Thursday, May 4, 2023

Virginia Petit Wines Offer Glimpse Of Old Dominion Wine Excellence

Petit Verdot and Petit Manseng showcase Virginia’s award-winning winemaking.    

Four Hundred Years of Winegrowing History

Virginia may seem like an uncommon choice for wine lovers. Not if you’ve had a chance to taste its delicious wines that blend the subtlety of the Old World with the boldness of the new.

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The state boasts more than 5,000 acres of grapes and has a history that dates back to 1619 when the House of Burgesses passed a law requiring each household to plant 10 grape vines for the purpose of making wine.

Founding father Thomas Jefferson experimented with winemaking and in 1873 a Virginia wine was chosen as the Best Red Wine of All Nations at the Vienna World’s Fair. The wine industry struggled through Prohibition and world wars and in 1979 there were just six wineries in operation. Thankfully for us, wine in Virginia is thriving today.

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There are currently more than 300 wineries in Virginia and the quality is better than ever. We recently uncorked bottles from two award-winning Virginia wineries, Jefferson Vineyards, and Veritas Winery, in conjunction with a webinar by the International Food, Wine & Travel Writers Association.

Jefferson Vineyards 2021 Petit Manseng

The site of Jefferson Vineyards was owned by Thomas Jefferson and was later given to Italian viticulturist Filippo Mazzei who formed the Virginia Wine Company. Unfortunately, the vines were later trampled by the horses of a Hessian General during the American Revolution, ruining the labor of four years. In the 1980s vineyards were reestablished and in 1993 the business name was changed to Jefferson Vineyards. Jefferson is recognized for having one of the region’s most consistent records for producing quality wines.

We decided to taste the 2021 Jefferson Petite Manseng with Ricotta Gnudi with Quick Tomato Confit & Fresh Corn. This is a recipe created by Haidar Karoum specifically for Virginia Petit Manseng. I’m told by one of my Italian tennis buddies that the dish is pronounced like “naughty.” This was one of the very best culinary creations we’ve tasted in a while.

It was a perfect match for the Petit Manseng. The wine offers notes of smooth pineapple, white peaches, and honeysuckle. It blended nicely with the ricotta dumplings and cherry tomatoes. The Petite Manseng has no jarring acidity, just a gorgeous, luscious finish.

Veritas 2017 Petit Verdot

For the Veritas 2017 Petit Verdot, we prepared hearty Herb & Garlic Marinated Lamb Chops with Pine Nut Couscous and Broccoli Rabe. My first experience with a single varietal Petit Verdot was many years ago at Flying Fox, a Virginia winery with a family connection to Veritas winemaker Emily Pelton. Although you are more likely to encounter Petit Verdot as a blending ingredient in a Bordeaux-style wine, on its own it shines as a luscious wine.

A 20-year-old family business,  Veritas is on the leading edge of the Virginia wine industry. With over 50 acres in the Monticello wine region, it produces a complex portfolio of wines ranging from sparkling to beautifully balanced red wines.

The Veritas Petit Verdot exudes generous black fruit notes of currant and blackberry whilst smooth tannins and a touch of tobacco create a posh finish. This wine includes 15% Merlot and is aged in 50% new French oak for 16 months.

Full disclosure: These wines were received as part of an educational program.

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