Growing Grapes in Virginia

Both Thomas Jefferson and George Washington tried their hands at growing Vitis vinifera varietals but ultimately failed because of Phylloxera, an unknown pest during their time. In the 19th century, fine Virginia wine was made from native American varietal Norton. However, the Prohibition in the early 20th century cut short a promising wine industry for the region. Virginia’s topography and micro-climates are suited well for growing grapes. Summers are warm, but not too hot, and winters are mild. Growers in the mountains and the Shenandoah Valley of the southwest have the advantage of long growing seasons that can last up to 200 days, while growing seasons east of the Blue Ridge near the Chesapeake Bay can last up to 160 days. Also, soils in all major land regions in the state are well drained. The granite-based elevations in the west and the sandy and loamy soils in the east both offer prime grape growing grounds. Virginia’s wine production is second only to California, Washington, Oregon, and New York. Vitis vinifera grapes, such as Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, and Sauvignon Blanc, are popularly cultivated in this area.

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