Take that, Virginia wine!

Virginia wine took a slap in the face Thursday, in this article in The Washington Post. The article described how newly inaugurated Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) is trying to establish good relations with legislators from both parties by hosting daily cocktail hours at the governor’s mansion with pretty good hootch he springs for himself.

McAuliffe is wealthy, you see, and can afford the best. He also has no experience in Virginia politics so has every incentive to establish good relationships on both sides of the aisle. And of course he has every right to serve whatever beverages he wants during his schmooze fests.

Some context is important: The previous governor, Robert McDonnell, a Republican, and his wife Maureen were tireless champions of the Virginia wine industry and much beloved by winemakers for their advocacy. They are also under federal indictment for allegedly accepting gifts from a pharmaceutical company executive seeking state approval for a nutritional supplement. Not much is known about McAuliffe’s preferences in wine, though winemakers were relieved when the new governor retained McDonnell’s agriculture secretary, Todd Haymore, who is also a fierce champion of Virginia’s wine industry.

So back to the Post article, which is about politics, not wine. (It was written by Laura Vozzella, who covers Virginia politics and used to be a food writer for the Baltimore Sun.) Buried within is this quote from state Senator Thomas A. Garrett Jr., a Republican from the 22nd senate district, which zigs and zags across central Virginia from the western suburbs of Richmond up towards Louisa and then back down and across to Lynchburg:

“McDonnell had served exclusively Virginia wine and Virginia liquor, and we have some fine wine and liquor in Virginia, but there’s some finer options, to some tastes, to be found in places like Kentucky, and Tennessee, and California, and Australia and Chile,” Garrett said. “And one of the things [McAuliffe] pointed out is, while he would carry on the proud tradition of serving Virginia spirits, he was not closed to the idea of serving libations from France and, you know, elsewhere.”

You know, the good stuff. Not the politically correct stuff.

From looking at an Internet map of Garrett’s district, which skirts south of Charlottesville, it appears he does not represent much of Virginia wine country, though there are certainly a few winemakers who have the chance to vote for him. And it sounds like he knows where some good wine is made. (“California, and Australia and Chile … France and, you know, elsewhere.”) I imagine he’ll be hearing from a few vinous constituents.

It would be easy to read too much into Garrett’s comment and McAuliffe’s decision to serve non-Virginia wine and booze at the governor’s mansion. McAuliffe has committed to presenting the Governor’s Cup trophy to the state’s best wine in Richmond on February 27. (I spent three days this week as one of 15 judges in the final round of that competition.) And as he apparently told Garrett, he plans to keep championing Virginia-made libations.

But the article points out that Garrett was not imbibing at the particular daily party when he was interviewed, so we can’t blame the alcohol for a slip of the tongue. It would be ironic if McAuliffe is successful as governor in part because he does not insist on serving Virginia wine when wooing legislators. Garrett’s apparent relief at being offered Kentucky bourbon and California or French cabernet is a reminder to the Virginia wine industry not to get too wrapped up in its own press clips. It certainly suggests there may be some Made in Virginia fatigue in the commonwealth’s capital.


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 California, Current Affairs, Local Wine, Virginia, Washington Post, Wine and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

12 Responses to Take that, Virginia wine!

  1. Looks like we have an early frontrunner for the 2014 regional wine award Curmudgie, Dave, given to those who still think it’s 1975 in the regional wine business http://winecurmudgeon.com/the-2013-curmudgies/

  2. Chris Parker says:

    Hi Dave, An interesting and thought provoking post!

    Serving wines of Virginia at the Governor’s Mansion is important but it does not have to be exclusively Virginian. In fact, there is a benefit in presenting wines from other regions alongside wines of Virginia. Our success in the UK is a direct result of building a category for wines of Virginia in the most competitive and complex market. My curated portfolio of wines has been tasted by some of the best sommeliers in London, highly regarded wine merchants throughout the UK, and listed by many of them.

    The point is, our wines show well alongside fine French and Californian wines and that is our strength. Our reputation in the UK is high because our merchants are proudly presenting their selection of our wines amongst seriously good wines from around the world.

    We have built the reputation of Virginia wines in the UK. The growing presence in the UK is helping to raise the profile and brand reputation of wines of Virginia. Steven Spurrier, Jancis Robinson, and Oz Clarke are more engaged with the Virginia wine industry because wines are visible and available in the UK market.

    Governor McAuliffe should be proud to serve predominately Virginia wines, spirits, cider & beer at the Mansion. A well curated cellar which includes a small selection of wines from other regions will also serve to show the high quality and appealing style of the best wines of Virginia.


    Chris Parker
    New Horizon Wines

  3. Thoughtful piece, Dave.

    I recently wrote that the ‘Virginia wine industry’ would miss the McDonnells, or, actually, would miss their unwavering support of Virginia wine. Current federal legal predicament notwithstanding, I still believe this. Granted, retaining Secretary Haymore is a positive indicator that strong support for the industry will continue.

    I second Chris’s comment; the Governor’s Mansion doesn’t need to be a place of wine exclusivity, and Virginia wines have proven again and again they stand up well along side the wines of other more notable regions. Although, as the state’s Chief Executive, I do believe Governor McAuliffe does have an obligation to pour the wines of Virginia moreso than not (though I may be in the minority with this view).

    Dave, specifically to your comment about possible fatigue — suggesting that there may be some ‘Made in Virginia’ fatigue in Richmond simply because Governor McAuliffe may not be as well versed in all things Virginia wine, cider, spirits and other booze is a bit hyperbolic. Perhaps state Senator Garrett can give our Governor a primer on the wines of Virginia after he hears from those vinous constituents. 🙂

    Sent by the latest retina display iPad Mini with Bluetooth keyboard.

  4. Great commentary Chris and Frank. I agree with Frank that it is not so much a matter of fatigue for Virginia wines, but rather an issue of education and exposure to our new governor of the quality of the new Virginia wine. Perhaps somebody could arrange a blind tasting for Mr. McAuliffe. I suspect he would be quite surprised by the quality of wines made in the commonwealth he now governs and how well they show against fine wines from other regions of the world. Any suggestions on how this blind tasting might be arranged? Thanks, Dave, for your post.

    • Chris Parker says:

      Great idea Christine! I would happily give a briefing from the front-line – a commercial perspective from the UK market and how it plays out on the global stage.

    • Dave McIntyre says:

      For me, the problem isn’t that the governor is offering additional drinks beyond Virginia’s, but the relief expressed by the senator that disparaged Virginia wines. Christine – isn’t he your senator at Ankida?

      Sent by Carrier Pigeon


  5. Dave, thank you for such an insightful post. Over the past few years I’ve discovered quite a trove of fabulous Virginia wines and other libations. Some of the most renowned wine educators and reviewers have certainly grown more fond of Virginia wines, and Virginia has certainly come a long way in its wine refinement. Any true Virginian worth his or her salt would be proud to have a cellar brimming with Virginia wines, and would be eager to share them with friends. Although I agree that there is certainly room for wine from places other than Virginia, a governor, of all people, should be the very first to champion their state and its products. I wish I could say that I’m shocked that the current occupant of the governor’s mansion doesn’t care much for Virginia’s offerings, but I’m not. I’m sure he’ll find wines and other products from other, more like-minded locales better suited to his palate.

  6. Pingback: Take that, Virginia wine! - Vinigator.com

  7. This hurts my heart. Virginia all the way!

  8. Pingback: The 2014 Curmudgies

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