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Wine critic Jon Bonné says the world has taken note of Virginia wine

Some of the wines featured at this year's Virginia Wine Summit.

For Virginia wine to develop distinction – a true sense of place in the world of wine – it must start and end with the vineyard.

This was the message from esteemed wine critic and author Jon Bonné during the Virginia Wine Summit at Salamander Resort and Spa in Middleburg Tuesday.

“Vineyards have to ultimately be able to give you what you need without simply fixing it later [during the winemaking process],” Bonné told the couple-hundred-person crowd. “That was one of the biggest lessons that I got from California. If you're fixing it in the cellar, you've won the battle but you've lost the war.”

Bonné continued, “Five years from now, I really want us to be able to come here and talk about what Virginia soil can do. Not that we shouldn't be talking a little about winemaking, but the conversation shouldn't really be about the winemaking.”
Jon Bonné was taken with the local wine during his Virginia visit. Courtesy Photo/VirginiaWineSummit.com

The summit's keynote speaker, Bonné joined two dozen other wine professionals – sommeliers, winemakers, restaurateurs, critics – at the event aimed at promoting and educating on Virginia wine. This year's installation was the first time the event was hosted outside of Richmond.

Bonné was largely taken with the commonwealth's quest for authenticity. He and the professional panelists spent several days prior to the event touring local wineries, speaking with vintners and winery staff.

The takeaway?

“You guys have done a huge piece of work that most people miss,” Bonné said. “You know you're not California, you know you're not Bordeaux. You're very, very proud of what you have here, and that's extraordinary, and, frankly, the world has taken note.”

Two Loudoun County wineries, Breaux Vineyards in Purcellville and Middleburg's Boxwood Winery, earned admiring shout-outs during Bonné's address. The critic was enamored with Breaux's eccentric sparkling rosé, Breauxmance, a blend of local chambourcin and vidal blanc.

“This probably bugged them,” Bonné said lightheartedly. “But the wine that I somehow totally got into was the Breauxmance. I swear, you put that wine in the Meatpacking District in New York, you would have a runaway hit.”

The small-batch bubbly is a cult favorite for Breaux loyalists and wine club members.

On Boxwood's Topiary red blend, Bonné said he was blown away at what “the wine was delivering” at the low price point of $29 bottle.

Aimee Henkle, co-owner Lost Creek winery in Leesburg with her husband Todd, was on hand for the occasion.

“Jon Bonné made a great point in his keynote when he said that we are not California or Bordeaux, but we are Virginia,” Henkle told the Times-Mirror. “However, today we are still striving to define exactly what makes a wine a 'Virginian wine.' We have made great strides in fruit and wine quality over the last decade, but there is still a lot of work to be done to develop the Virginia wine culture, in both quality and style.”

Henkel is confident the industry will develop “identity and character” over time.

“Discovering that culture is part of our evolution to becoming a world-renowned wine region,” she said.

Click here to read what Gov. Terry McAuliffe had to say at the Virginia Wine Summit.

Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) speaks with wine writer Jon Bonné (left), sommelier Steven Grubbs (right) and Alyssa Schmid (far right) at the Virginia Wine Summit at Salamander Resort in Middleburg Tuesday. Bonné was the event's keynote speaker. Times-Mirror/Trevor Baratko

Here are more snippets from Bonné's speech:

-“What I hope is that 10 years from now to walk into a restaurant in New York or L.A. or wherever, in this glorious new American wine era, and see a Virginia wine on the list, and it'll feel like the most normal thing ever. Like it would be an omission not to have it there -- the same as you would never expect to not see a California wine. And when you see that, that's when you will know that you've won.”

-“There is so much happening here that's really impressive and extraordinary. I think you should all take a moment to applaud how far you've come in a really short time.”

-“There's absolutely nothing wrong with making humble wine. Everyone loves reserves, everyone loves impressive wines, but ultimately the wine industry is driven off of 'Tuesday night wines.' It's especially important when it's not Tuesday night wines that are made by a big conglomerate. Don't rush past the charm of a basic cabernet franc or rosé.”

It's #VAWine Summit Day in #Loudoun. A recap coming in this week's Times-Mirror and at LoudounTimes.com.

A photo posted by Loudoun Times-Mirror (@ltmnews) on


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