Wine of the Week: Drink Local Wine Day

It turns out that Friday is Open Local Wine day, so I would like to dedicate this column to my friend and wine columnist for The Washington Post Dave McIntyre, who over the years has dragged me – dubious and pouting – into the local wine movement.

Now, it’s not that I don’t like local wine – I’m lucky enough to live near Virginia’s booming wine industry – it’s just that I don’t really think about it all that often. Shame on me.

So why is there even a day dedicated to opening local wines? Well, the movement really started as an annual event over a decade ago when the Drink Local Wine (DWL) organization, co-founded by McIntyre and Jeff Siegel, who blogs as The Wine Curmudgeon, was established to bring greater attention to regional wines.

Michael Wangbickler, CEO of Balzac Communications & Marketing, who joined the organization as President of the Board of Directors shortly thereafter, said “We’ve made great strides over the past several years with building recognition for lesser known areas.

Regions in the states of Virginia, Michigan, Maryland, Texas, and Colorado have all been receiving more press and consumers are starting to realize that wine is made in other states besides California, Oregon, and Washington. I’d like to believe that DLW has played a part in that, but there is still more to do. Drink Local Wine … gives us an opportunity to showcase wines that don’t get as much recognition in the press.”

I realize that’s a tougher call to arms for some more than others. After all, I grew up in California, so the challenge wasn’t really that, well, challenging. And on Friday — being so close to Virginia (and Maryland) — the opportunity to sample compelling local wine is pretty easy and rewarding.

So why is there even a day dedicated to opening local wines? Well, the movement really started as an annual event over a decade ago when the Drink Local Wine organization, co-founded by McIntyre and Michael Wangbickler, CEO of Balzac Communications & Marketing, was established to bring greater attention to regional wines.

“We’ve made great strides over the past several years with building recognition for lesser-known areas,” Wangbickler said on Drink Local Wine back in 2014. “Regions in the states of Virginia, Michigan, Maryland, Texas and Colorado have all been receiving more press, and consumers are starting to realize that wine is made in other states besides California, Oregon and Washington. I’d like to believe that DLW has played a part in that, but there is still more to do. Drink Local Wine Week … gives us an opportunity to showcase wines that don’t get as much recognition in the press.”

And the movement caught on. According to The Cork Report (@the_cork_report), the annual event became a monthly event, and then a weekly event for their followers.

But with the advent of the coronavirus pandemic, they decided to reach out to a national audience to see if they could drum up support for local wineries that might be struggling.

“This is a tough time for local wineries, no matter where local is for you,” said The Cork Report’s Lenn Thompson.

“Tasting rooms as we know them are closed down. Curbside pickup and online sales are helping keep wineries afloat, but no one really knows how long they’ll need to operate like this – or how long most will be able to, financially,” Thompson wrote on the website.

So, in an attempt to help my local community, I am going to open up a bottle or two of Virginia wine and raise a glass to the winemaker who made it.

Here are a few winners from the 2019 Governor’s Cup winners for your consideration. Note: This is a prior review of the 2019 Cup winners. Newer vintages may be available.

The Gold Medal Winner from last year’s Governor’s Cup is one of my personal favorites. The 2016 Horton Vineyards Petit Manseng is a white grape variety that is grown primarily in southwest France, but has made a very comfortable home in Gordonsville, Virginia. This version is a blend of 90% Petit Manseng, 5% Viognier and 5% Rkatsiteli grapes. Aromas of stone fruit, apricot-roasted nuts fill the bouquet while bright flavors of orange marmalade and ripe peaches dazzle the palate, thanks to the bracing acidity. Notes of toasted hazelnuts sneak in on the lingering finish. $25

Family-owned and operated King Family Vineyards is a boutique winery located in Crozet, Virginia, whose goal is to make great wine from quality fruit with minimal intervention from winemaker, Matthieu Finot, a native of the Rhone Valley. The 2016 King Family Vineyards Meritage is a red wine blend offering stunning aromatics of juicy dark fruit, cola and orange peel. Rich blackberry fruit mingles with dark cherry and black currants on the font of the tongue, while flavors of espresso, cocoa and toasted oak play out on the long, elegant finish. $40

According to Carrie Dykes in a review for Wine Enthusiast Magazine, the 2016 Early Mountain Vineyards Eluvium is a “blend of Merlot and Petit Verdot … brambly on the nose and full of cedar spice while cranberry and toasty notes are hidden underneath. Mouthwatering acidity holds up to the grippy tannins on the palate. The finish is long and full of cedar spice.” It definitely sounds like a winner to me. $40

Winemaker Michael Shaps, who moved to the Burgundy region of France in 1990 to study oenology before returning to Charlottesville in 1995, is responsible for making the 2015 Virginia Wine Works Michael Shaps Tannat. Aromas of black cherry, dark plum and earthy notes on the nose lead to powerful flavors of blackberry, blueberry, leather and baking spices on the full-weight palate. The firm tannins and abundant acidity provide a lengthy finish and ageable structure. $35

Stay safe and drink well.


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