 29 down Silverado Trail run in Napa, which is great, but much more, well, you know… Thanks for letting us know this man is out there writing. Hope he gets over this way more often.

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