This has been a tough month for the Virginia wine industry, with the White House “party crashers” Tareq and Michaele Salahi dominating the gossip columns. Their connection to Oasis Winery – mentioned in nearly every story about their escapade and its aftermath – has probably set the Virginia wine industry back several years in terms of national perception. Locally, we can shrug it off, but in areas where people only barely know (if at all) that Virginia makes wine, the Salahis and their apparent lust for undeserved fame and grandeur risk becoming the symbol of an industry dominated not by social gadflies but by dedicated vintners who are slowly but surely pushing Virginia to the brink of success.
So here’s some welcome good news: Six Virginia wines were served December 17 at the James Beard House in New York City, the epicenter of American culinary art. The dinner featured chefs of the Benchmark Hospitality International group of resorts, which includes Lansdowne Resort in Leesburg, Virginia. Benchmark’s Chief Wine Officer (what a title!) is Mary Watson-DeLauder, formerly Lansdowne’s sommelier and an unstinting champion of Virginia wine. She selected the wines for the dinner, including the six from Virginia to feature at the reception with appetizers.
Mary’s selections included the Kluge Estate Brut sparkling wine; Corcoran Vineyards 2008 Chardonnay; Barboursville Vineyards 2008 Pinot Grigio; Mary’s Cuvee 2008, which Mary herself created with Corcoran Vineyards out of cabernet franc, merlot and tannat; and the Sunset Hills 2007 Cabernet Franc.
Kudos to Mary, and let’s hope these wines helped set the record straight – that Virginia is serious about its wine. (Edited to add: Mary reports that the subject of the Salahis was never raised at the Beard dinner, at least to her.)
And just to embarrass Mary some more, here’s a repost of the video interview I did with her and Lori Corcoran regarding Mary’s work on how herbs in food affect the food-wine match. Watch for flying hair and listen for crickets.