Notes from NoVA’s Wine Industry: Local Vineyards Win National Awards, Plans for New Viticultural Education Center

News from Virginia’s wine country.

Greenhill Winery & Vineyard / Photo by Rebekah Pizana

By: Evan Milberg

Virginia’s booming wine industry has had a very good start to the year. Five local wineries received medals at the 2014 San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition, the largest competition of American wines with 5,900 entries from 25 different states. Middleburg was well-represented, as three area wineries won medals: Barrel Oak Winery (Silver medal: 2012 Petit Mensang), Greenhill Winery & Vineyards (Gold: 2009 Blanc de Blancs), and Boxwood Estate Winery (Bronze: 2007 and 2010 Topiary). Philip Carter Winery’s 2012 Shirley Plantation Chardonnay received a silver medal.  Clifton‘s Paradise Springs Winery won a “double gold” medal for its 2012 Norton and silver medals for its 2012 Cabernet Franc and 2012 Viognier

“It’s all about staying true to what Virginia does well,” says Paradise Springs owner Kirk Wiles. “Instead of force-growing Pinot Noir, we take advantage of what our region has given us.” Wiles instead turns to Petit Menseng, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot, Albarino, Viognier, saying, those are “more Virginia but aren’t as prominent in the wine world.” 

One man that knows plenty about taking advantage of what Virginia has to offer is the newly-announced 2014 Virginia Vineyard Association Grape Grower of the Year, Jeff White, of Glen Manor Vineyards in Front Royal. It’s not an award just for growing grapes, though. It’s for participation in the industry and for those offer advice to those new to the industry. 

“We’re trying to grow grapes in a difficult climate, but we’re proving that it’s possible to grow premium wine grapes and make some high quality wines on a consistent basis,” says White. “It’s all about finding where the best microclimates are.” 

The key to figuring that out is education. Recently, the Town of Purcellville, with the help of Loudoun County, was awarded a $17,500 Agriculture & Forestry Industries Development Fund (AFID) grant that will go toward conducting a feasibility study for the development of a viticultural and enology education center. According to a Jan. 29 press release, “it would serve Virginia’s wine industry by training the next generation of wine makers and vineyard managers through certificate and degree programs.” In the Town of Purcellville’s application for the AFID grant, the viticultural and enology education is considered the “catalyst” needed to “further support the burgeoning wine industry in Loudoun County.” 

This post has been updated.