Napa? Really?: Branch Out, Martha!

by Lesley

In this month’s Wine & Spirits, Martha’s team wonders if there’s a more famous winemaking area in the world than Napa and, if so, would someone please point it out. Now, did they set out to profile Napa for this so-called Authentic America issue, or did they just happen upon it as part of their daily trip through paradise? I mean, Napa is famous. It is prolific in making and distributing wine. If there was a world war over wine, Napa would probably win. But wine tasting in Napa is a luxury and not terribly original. It’s 3,000 miles away, for one thing. It’s authentic California, maybe, but authentic American? Sure, if “American” means well-heeled people buying truffle oil at markets that make Whole Foods look like that Food Lion on Jahnke Road. These are people who think it kitsch to pair wine with burgers. These are people that wish they were European. That’s what Napa is: Americans imitating Europeans. I’ve been to Napa. I’ve seen this. I loved every minute of it. But it’s not exactly authentic American. Most Americans I know pair wine with burgers on the regular.

Back at home in Virginia, land of presidents (ahem), I discovered that Total Wine and Beverage* carries most of the CA wines recommended in the article and that none retailed for less than $50 a bottle, meaning that one glass of Napa’s “lesser known charms” would practically exceed my weekday wine budget. And it’s only Monday. Somewhere Paul Giamatti is doing that googly-eye thing.

The Virginia section, however, is full of friendly wines with friendly prices, produced within 100 miles from the checkout line. In fact, I recently visited several VA vineyards and was so proud of my state I fairly skipped into work Monday morning. We ran across some Ameri-peans, sure, but we spent ridiculously few dollars and managed to embarrass ourselves only twice. Our favorite place, First Colony, did not sell potted topiary or organic flatbreads; it just sold wine. (And, for $5, twelve tastings in one sitting!) Another, Kluge Estate, offered a delicious white aged in old Jack Daniels barrels. How quaint!

We bought a case from First Colony and moved westward to King Family, which absolutely rivals CA in beauty, as well as number of people who think it kitsch to pair wine with burgers (note: KF does not sell burgers). Over a chilled bottle of rose, French bread, and cheese we smuggled in, we watched a polo match and pretty blond children chasing a dog. There was even a nervous groom pacing the terrace. It had the tang of Napa, but the price of Charlottesville. Total spent for a four-person, three-winery tour plus gas: $220-ish. Maybe $250.

Kudos to Martha for touting Napa’s “lesser known charms.” If you haven’t been, definitely go. But there’s authentic American and there’s authentic Napa, and nary the two shall meet. Virginia has 130+ wineries located in all parts of the state. I bet your state has some too. I hear Michigan, for instance, is really ratcheting up its wine prowess. Even if it isn’t, even one winery warrants a nod. Branch out, Martha! Think globally, drink locally. Now that’s authentic.

This article was accompanied by a luscious Viognier from Horton Vineyards in Orange County, Virginia.

*Thanks to Ken at the TW&B on Broad!

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