October is Virginia Wine Month, and wine makers are predicting a memorable vintage worthy of celebration.
Now in its 35th year, Virginia Wine Month honors the commonwealth’s ever-evolving wine sector. With about 300 wineries and 4,000 acres of grapes grown in the state, the economic impact of Virginia wine was estimated at $1.73 billion in 2019—a 27% increase from 2015, according to the Virginia Wine Board.
Wine enthusiasts should have a bountiful selection to celebrate with this year, according to Mizuho Nita, grape pathology specialist for Virginia Tech’s School of Plant and Environmental Sciences.
With little rain and “extremely dry conditions” across the state, Nita said, most vineyards are not experiencing significant losses from rain-driven diseases like downy mildew.
“People are harvesting early cultivars right now quite a bit, especially in Northern Virginia. Their harvest started maybe two weeks ahead of a typical year,” Nita said.
And drier conditions are ideal for producing complex, high-quality wines, according to Mike Albers, part-owner of Delfosse Vineyards and Winery in Nelson County, a 2023 Virginia Governor’s Cup winner.
Delfosse received a 2023 Governor’s Cup award for its 2021 Screaming Hawk Meritage—a 100% estate-grown red blend that “ages beautifully,” Albers said.
“We let the fruit express itself,” he explained. “That’s the beautiful thing about Virginia wines—Mother Nature gives us something different every year.”
Albers added that grape growers love drought. “The vine stress concentrates more on the fruit, and it ripens sooner and gives it great chemistry for wines.”
After a slow start and early budding during the cooler spring, Albers said area grape growers are diligently preparing for a promising harvest.
“As long as the weather cooperates with us over the next four to six weeks and it stays dry, we are anticipating a standout vintage this year,” he said.
“Beautiful, lovely and delicious grapes” are growing in abundance in Loudoun County as another Governor’s Cup winner, 868 Estate Vineyards, anticipates its second consecutive record-breaking harvest.
“Our vineyards have been really prolific with high-quality grapes these past two years, and it’s a magic thing when both conditions are met in the same year,” said owner Nancy Deliso.
In 2020, the winery’s 2017 Vidal Blanc Passito was the first wine fully grown and made in Loudoun County to win a Virginia Governor’s Cup award.
With 21 acres of 14 different varietals, 868 Estate continues to experiment with new handcrafted creations, including a cooperative wine developed by eight area vineyards that will make its debut this fall.
Virginia wine gets better and better every year,” Deliso said. “It’s wonderful that you can have not only a wonderful and very personal experience at a Virginia winery, but also really excellent wine.”
Deliso encourages Virginians to explore their local wineries, connect with owners and wine makers, and take advantage of the various Virginia Wine Month specials.
“It’s an opportunity to stock up on wine for the holidays,” she noted. “Come visit us, take wine home, and support the industry by drinking really good local wine throughout the year.”