This is Regional Wine Week, October 6-12, the sixth annual celebration of wine made throughout the country, not just on the West Coast. As regular readers of this blog know, Regional Wine Week was started by Jeff Siegel, aka The Wine Curmudgeon, and myself back in 2008 to encourage wine writers, bloggers and tweeters to focus on their local vino for a few days. It was all about, as I like to say, “wine from around here, wherever here happens to be.”
It was a website, drinklocalwine.com, that became an organization, Drink Local Wine. Our timing was good – the locavore movement was underway and gaining steam; locapour became a natural corollary. We got support from local wine associations in Texas, Virginia, Missouri, Colorado and Maryland, who hosted annual Drink Local Wine conferences to showcase their wines to bloggers and consumers from across the country. We created “Twitter Taste Offs” (I can’t prove we were the first to do a Twitter tasting, but we were certainly among the earliest) that created social media buzz around the wines that echoed far beyond state borders and the narrow distribution networks of local wines.
“Regional wine is not supposed to taste like California wine. Or French wine. Or like any wine other than where it is from. Missouri wine tastes like Missouri wine, and there’s nothing wrong with that.” Jeff Siegel, in “7 Things You Need to Know About Regional Wine.”
Major media took notice. Regional Wine Week was mentioned in the Wall Street Journal. Wine columnists around the country participated, at least the first year or two. But we also saw features about Virginia, Texas, and New York wines appearing in unusual outlets – USA Today, Travel+Leisure, NPR. The winestream media even discovered that really good juice is made in the other 47. This year, Wine Enthusiast carried a feature about Virginia’s burgeoning wine movement. Jancis Robinson and Linda Murphy included extensive sections about Virginia and other states in their new book, American Wine, and Robinson included a page on Virginia in the newly published 7th edition of the World Atlas of Wine. Virginia had about 130 wineries in 2007, and is up to more than 230 today. It now ranks fifth in wine production among U.S. states. Even sommeliers in Washington D.C. are taking notice. By nearly all accounts, Virginia has made it.
“Someday, people will get on a plane in Cincinnati and say they’re going to wine country, and they’ll land at Dulles.” – Paul Breaux, founder of Breaux Vineyards in Purcellville, Va., in October 2011 (in “Why Regional Wine Matters.“)
Jeff and I don’t claim credit for this. The winemakers deserve the praise, for making ever-better wine. Many of them are tireless in their marketing efforts, leaving the vineyards and the cellars for wine stores and restaurants to show their wines, or dreaming up new ways to attract visitors to their tasting rooms. The state associations have played a role. The Virginia Wine Marketing Office has been a tireless promoter, wooing the national Wine Bloggers Conference to the Old Dominion and making sure writers throughout the world, not just the country, have a chance to taste Virginia’s best wines. The Maryland Wineries Association does yeoman’s work promoting that state’s growing industry with a small staff and budget. Unfortunately, the Texas legislature eliminated state support for its wine industry in a budget crunch. New York’s Wine and Grapegrowers Association similarly lives by a thread every year as Albany develops a budget. Would that these states were as far-sighted as Virginia’s government, which ensured that the Wine Marketing Office would have steady funding.
All this success helps make Regional Wine Week even more of a celebration. And we at Drink Local Wine invite you to be part of it, not just by opening a bottle of local vino, but by blogging about it, tweeting it, posting on Facebook or whatever social media platform you favor. Send a link to firstname.lastname@example.org and we will post it on the website. We’re also having a photo contest, running through Oct. 12 at our Facebook page, for you to post your favorite shots of local wine country. Several people have already entered with some great photos! Details about Regional Wine Week and the photo context are at drinklocalwine.com.
So enjoy a local wine this week, and let us share your experience.