Virginia has an almost 400-year-old history with wine making. After hundreds of years of battling hard to tame and train vines, Williamsburg winery growers finally saw some success in the early 1800s, and continued to reap worthy grapes for a century—until Prohibition (1920s) laid its heavy hand on the industry. It took decades to bring the vineyards back to what they could have been after the Prohibition was dropped. But, after a good bit of hard work and patience, Virginia was finally recognized as one of the top producing wine states in the United States in the 1960s. Today, Virginia is catching up with fellow wine producers, following California, Washington, Oregon and New York.
Where California has 12 wine regions and Oregon has 16, Virginia has a meager five. But don’t let the lack of regional room fool you, all areas of Virginia—Northern Virginia, Central Virginia, Eastern Virginia, the Shenandoah Region, and Southwestern Virginia—create beautiful bouquets that fill glasses with smells of currants, oaks and vanillas. While some still say that Virginia wines have some maturing to do, others believe certain whites have reached their peaks, and will stay there for a long time to come. And whatever the case, many have faith that Virginia is producing great wines and will continue to do so, if not produce better.
Thomas Jefferson once said, “We could, in the United States, make as great a variety of wines as are made in Europe, not exactly of the same kinds, but doubtless as good.” Virginia has undoubtedly taken this statement seriously. The industry has boomed. The number of wineries in Virginia has grown from 6 in 1979 to more than 130 today.
A great place to become familiar with Virginia wines during a Bluegreen Vacations visit to Williamsburg is a vineyard by the name of Williamsburg Winery. It is the largest vineyard in the state and just up the way from the resort in Colonial Williamsburg, Patrick Henry Square.
The History Of Williamsburg Winery
Williamsburg Winery was established by the Duffeler family in 1985. Three years after, the vineyard produced the Governor’s White, a favorite among locals, which remains a popular choice to this day. At only 30 years old, the Williamsburg Winery already produces nearly 20% of Virginia’s wine. The 320 acres that ground the vines produce between 55,000 and 60,000 cases a year. Since its humble beginnings, the variety of grapes produced on this land has grown to include Viognier, Petite Verdot, Merlot, Traminette, Vidal Blanc, Cabernet Franc and Malbec.
A dedicated team of people run this winery, and work year long to create optimal conditions for the grapes. Both the vineyard manager and winemaker have extensive experience in viticulture and share the same goal: To make wine that can compete with other wines from around the world (remind you of Jefferson?).
What Should I Do At Williamsburg Winery?
This Virginia vineyard offers tours and tastings year round, and each event provides you with a keepsake tasting glass. Tours begin with an informational video preview, where the history of the vineyard is discussed and the speaker gives an overview of tasting. You will then go through the barrel cellar and take a visit to the production area. The tour will end with the tasting of 7 wines inside the winery museum.
If you want a little more in depth discussion and education on viticulture, sign up for a Reserve Wine Tasting. Available by appointment only, this private tour allows you to sample and compare some of the reserve wines produced at the winery. This tasting also sends you home with an etched glass, but this time, it’s bigger.
If you would like to make an afternoon out of your visit to the Williamsburg Winery, sign up for the Tour and Tasting with Lunch. Guests of the tour are taken through the winery and then provided with a lunch at Gabriel Archer Tavern, overlooking the grounds. Of course, guests get to keep the engraved glass as well.
There is a retail shop where you can purchase bottles of the wines you liked, books on winemaking and fine wines, wine tools and dining accessories. The staff inside is friendly and helpful as well, ready to answer questions about both wines and products sold inside the shop. The store also carries a wide variety of gourmet sauces, spreads and treats.
The vineyard is open every day except Thanksgiving and Christmas. To schedule a tour or event during your upcoming vacation to Patrick Henry Square, contact Williamsburg Winery at 757.229.0911 or visit The Williamsburg Winery.