October is Virginia Wine Month. Thea Marshall suspects that the the first of our successful wine vines may have been grown on the Northern Neck.
Divine wine...they produced it, drank it and loved it in the 1600s in the Northern Neck. Thomas Jefferson couldn't live without it and advised everyone else to imbibe, including a number of Presidents before and after him.
Our regard for wine and the part it plays in life's dramas has helped grow the wine industry world-wide. Wine from France and Italy to South Africa and Australia, California to Virginia. Virginia, our state, ranking 7th in the nation for wine production and 8th for wine tourism. Of the nearly 150 wineries in this state, there are seven and counting here on the Neck.
October marks Virginia Wine Month and wine lovers, from wine connoisseurs to those who just enjoy a sip or two of Three Buck Chuck or Chateau Costco, celebrate the lovely wine grape. One of the first of the modern-day wine pioneers to discover that the climate of the Northern Neck was much like Bordeaux country in France was Ingleside, our oldest winery.
Of course, Robert King Carter, who owned most of the Neck in the early years of our nation's history, had many thousands of acres of grapevines. His wine cellar was renowned; as a matter of fact, there are wineries all over the country that claim that their owners are Carter descendents, and it's probably true. Some historians say that Carter had 65,000 descendents, but back to the wineries.
All seven here have their vineyards right on site, along with tasting rooms and, of course, gift shops loaded with wine-related stuff. The Northern Neck Wine Trail has recently been renamed the Chesapeake Bay Wine Trail and it's one of the most popular must-do activities, sipping your way from one winery to the next. They all have their own special character, as do the wines and their owners.
You might start with grandaddy Ingleside and Oak Grove, not far from Stratford Hall. It's set in a lovely European-style courtyard and boasts a wine museum, as well as the usual tasting rooms and gift shop. There's Oak Crest in King George, Belle Mount in Warsaw, they have a hiking trail so you can walk off the effects of too much sipping. There's Vault Field, that's in Kinsale, Athena in Burgess, the Hague Winery is in, yes, Hague, and White Fences in Irvington, and I hear there are more to come.
The Chesapeake Wine Trail folks, in their great wisdom, have developed with the happy cooperation of the vineyard owners, a wine trail map to guide you from one winery to the next, and you can go on their website and print it out. The current map isn't the first to note the wine vines of our region. Way back in 1607, while mapping the Chesapeake Bay, John Smith, that intrepid adventurer, noted in his journal that, quote, "there are grapevines in great abundance in many parts that climb the tops of the highest trees," unquote.
Well, they still do, here on the Northern Neck.
This is Thea Marshall.