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