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Why We Love to Drink Local

Posted by on October 13, 2010

Almost a year ago, I wrote a post titled The 100 Mile Liquid Diet, about some of the compelling reasons – sustainability, value, small business – why we love to drink local. In thinking about Virginia Wine Month, I wanted to revisit this idea from a more intensely personal point of view.

Sure, Safeway sells wine. So does World Market. In fact, back before we moved here, we were one of those couples who picked a wine based primarily on how interesting the label was. World Market was great for that because of the wide selection of inexpensive wines they carry. The odds of getting a good wine this way weren’t great, and when we occasionally did get a winner it was hard to remember it six months later. Picking up a bottle of wine two aisles over from imported British candy and around the corner from furniture made in the Third World is convenient, but hardly a memorable couples bonding moment.

So we moved here and realized that there were a LOT of wineries not too far away. Like most people, we initially considered it a novelty thing. Sure, they were growing grapes and making wine in Virginia, but how good could it be? And what could we expect from a random little tasting room three miles beyond where the pavement ended? I mean come on, this is Virginia, not California!

Virginia wine was a whole new experience. We were used to mass-market wine, which is fine but unexciting. All of a sudden, we were trying wines with flavor, texture, intriguing aromas! I’ve had friends who, upon quitting smoking, discovered that food actually has flavor – that’s what this was like. A $9 merlot from Cuddly Pink Bear Australian Label isn’t that different from a $9.50 merlot from Roly Poly Penguin Australian Label , but holy fermentation, Batman! A cab franc from one Virginia winery was light years different from another winery’s cab franc. It was like growing up on oatmeal three meals a day and suddenly getting dragged along through Southeast Asia with Anthony Bourdain (well, minus the pain that I’m sure would be involved with that sudden change).

Our weekend excursions were also tremendously educational. All of a sudden, we were learning the difference between wines done in oak and those done in stainless steel. We learned what grapes grew like weeds, and which grapes were low yield but high awesome. We became familiar with all the various tools and techniques used in the making of wine and all kinds of other details. Did we learn this because we threw ourselves into wine books, or because we took classes on wine, or because we said “we’re wine bloggers, give us access?” No! We learned this because we discovered that when you show an interest in someone’s passion, they will share with you. And share. And share. And in the process we discovered just how much love goes into Virginia wine.

Now it’s like we took the blue pill, and we’re forever down the rabbit hole. From a practical point of view, we almost never buy a wine we haven’t tasted. How cool is that? But more importantly, we buy wines that were made by someone who cares about them and wants to make something unique. I’m sure that the winemaker at Mondavi has a blast at work, but I doubt he or she gives as much to the millions of gallons of grape juice flowing past as one of our local winemakers gives to their 500 cases.

There’s also a more intangible benefit: the memory. Earlier I mentioned that one wine with a cute critter label bleeds into the next in my memory; not so with Virginia wines we buy. When we pull that bottle of Castle Gruen Norton off the rack, we remember the ridiculous amount of time we always spend talking to Dean while trying his wines. When we grab the bottle of White Fences Meteor Midnight, we remember the weekend we spent at a great little B & B on the Northern Neck. And so on, and so forth. We may not always remember every detail of the wine – that’s why this blog is great for us, sort of an online notebook – but we always remember lots of details of our trip there. We have our own time machine in our house. It’s called a “wine rack”.

This is another of those posts that’s been bouncing around in my head for a while, and Drink Local Wine Week (thanks to Drink Local Wine .com for everything they do for local wine producers and bloggers) helped inspire me to finish it. Since we’re celebrating local wine, what’s YOUR best local wine memory?

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The Why We Love to Drink Local by Swirl, Sip, Snark, unless otherwise expressly stated, is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.

9 Responses to Why We Love to Drink Local

  1. Lynne

    The key is hospitality. Some friends from Tennessee had never been wine tasting, and one had never been to Virginia. We went to a few and they both fell in love with the grape culture and Virginia wines.

    So I tend to always remember the places where the people were the most enthusiastic about their wine, even if it wasn’t up to my taste. Those include in no particular order: Castle Gruen, Gray Ghost, Sharp Rock, Lake Anna, Cave Ridge and Burnley. At most of these, the owner poured for us and that makes a huge difference. After going somewhere as sterile as Prince Michel, it’s nice to see a cat sitting on the counter or a dog asleep in a tasting room window.

  2. Brian

    Ditto Lynne, and I’ll add Narmada to your list!

  3. grapeenvyguy

    Oh please, Castle Gruen is a gimme. Can you even count that? Dean’s exceptionally cool and really passionate about the wine. Cheater. And the owner of Lake Anna met us once a year ago and remembered us at a festival. A festival! That’s impressive. What I like is I could go back through the list of Virginia wineries we’ve visited, and the positive experiences would way outnumber the negatives. That’s a sign that the industry in general gets it.

  4. Chef Shawn

    Great post, thank you so much for sharing. We are feeling the same way as we begin to build our own VA wine collection in earnest: the time spent with each other, with friends, and with the people who put their heart and soul into these dreams is incredibly special.

  5. grapeenvyguy

    Chef Shawn – thanks! There really is something magical about shared experiences. They don’t even all have to be good (but it’s great when they are).

  6. Dave McIntyre

    Great post – and terrific metaphor of wine rack as time machine! Thank you for your support of Regional Wine Week!

  7. grapeenvyguy

    Metaphor? Oh, riiiight. We don’t actually have a time machine. Nudge nuge wink wink. Who would say such a silly thing? Time machine, pffft. As if.

    Thanks for the shout out, Dave!

  8. Kim Williams

    We’re in Northern VA so we do mainly Fauquier and Loudoun wines. There are so many favorite moments… the first that comes to mind is the day we first visited Doug Fabbioli. He’s so casually genius about every aspect of winemaking, so generous with compliments to his neighboring wineries, and so talented and personable… plus his place is just like – well – you’re hanging out at his place! The well-loved raspberry merlot and pear port are well-loved with good reason :)

    An aha wine moment a few years back at Potomac Point when I tried their Cab Franc with a disk of chocolate from a bulk bin at Wegman’s. It was like a cordial cherry from my childhood melting in my mouth and making the cherry pop out of the wine…

    Every time we visit Brian and Sharon Roeder at Barrel Oak in Delaplane it’s like popping in on old friends and there’s always folks there having great fun in groups or as couples or families and lots of dogs including the winery pooches. I love the fundraising events they do for those in need locally and nationally with their focus on cancer causes, animals and feeding the hungry. They have brought so much to the community and I applaud their much deserved success.

    For the feel of home we go to Pearmund Cellars. We own a barrel there but that’s not why it feels like home. It felt that way and that was WHY we got the barrel to begin with. DJ is like a little brother who makes everyone so proud with his success and his lovely family. Chris of course is a genius in his own right as one of the most successful winemakers in the state. Seth is personable and always working away at the wine, perfecting the nuances of wines of the future. Sue in the tasting room has my heart though – she’s become a dear friend and she always takes the time to share her experiences and knowledge of each wine from year to year and she’ll take you back and explain the entire winemaking process if you’re interested. I’ve learned so much from her.

    We also love Gadino Cellars. This is a great family and every member is present in the tasting room, barrel room, out in the vineyards or in the office networking hard and putting info out there so the followers keep following. Bill and Aleta are wonderful and their story is a lovely one. I love being part of the Gadino “famiglia” :) One of my best memories there was attending the first winemaker dinner and the little Gadino grandson (who was only about 3 years old at the time) was helping to set the tables. What a sweetheart!

    One fond memory that you guys refreshed with your talk about Burnley is that our visit out, we accidentally had the great fortune of stumbling into a vertical cabernet tasting. WHAT great fortune! We’d never done one and to see the differences in the wines from year to year… wow! This is another place where the feel of family is present right down to who made the dip and here’s the recipe – lol

    See… so hard to pick just one when there have been so many. I completely agree with all said about drinking local. I do drink other wines, of course. But last night, while opening a bottle of Gallo Family Vineyards something or other to cook with, I turned to my husband and said “I just got this little rush when I was pulling the cork and it started to come out and I saw ‘Ga…’” and he said “You thought “Gadino” didn’t you?” and I admitted with a laugh that I had… and the sensation it gave me was one of warmth and laughter and great wine and good friends. Gallo will never do that for me because I have no personal connection to them and mass produced wines will never have the intense personality to them that those created by passionate winemakers who live and breathe each vine from earth, through rains, the rebirth of harvest and crush, the nurture and tending of tanks and barrels until finally they’ve bottled their children/their art to share with others. It’s a gift.

    I love New Zealand sauvignon blanc. I especially like it paired with goat cheese. But what I love MORE is having a winemaker in Virginia take Petit Manseng, create a beautiful dry wine with it, and be able to taste some of the same beautiful zippy kiwi, citrus, gooseberry and lemongrass in it that I taste in that NZ wine!

    I’m just blessed to have so many gifted winemakers within an hour or so of my home – and for another hour or two beyond that I’m in a different section of heaven – with yet more glorious regions filled with wonderful Virginia wines! It’s given me a whole new respect for the state of my birth :)

  9. vawinediva

    so cool we made it a post! :-) Thanks Kim.

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