Virginia’s Petits are Big in Flavor
by Linda Stewart
The International Food, Wine, and Travel Writers Association (IFWTWA) recently presented a webinar that featured two Virginia wines: a 2021 Petit Manseng from Jefferson Vineyards, and a 2017 Petit Verdot from Veritas Vineyard and Winery; both wines were sent to participating members. I was familiar with Petit Verdot, but Petit Manseng was a new varietal wine for me. I was excited to taste Virginia wines, as I had lived in Virginia for a few years until our move to California in 2005, when the Commonwealth’s winery count was just over 100. Today, the number of wineries and vineyards approaches 300.
Jefferson Vineyards in Charlottesville can trace its roots back two-and-a-half centuries to our founding father, wine aficionado, and the original landowner, Thomas Jefferson. Subsequent owners Shirley and Stanley Woodward Sr., established a vineyard in the 1970s, and began their venture by planting the grape varietals of Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay. The winery has become a third-generation enterprise, with Alexa and Attila Woodward at the helm.
Jefferson’s winemaker, Chris Ritzcovan, led us through our tasting of their 2021 Petit Manseng. This French grape variety has small fruit with thick skin, and is a good fit with Virginia’s long, warm summer/fall seasons. This white wine is characteristically high in acid and sugar. It is golden yellow in the glass with a floral aroma and creamy mouthfeel. This fruit-forward wine has flavors of peach and honey, with touches of citrus. The finish is refreshingly acidic. We paired the wine with a salmon spread and a Thai chicken salad.
Veritas Vineyard and Winery, founded by Andrew and Patricia Hodson in 1999, is a family operation. Located in the center of the Blue Ridge Mountains, the winery consists of more than 50 acres and produces sparkling, white, and red wines. Winemaker Emily Hodson embraces technology and cultural practices. She explained that Virginia’s climate with hot, late summers is conducive to the Petit Verdot’s late ripening, and the small, thick-skinned grapes fare well in its humidity.
Deep purple in the glass, the 2017 Petit Verdot, is bold and full-bodied. On the nose there are aromas of violets and lilacs. Lush flavors of dark plum, black cherry, and sage – I also tasted a hint of anise – complete the wine’s flavor profile. This wine was paired with Moroccan lamb stew, and two flavors of scones: salted brown butter and cinnamon chip.
From Thomas Jefferson’s seminal vinifera plantings to the growth of Virginia’s present-day vineyards, the Commonwealth’s dynamic spirit is impressive. Virginia winemakers are drawing from Old World and New World techniques, and producing aromatic wines with balance, structure, and full body.