Up until very recently I could have been considered a wine snob. After all, the only North American wines I deemed worthy to buy were from California, Oregon, and Washington. I had tried wines from Colorado and thought for the most part they were terrible. Shortly after moving to Maryland I tried wines at Bordy Vineyards and thought all but one were not worth purchasing. The one I bought, a Vidal Blanc, was just barely worth buying. Then at dinner one night in a well-known Baltimore restaurant we dared try a Virginia wine. Ick was about all my wife and I could say of this red wine.
What started changing my mind about the not-so-good wine producing regions in North America was a mistake purchase of a bottle of wine at Costco in Littleton, Colorado. I arrived at my sister’s house and when dinner time rolled around I went to pop the cork and was shocked to see I bought a Colorado wine. Instead of taking it back to Costco I decided to try it. This was a Two Rivers Winery, Cabernet Sauvignon and was decent. The next visit to Colorado would have me visiting Grand Junction’s Grande River Vineyards where similar red wines caught my attention.
Next up on the road to becoming a more open-minded wine drinker was at a restaurant, Solvana Bistro, in Kennett Square, Pennsylvania. They had a wine from Idaho called Skyline Red by Sawtooth sold by the glass. With nothing to lose I asked for a taste and it was delicious.
Who knew what previously scorned wine region would grab my attention next. Duty called me to Orange, Virginia to stay at a historic place called Inn at Willow Grove. After arriving I enquired where I could try a local winery and get lunch too. Michelle at the front desk recommended Barboursville Vineyards for both wine and lunch. I went there not knowing squat about the place.
The grounds covered rolling hills at the foot of the Blue Ridge Mountains and vines could be seen near and far. I pulled into the parking lot on that late April day and the place was busy. Lucky for me I got in for lunch and enjoyed one of the best winery lunches I’ve had anywhere in the world at their restaurant Palladio. The salad was mostly made up of greens and herbs grown onsite and the wine paired beautifully with the salad.
After lunch, I went for a tasting. They offer twenty varieties of sparkling, white, rosè, and red wines. Much to my surprise I liked several of them and bought a bottle of Vermentino to bring home for further research. A week later I tried the Vermentino away from the magic spell the vineyard had cast upon me to see if I still liked it. Indeed I did like the Vermentino and was planning a future trip to dig deeper into Barboursville Vineyards. My days as a confirmed wine snob were nearing the end.
Time to give Maryland wines another try
Against all odds I was soon to be faced with another misconception of non-west coast wines. Through a story I was working on about the Eastern Shore of Maryland I needed to research local wineries. For that research I called the Maryland Wine Association for some help. When they heard what I was writing about they kindly invited me to the Comptroller’s Cup Competition wine awards in Baltimore. I was free that day and took them up on their offer.
The winners were already known and this was to be the place where the vineyards received the actual award. After the ceremony a wine tasting ensued. I was able to taste the winners wines and was amazed at the quality. Big Cork Vineyards took Best In Show for their Cab Franc, a wine I love but have rarely found one worth buying. Big Cork delivered a fine red wine I’d be happy to pair with lasagna, mushroom pasta, beef, or even grilled salmon.
Close to home
The next surprise was Boordy Vineyards. Their Chardonnay took best Chardonnay prize. It was a clean and crisp, steel aged white wine I’d happily buy. I had tried Boordy’s rose at my local watering hole-Lib’s Grill and knew it to be a good summer cooler but the quality of Boordy’s Chardonnay was a surprise. Boordy Vineyards is only a forty minute drive from my home and I’ll make the trip soon to try more of their wines.
The next wine at the Comptroller’s Cup to grab my taste buds and take them for a tasty ride down the grape vines was a Vidal Blanc from Broken Spoke Winery. This off-dry winner was just the wine I’d enjoy on a hot summer day with cheese straws or popcorn. I was now fully converted into the realm of open-minded wine drinking.
What’s next for this former wine snob? I have heard every state in the U.S. now has at least one winery. Thomas Jefferson would be proud to see so many good to great wines being produced in our country. Jefferson had the vision but not the tools to produce great wine on his Monticello estate in the 1800s. Through dedication and hard work, the wine industry has seriously good winemakers showing what these eastern states can produce quality wines. Next time you find yourself at a winery off the beaten wine path, consider giving it a try. It might surprise you in a good way.