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Virginia wines for March Madness

Friday - 4/1/2011, 12:05pm  ET

What appropriate wines should you open and enjoy while watching the gentlemen from Richmond make history this weekend in the NCAA Tournament? Why, wines from Virginia, of course.

Just like the 11th seeded teams of past and present, Virginia wines are surprisingly good. And I don't mean "surprisingly" in a negative or mean way. It's just that Virginia wines don't often get the attention and recognition they deserve on the national stage.

If you're looking for a wine to sip, swish and swallow, pick up a bottle of 2006 Prince Michel Barrel Select Chardonnay, from Leon, Virginia ($18). The barrel fermented chardonnay boasts aromas of vanilla, pear and ripe apple. The rich, creamy mouthfeel and luscious flavors of baked apple, pear and peach are due, in part, to the sur lee aging process, so the wine stays in contact with the yeast and other beneficial sediment for a longer period of time. The toasty finish offers up hints of roasted cashews.

Regular readers know that I am a big fan of Virginia wine pioneer, Dennis Horton. His eponymous winery, Horton Vineyards in Orange County, Virginia, produces some of the best Viognier wines in the country. His 2009 Horton Vineyard Viognier is a steal at $20.

In December of 2010, the prestigious Kluge Estate Winery and Vineyards went into bankruptcy when lenders foreclosed on the property. The silver lining is that the 2005 Kluge New World Red Wine from Albemarle County, Virginia ($22) was purchased by several wine shops at a discount.

Down Richmond way, in the shadow of Monticello, is the delightfully charming Barboursville Vineyards. But don't let the stately grounds and pristine vineyards fool you. This is place where serious wine is made, like the 2007 Barboursville Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve ($30).

And if VCU wins, celebrate with a bottle of Non-vintage Thibaut-Janisson Blanc de Chardonnay Sparkling Wine from Charlottesville ($26).