The last time I wrote about Yonah Mountain wines, I recounted how I (and a room full of people, including some pretty talented, experienced tasters) picked Yonah’s flagship wine, Genesis, over two acclaimed California wineries, which included Jordan Cabernet Sauvignon from Alexander Valley Calif.
The unexpected victory for Yonah, as far as I can tell, has not influenced the ever-popular Jordan Cab. And while Yonah did make a little hay in the press and in their own promotional pieces, most of you I know are saying: Yoh-Who?
Why is that?
Thomas Jefferson, famous for his attempts to grow European-style wines on his Virginia plantation, advocated for limited government. Our third president might have said that if Georgia winemakers can’t make headway in a skeptical marketplace, it is not the state government’s place to prop them up. If you asked any Georgia winemaker what the state has done to promote its wine industry, he or she might say—among other things—that our government has taken quite the Jeffersonian view of our state’s winemaking industry.
Not all states take the same position with their wine industries. In an odd twist of irony, Jefferson’s home state of Virginia has taken anything but a hands-off approach to its support and promotion of Virginia winemakers.
“Virginia wines have been gaining acclaim here at home, around the nation, and in key markets around the world. Given this, we need to make sure that we have a competition that recognizes and promotes the best that we have to offer….I’m excited about this new investment in the Governor’s Cup competition to further enhance the growing reputation of Virginia wines.”
The competition that Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell refers to is an annual event dating back to 1984. Yes, this is a program supported by the state and run by the Virginia Wine Board, a government agency. Yes! A southern state (OK, commonwealth) has a wine board and it has its own marketing office. And its governor is excited about this!
Not exactly laissez-faire, is it Mr. Jefferson?
McDonnell and many Virginians are proud of their wines and they should be. They are wonderful. I recently tasted through a dozen of them. World-class, in my opinion. The 2013 Governor’s Cup winner, Barboursville Vineyards’ 2009 Octagon, is a fleshy, well-structured wine made in a Bordeaux style with notes of dark fruit, spices and cocoa. It would easily best most real Bordeaux wines, even those with fairly familiar names.
I wondered how the Octagon ($50) would stand up to Yonah’s Genesis ($36), also a Bordeaux blend. So, I had my daughter Elise bag both wines to have an objective comparison with a blind tasting.
Wine A (the Octagon as it turned out) had firm tannins and bold flavors with tart cranberry notes. Wine B (Genesis) won hands down on aromatics with pleasant, floral, perfume-like aromas. It was quite delicate on the palate and had just a tad more finesse. Tough choice, but I favored the Genesis…again.
So what do the 230 Virginia wineries have that we here in Georgia don’t? Perhaps, I’ll let Gov. McDonnell have the last word and you can draw your own conclusions. (I quote from a letter to me from McDonnell dated May 14, 2013.)
“Raising the profile of Virginia wines and winery tourism are key components of my administration’s economic development and jobs creation initiatives. Working together with our wineries and winemakers, we are achieving success….I believe Jefferson would be proud of the success the Virginia wine industry has achieved.”
Gil Kulers is a sommelier and maitre d’ for an Atlanta country club. You can reach him at email@example.com.
Note: Wines are rated on a scale ranging up from Thumbs Down, One Thumb Mostly Up, One Thumb Up, Two Thumbs Up, Two Thumbs Way Up and Golden Thumb Award. Prices are suggested retail prices as provided by the winery, one of its agents, a local distributor or retailer.
— Gil Kulers, AJC Drink blog