British wine writer Steven Spurrier on Virginia wines: "Virginia makes the kind of wines I like to drink." (Jay Paul /PHOTO BY JAY PAUL)
Viognier

At the 2007 Vinopolis tasting of Virginia wines, Spurrier was impressed with Virginia’s viognier. “I thought this was amazing, 12 1 / 2-[percent alcohol] viognier that is ripe,” he said. “How are they doing it? Where is this place?”

Veritas 2011 ($22), Barboursville 2010 ($22), Chrysalis 2011 ($29).

Chardonnay

“Virginia makes very nice chardonnay in the crisp, lemony style,” Spurrier said. But he added that it is hard for an emerging wine region to make a distinctive stamp with such a ubiquitous grape.

Ankida Ridge 2011 ($32; rare but delicious); Linden Hardscrabble 2009 ($33); Stinson Vineyards 2011 ($20); Chatham Vineyards Church Creek Steel 2009 ($15).

Petit manseng

This exotic white variety from southwestern France is grown almost nowhere else in the world. Spurrier found Virginia’s examples interesting, especially in unconventional blends. Some of the best (Chester Gap, Glen Manor, Linden) are in such small production that they sell out quickly each vintage.

Chester Gap 2009 Cuvee Manseng ($19; a blend of viognier and petit manseng); Horton 2008 ($20).

Cabernet franc

“Cabernet franc is the red grape variety for Virginia,” Spurrier said, at least until he discussed petit verdot. Both grapes have the advantage of not being widely produced elsewhere as single-variety wines, allowing Virginia to develop its own style.

Barboursville 2010 ($25); Michael Shaps 2008 ($28), Glen Manor 2010 ($28).

Petit verdot

The rarity of petit verdot as a stand-alone wine gained Spurrier’s endorsement, though he praised its use in red blends.

Veritas 2010 ($30); Linden 2009 ($28); Ingleside 2008 ($28).

Bordeaux blends

Blended reds are arguably Virginia’s strongest category. While they may not be as unusual as a varietal petit verdot, for example, Virginia “is crafting some elegant, European-style blends,” Spurrier said.

RdV Lost Mountain 2009 ($88); Boxwood Topiary 2010 ($25); Potomac Point Heritage Reserve 2009 ($27).