Virginia is the sixth largest wine grape producer in the US, home to around 300 wineries that attract some 2.2 million visitors every year. Since 2010, the number of wineries has increased more than 30 percent as winemakers from around the country and the world are leaving big-name regions to come to Virginia. And while the state has plenty of wine history, those winemakers aren’t coming for the past. They’re coming because Virginia has no set rules, no market pressure dictating which grapes they can and can’t use, and few (if any) corporate-owned wineries making wine for the masses. In short, Virginia is where experienced winemakers can come to innovate and new winemakers can come to make their mark. Virginia is rich with history, so it’s no surprise that the practice of winemaking in the Commonwealth dates back to 1609. However, the journey to great vino didn’t happen overnight, and like a true American success story, Virginia wines overcame several disheartening failures over a 400 year span to become one of America’s leading wine producers!
Early colonists, commissioned European winemakers, and even Thomas Jefferson encountered difficulties that stalled the early settler’s plans to establish wine-making grapes as a cash crop in the New World. These failures and other significant roadblocks never deterred the spirit of innovation and drive to make Virginia a successful wine country, but rather pushed the Virginia wine industry to try again each time.
In 1976, Italian winemaker and pioneer Gianni Zonin decided to expand his wine business internationally, purchasing a parcel of land near Charlottesville. The Zonin family has been making wine since 1821 and is famous in Europe for their winemaking ability, owning the largest private vine growing company in Italy.
Today, our great state’s quality wines earn the respect of great winemakers and sommeliers all around the world. In fact, Virginia comes in 5th for the most wineries per state! Our local winemakers are artisans in their craft, proud of the wines they produce and we can’t wait to see where Virginia’s wine history goes from here.