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?
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.