Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Washington Wine Academy's "State of Virginia Wine" Tasting

Jim Barker is passionate about wine. For the past 15 years or so, he has done everything to educate Washingtonians about how to properly appreciate, drink, buy, taste and enjoy wine through his Washington Wine Academy. He has been able to turn his passion into his profession and it shows with his dedication to any and all things wine.

Go to the Arlington Cinema and Drafthouse on a Friday, there he is, pouring wine and trying to take a few moments to share what people are tasting rather than just pouring. 

If you happen into Crystal City seemingly any time during the summer months, there's Jim and his Washington Wine Academy volunteers pouring wine and appearing to have a great time. 

Barboursville is ubiquitous at Virginia Wine Events, as well as being one of the industry's leading spokeswineries

In a city that has both an established as well as an emerging wine culture, people like Jim and organizations like the WWA are vital - especially when the focus changes to wines that are produced locally. Such was the event the WWA recently hosted in a vacant storefront in Crystal City - the "State of Virginia Wine" tasting. 

Pearmund was serving their Bordeaux-style blend as well as a Chardonnay and Viognier during the "state of Virginia Wine" Event

The tasting brought together some of the state's most prominant wineries, and the $55 price tag meant that the crowd - while small - was a good mix of wine lovers and hipsters who felt like paying $55 to hang out in an empty retail space, drink wine and snack on cheese and crackers. There were good numbers of both types of people at the event. 

Tasters sampling some of Virginia's best wines: Linden, RdV, Barboursville

"I wanted this event to be all about the wine," said Barker. "I didn't want to put on another event where people can see how much wine they can drink for twenty bucks."

Jim Barker chatting with a sleazy member of the wine press
In order to keep the event all about the wine, Mr. Barker used his extensive contacts in the Virginia wine industry to get both the big names - Barboursville, Trump - and the elusive, craft wineries - RdV, Linden - to participate. Ten wineries in all were present, many of them highly rated or highly regarded in their own right. If the purpose was to highlight the "best of the best," the sample was well thought-out.

"The DC market still doesn't understand what Virginia wine is all about," said Barker. "We're damn lucky to be here and wanted to showcase the best of Virginia wine to the DC area." 

Indeed, Virginia wine is starting to become a victim of its own success. With so many wineries moving into the state, Barker predicts that there may be a serious grape shortage in the near future. There are now over 200 wineries in the state, and the quality ranges from highly sought-after, coveted bottles - Barboursville's Octagon, RdV's Rendezvous - to low-quality, fruit wines that are designed to lure tourists to a tasting room, but little else. 

With demand rising, wineries continuing to open their doors, and massive amounts of money flowing into the industry from people with names like "Trump" and "Case," the sense one gets when speaking to Barker, those who work in the wineries, or those who cover Virginia wine is that between the continuing increase in quality wines being produced in the state, the increase in money being pumped into the industry, and the increase in accolades that wine writers are giving Virginia wines, Virginia wine is poised to take off in a serious way.  

The "Taste of Virginia Wine" reflected the Virginia wine industry's recent self-confidence and demand to be seen as a major region in the world of wine.