Virginia is ranked as one of the best wine travel destinations in the world, trailing only California in the United States in terms of wine tourism revenue. Yet, Virginia wines can sometimes be another story.
Winemaker Luca Paschina is writing a new chapter at Barboursville Vineyards outside Charlottesville, where he is making some world-class, award-winning wines.
"It can be done in Virginia," Paschina said, as he led guests among the rolling hills that are reminiscent of both Napa Valley and Oregon's Willamette Valley. Barboursville is about quality and dedication. The operation, founded on a 15-year plan, has grown to employ 37 people.
The winery's success is evident in its numbers -- double-digit yearly growth in sales and single-digit increases in acres planted -- as well as in what is found in the bottles.
2011 Viognier Reserve ($21.99): This is not your typical domestic viognier: light-bodied and little more than a tepid, sweet fruit bomb. Rather, this is a big, serious white. Lots of honeysuckle, white flowers, melon and a hint of lemon, with nice balance and a very long finish. Very Good.
2010 Cabernet Franc Reserve ($24.99): The nose on this is still fairly muted, with French oak and dark fruits that deliver much bigger on the palate, where they're joined by some red fruits. Not a hint of the green pepper that can be fairly common in cab franc from Virginia. It expands in the mouth through its long finish. Still fairly tannic, so decant now or hold for a few years. Very Good.
2007 Malvaxia Reserve ($31.99 for a half-bottle): This dessert wine is made using the traditional passito process of hand-selecting the grapes and letting them air-dry and shrivel for up to 120 days. Lots of tropical fruit and wonderfully sweet, yet with nice acidity. Very Good.
2011 Vermentino Reserve ($22.99): Paschina grins when he talks about this varietal of grape from his native Italy, and it's easy to see why. He says it thrived in Virginia's dry, hot 2010 growing season, as well as the cool, wet 2011. This adaptability in the two years he has made wine with it shows why he sees it as his next big thing. It's loaded with white flowers, perfume and pear, plus a striking minerality that ensures it will pair well with a wide variety of foods, and it drinks beautifully on its own. Outstanding.
2008 Nebbiolo Reserve ($31.99):
I loved this wine. At just four years of age, this already is drinking wonderfully, with big flavors and aromas of leather and dark fruit. Plenty of soft tannins, yet still retains a silky texture. This grape is used to make the heavyweight Italian red wines of Barolo, which often take decades to drink as well as this one is now. Plus, it will certainly age.
Octagon is Barboursville's flagship wine, and it's a winner. Paschina opened a 1998, and it's a dead ringer for a fully mature bordeaux. No surprise, as it's made from the traditional bordeaux red grape varietals. This bottle shows plenty of cedar, cigar ash and red fruits, with hints of green pepper and bacon. With a beautiful, silky mouthfeel, this bottling is at its absolute peak -- and proof of how well Octagon ages. The newest release, the 2008 vintage, is very concentrated and youthful, with loads of dark fruits and French oak, plus a hint of tar, and notes of mint and chocolate. A wonderfully balanced wine, it will benefit from a couple hours of decanting or up to a decade in the cellar. Well worth the $49.99 price tag. Both bottles rate as outstanding.