An Epic Wine

27 Feb

[I]t is the wine that leads me on,
the wild wine
that sets the wisest man to sing
at the top of his lungs,
laugh like a fool – it drives the
man to dancing… it even
tempts him to blurt out stories
better never told.

– Homer, The Odyssey

When I found The Map, it was like discovering a dusty worn parchment inking out the elusive burial spot of Blackbeard’s famous hoard. The Virginia Wine Board produces a free detailed map of the wineries, cideries and meaderies of the entire state of Virginia. It’s big. . . . really big. The sheer number of vintners, brewers, apple and honey fermenters in this state proves one thing. Virginians, like their forefather Thomas Jefferson, love the fruit of the vine. I had been to a few wineries in the past, but I had no idea of the literal explosion of vineyards and variety of wines produced in this state over the last twenty years. So when I stumbled upon the Virginia Wine Expo at the Richmond Convention Center, I bought my ticket more than a month in advance. Nearly all of the state wineries in one place? I imagined walking up to heavy double doors and then the treasure trove of bottled liquid ambrosia piled within awaiting my plunder.

The actual experience was a little different.

As I strode in to the main exhibition hall of the Richmond Convention Center, and luckily found a floor map, I quickly realized that this event was definitely not what I had anticipated. Imagine a home show, wine replacing the flooring and faux rock siding samples. I queued into a line in which I was promptly barcode bleeped and herded toward the branding and tagging area. Then, rounded up through the rotating gates into the main pasture where I could use my nifty ticket to gain my Riedel crystal trough. Coat check and wine check areas lined the perimeter of the pen, erhm…. I mean, “wine garden”, large round tables where we might enjoy our Circean feast. I had imagined most incorrectly, that such a venue would attract fine wine lovers, those who taste wine for its nuances, to know it, to understand it in an organic and personal way. My imagination also allowed for those who may not be so introspective, but yet, enjoy drinking Virginia wine and appreciating it for more than its ethereal properties. Those types may have been there, but I didn’t really encounter them…at least on my side of the vendor table.

Herds of wine swillers (say that three times fast), or flocks of sweet sipping sirens, are mostly what I navigated my tiny ship through, around and in between. The main group were the swillers…these were folks who mainly came to the event to drink ….and drink ….and drink a lot. Tastings were basically shots.

Slurp…that’s okay…(extend glass)…

Slurp…that’s okay…(extend glass)…

Slurp…that’s okay…(extend glass)…

I take at least q few minutes  to fully examine a wine, and I make notes. I do not taste it a second time if it isn’t to my liking, pouring it out into the waste bucket. And if I have had more than a glass or two in total over the course of the day…I taste and spit. This doesn’t seem to be the case with anybody else and by the looks, I had suddenly sprouted a second and third head at the tables from which I was able to actually get a tasting. The crowds were HUGE. And wine was literally being tossed at times into glasses over people heads in Baccanalian frenzy. Every time one of the drunken herd would drop a crystal glass on the concrete convention floor the crowd would roar in approval of the shattering like the crowds at a coliseum lion fight.

The other group was the sweet sirens, mainly women hovering about the tables who would not taste anything that didn’t have residual sugars of 2% or more. They would try a viognier or semi dry white blend and their little noses would crinkle up like little hummingbirds inserting their probosci into an allium. They flitted about the backs of tables luring pourers to hurry us toward our sugary demise.

The most humorous moment of the day was standing en masse at the Narmada Winery table, waiting for a chance at a flight. A small group had moved in beside me and one of the ladies, another tall red head, began to regale her group with the tale of finding out her teenage son was beginning to “manscape” and how proud she was of his responsibility and consideration for his girlfriend. Intimate details about their budding physical liaisons ensued. Oh…Holy…Night… I didn’t know whether to laugh, or simply stand there in excruciating empathy for her absent son who had no idea that the entire queue now knew way too much about his beloved and her reaction to his denuded state.

But there were some bright moments of the day, like when the pourer at the Gabriele Rausse table could tell I knew, or at least cared, about the wine I was tasting. We had a nice chat about the delicate differences in the varietals involved in their offerings. Or when my eyes rolled back over nearly every wine King Family Vineyards sells. Even when I tasted the foods offered alongside the wines such as amazing chocolates by Gearharts (tequila lime white chocolate truffles), roasted almonds and cashews, and delicious cheese by Emmi Roth, I began to enjoy the day’s course.

After tasting seven different wineries’ wares, my favorites were predominantly white and rose’…I need more whites in my cellar. Of course my wine conscience texted me. “Are we being good?” Surprisingly, I did not buy one bottle. I made notes instead. I’m really trying to hold onto my bag.

Top Picks from The Wayfarin’ Lass: Wine Expo 2013

King Family Vineyards: Crozet, VA

  • Roseland 2012: Chardonnay/ Viognier
  • Cabernet Franc 2011
  • Merlot 2011

Rosemont Vineyards: LaCrosse, VA

  • Rose’ 2011
  • Lake Country Red
  • Cabernet Franc 2010

Gabriele Rausse: Charlottesville, VA

  • Vin Gris de Pinot Noir 2012

Cedar Creek: Star Tannery, VA

  • Chardonnay 2011 (one of the best Chardonnays I have ever had)

Potomac Point: Stafford, VA

  • Chardonnay 2011
  • La Belle Vie: Vidal, Viognier, Chardonnay, Petit Manseng
  • La Belle Vie Rose 2012 (so pretty)
  • Cabernet Franc 2010

Narmada: Amissville, VA

  • Primita 2010 (dessert wine)

Truth be told, at the end of the day I was glad to have survived the journey generally unscathed. I learned more about why I like wine, especially Virginia wine and it has more to do with focusing on mindfulness and the senses, especially in the service of the written word, more than the drinking. For wherever there is treasure, the search is really more about the seeker than the sought. In the search, our truest desires are revealed and where we eventually find our fortunes.

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