Wine Bloggers’ Conference: An Evening of Virginia Wine at Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello

As I mentioned in my Wine Bloggers’ Conference: Recap & Recovery post, one of the highlights of WBC11 was Friday evening’s Virginia wine reception at Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello.  The temperature was over 100 degrees with ridiculously high humidity, so it wasn’t the ideal environment for wine tasting.  However, the bloggers that braved the weather were rewarded with wine from more than 30 of the Commonwealth’s vineyards at the home of America’s “first distinguished viticulturist.”  It was definitely a memorable experience.

Shelby and I headed to the event together.  When we arrived at Monticello, we hustled off our non-air-conditioned bus, followed the crowd around the side of the house, and were greeted by some friendly folks handing us a glass of white wine to start the reception off right.  Unfortunately, I don’t know what we were handed, but it was a good start to the night.

Me at MonticelloGlasses in hand, Shelby and I posed for some photo opportunities before heading under the tent to start our wine tasting.  We decided early on to stick with white wines, since it was just too hot to enjoy the reds.

Shelby & Me tasting wine at Thomas Jefferson's MonticelloAs we were finishing up our first wine, the welcome ceremonies started.  To be honest, most of what was said we’d heard before, so there isn’t too much to report.  On topic that did get a lot of attention, though, was that Viognier has been designated as the Commonwealth of Virginia’s signature grape.  And there certainly were a lot of Virginia Viogniers to taste.  Unfortunately, it is definitely not one of my favorite grapes.

I also think it was a sign of how important the conference was to the Commonwealth and how much support the Governor has for the growing VA wine industry that Virginia’s Secretary of Agriculture and Forestry, Todd Haymore, welcomed the 2011 WBC attendees to Virginia.

Once the speeches were over, Shelby and I went back to tasting wines.  All in all, I think we tasted about 7 wines before grabbing some food and going for a tour of Monticello.  Unfortunately, we couldn’t take pictures inside the house, but there was little question that Jefferson was a wine lover.

My favorite detail in the house was the wine bottle dumbwaiter on the side of the fireplace that went all the way down to the wine cellar.  This would allow Jefferson’s slaves to take bottles from the wine cellar, put them in the dumbwaiter, and have the bottles arrive up in the main house without the slave having to walk outside and through the house.  While I don’t have a picture of it, Shelby has a great picture of the dumbwaiter in the wine cellar.

The cellar was extensive, particularly for the time, and even on the hot and humid July evening that we were at Monticello, the cellar was a fairly comfortable.  All in all, it was interesting to see how another wine lover took care of his bottles.  I admit, I’m envious of TJ’s cellar.

As for the Virginia wines that we tasted, here’s what I thought:

2010 Tarara Winery Viognier (SRP $15, winery, @TararaWinery)
My fav Viognier of the night.  It had nice floral characteristics…mostly honeysuckle…combined with ginger and peaches.  It had a medium body and good acidity.  Would have loved to try this wine with some sharp cheddar, as that’s my favorite way to drink Viognier.
3.5 corks

Catoctin Creek Winery Vidal Blanc (SRP $15, winery)
Pears and honeydew melon.  A touch of sweetness, but good acidity to balance it out.  Great patio wine…food friendly.  REALLY nice.
3.5 corks

2010 Annefield Vineyard Viognier (SRP $22, winery, @AnnefieldWine)
Honeysuckle, honeydew melon, and yellow grapefruits with a touch of apricots.  Good body and acidity.
3 corks

2010 Blenheim Vineyards Viognier (SRP $19, winery)
Honeysuckle, apricots, and pineapples.  Lingering finish, good acidity, but leaves me wanting something a little more.
3 corks

Fabbioli Cellars Something White (SRP $16, winery, @FabbioliWines)
This blend of Traminette and Vidal Blanc grapes is slightly sweet.  Very floral—mostly white flowers—with hints of Asian pear.  Definitely a summer picnic wine.
3 corks

2010 Aspen Dale Winery at the Barn Sauvignon Blanc (SRP $28, winery)
Tropical fruits…honeydew melon and pineapple with a touch of grassiness.  If I were tasting the wine blind, though, I’m not sure I would have guessed this was a Sauv Blanc.
2.5 corks

2010 Potomac Point Winery Richland Reserve Viognier (SRP $17, winery, @PotomacPoint)
Honeysuckle, apricots, and mangos.
Perfumey…both because of flavor and because of the alcohol.
2.5 corks

Question of the Day: What do you think of wines made from Viognier?  If you’re a fan, do you have an recommendations (they don’t have to be Virginia Viogniers)?


  1. says

    We recently had red Passeggiata, from black ankle in Maryland that was blended with Viognier. Although their single varietal Viognier was only blah… Blended with mostly Syrah it had a little pizazz that was a good sipper. Also right now I think my current Viognier wine is the 2010 Sunset Hill Viognier.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *