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Wine Wednesday: Another well-deserved record year for Virginia Wine

Macha, a bottle of local white wine, at Cardamon Vineyards near the northern tip of Loudoun County. Times-Mirror Photo/Trevor Baratko

Six-and-a-half million.

That's how many bottles of Virginia wine were sold from July 1, 2014, to June 30 of this year – a new fiscal year record.

In what's becoming an annual tradition, Virginia's governor announced the record year in late September, just ahead of Virginia Wine Month in October.

More than 524,000 cases of wine were sold in fiscal 2015 compared to 515,000 cases the previous year. Those figures mark a 26 percent increase in Virginia wine sales over the past five years, according to Gov. Terry McAuliffe's office.

"With wine sales at a new all-time high and more people visiting our wineries than ever before, Virginia is becoming the premiere East Coast destination for wine and wine tourism lovers," said Virginia's Secretary of Agriculture and Forestry Todd Haymore. "I applaud the efforts of the Virginia Wine Marketing Office and the Virginia Tourism Corporation to help showcase the many opportunities during this year's October Virginia Wine Month …"

Haymore's words are backed up by the wave of national media attention Virginia wines have garnered. Feature stories on the commonwealth's wine and striking rural scenery have appeared in Food and Wine magazine, the New York Times, Bloomberg and dozens of other national outlets.

Mike Carroll, who owns the local Leesburg Vintner wine shop, said he's not surprised at the sales spike.

“Quality is way up and there are some great deals out there," Caroll said. He also noted the role the media attention has played in his business.

"As a wine shop owner, we use lots of press about Virginia wines in our emails and shelf talkers to tell our customers about how good the wines have become," he said.

Loudoun County is home to more wineries than any other county in Virginia with roughly 45.

Jordan Harris, the winemaker at Tarara Winery north of Leesburg, was measured in his response to the news.

“Was a good year for us but I have a hard time calling it record for Virginia because some of our sales were our third label out of state stuff that we have used as a stop gap,” Harris said. “Luckily it doesn't look like I need it anymore as some of our newer plantings are coming on stream.”

While acknowledging the necessity to supplement the sale of in-state fruit with outside grapes, Harris said the true economic value of the Virginia wine industry needs to be measured strictly by in-state fruit.

The 2015 wine totals noted above include only sales of Virginia-classified wine, meaning at least 75 percent of the fruit in the counted bottles came from the commonwealth.

For Harris and those of a similar mindset, the good news is that last year’s wine grape harvest production increased by 17 percent due to growth in new bearing acres and an improved 2014 growing season, Virginia Wine officials said.

The winery and cidery growth is continuing in Loudoun and across the state. Three cideries have sprouted up in the county over the past two years, and at least two new wineries are on deck for late 2015 and into 2016.

The state's wine industry is said to support nearly 5,000 jobs and generate more than $750 million annually to the economy.

“Since Loudoun is leading the state in wineries, we can take a lot of credit for this good news,” said Lois Kirkpatrick, a spokeswoman for Loudoun's Department of Economic Development.

BYOW: Sohini Gupta, owner of Leesburg's Bean Bar, brought some Virginia Wine goodies with her during a recent round of bowling at the famous Truman Bowling Alley in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building. On right is the award-winning North Gate Meritage from Purcellville, and to the left is a chardonnay from Ankida Ridge in Amherst County. October is Virginia Wine Month. Courtesy Photo/Sohini Gupta

Featuring news on the Loudoun County wine industry, the Times-Mirror's award-winning “Wine Wednesday” appears the first Wednesday of each month. Contact the writer at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

Check out recent Wine Wednesdays:

-"In Loudoun’s labor of love, balancing the costs with the romance" -- Sept. 2
-"Small pours from around the Loudoun wine scene" -- July 1
-"Family and patriotism at Casanel Vineyards in Leesburg" -- June 3, 2015

-"No, not that Catoctin Creek" -- May 6, 2015
-"We're talking grapes by the tons" -- April 1, 2015

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