When you purchase a bottle of Virginia wine how can you be sure it’s of the highest quality? Many can tell by tasting it or simply opening the bottle. A new way to tell if you are buying quality Virginia wine is to look for the Commonwealth Quality Alliance label.
The Commonwealth Quality Alliance (CQA) program was established to both reward and raise awareness of Virginia grown wines. They want to raise the bar of Virginia wine quality and highlight the state’s elite wines. The CQA is a quality standards initiative of the Virginia Wineries Association and is endorsed by the Virginia Department of Agriculture & Consumer Services, the Virginia Vineyards Association and the Virginia Wine Distribution Company.
Currently there are 14 wineries who participate in the program. In order to obtain approval by the CQA and Virginia wine must undergo several steps:
•A juice sample that will analyze the Brix of grapes
•A laboratory analysis of the ready-to-bottle or bottled wine
•A sensory panel evaluation of the ready-to-bottle of bottled wine
The CQA Label on a bottle of Virginia wine means:
•The wine was made with 100% Virginia grapes.
•The wine was produced and bottled in Virginia.
•The wine has been tested for quality and purity.
•The wine was produced by a CQA member winery.
Member wineries also receive benefits for being in the program:
•Bottle stickers for your CQA approved wines.
•Press release template to aid in the announcement of your winery joining the CQA. The release has space for you to provide information about your particular winery and the wines that have been selected for the CQA.
•11×17 inch customized poster to display onsite at your winery, complete with your logo and winery name. The file is designed to print in a standard printer, so this can be done in-house or at a printer.
•Tabletop display tents for you to disperse throughout your establishment, all of which contain information about the CQA and its participating wineries.
•Pocket maps that contain information about the CQA and participating wineries.
•The Commonwealth Quality Alliance Crystal, recognizing your winery’s acceptance into the CQA.
The CQA has attended several recent wine events and will be at events in the future. The events include:
•Virginia Wine Expo on February 23rd and 24th at the Richmond Convention Center
•CAA Men’s Basketball Championship on March 9th to 11th at the Richmond Coliseum. The CQA will have a table at the CAA Zone, the only area where the public can purchase alcohol during the games.
•Vintage Virginia on June 1st and 2nd at Bull Run Special Events Center in Centerville, VA.
Many wines have already been granted approval by the CQA. A full list can be found on the CQA website. The CQA program is only a few months old and wineries are joining the program each week. Overtime we expect a majority of Virginia wineries to join the program and have their wines analyzed by the CQA. To find out more about the program, the wineries participating, and updates to the list of wines approved by the CQA, visit their website. And look for the CQA label on the Virginia wine you purchase.
A few weeks ago, before the Drink Local Wine conference in Baltimore, we were cruising around Loudoun County visiting wineries when we decided to stop at Hiddencroft Vineyards. We hadn’t visited Hiddencroft for quite awhile and things had changed. First of all we noticed they are no longer conducting tastings in winery. They now conduct the tastings in the Dutchman’s Creek tasting house. The tasting house is a 1830s farm house that sits on the property that used to be adjacent to their original property. They acquired the property in 2011 and by Labor Day that year began conducting the tastings there. There are two tasting counters and with rooms on the second floor for larger groups. There is also a deck attached to the house where you can enjoy your wine and nibbles with beautiful views of the vineyard and surrounding property. The day we visited was sunny and warm and the views were wonderful. The deck was hopping with music and lots of visitors enjoying Hiddencroft wine.
Owner and winemaker Clyde Housel conducted our tasting. We always enjoy tasting with Clyde. He doesn’t mind our numerous questions about the wines, the vineyard, and what’s new. We were able to taste the full lineup of wines and of course a few stood out as our favorites. We began the tasting with the 2011 Chambourcin Rose. We noticed the pretty pink color and notes of melon and spice. This would be a nice summer sipper for picnics and concerts on the lawn at Wolf Trap. Of the white wines our favorite was the 2011 Traminette Dry. It has a floral nose with hints of apple and tropical notes. We enjoyed the apple and white pepper notes on the tongue. There is also a semi-sweet version that would pair well with spicy dishes.
After the whites, we moved on to the lineup of red wines. While we thoroughly enjoyed the non-vintage Cabernet Franc and the Dutchman’s Creek Blend, the standout red was the 2008 Tannat. This red was aged for 42 months on oak. We noted tobacco on the nose with smoke, berries, and a smooth long finish in the mouth. This maybe the best Tannat we’ve tried in the whole state of Virginia. This wine is usually only available to purchase by the bottle but Clyde let us enjoy a glass. We enjoyed the glass on the deck with the other Hiddencroft visitors enjoying the beautiful day. We enjoyed the glass so much, we decided to bring a bottle home with us.
We simply can’t let so much time pass before our next trip to Hiddencroft Vineyards. It’s a little gem of a winery tucked away in northern Loudoun County that shouldn’t be missed. If you haven’t been to Hiddencroft Vineyards in a while, you need to plan to return. And when you do, tell them Virginia Wine Time sent you!
In 2010 we attended the Drink Local Wine conference held in Landsdowne Virginia. We had a great time meeting many people in the Virginia wine community and many fellow wine bloggers. We also learned a lot about Virginia wine. As you know from our blog, we support local wine. Drink Local Wine supports local wine as well. They have held conferences in states that don’t normally get the national media attention that other areas of the country receive. We fully support Drink Local Wine’s mission of bringing attention to lessor known wine producing states. They have held conferences in Texas, Virginia, Missouri, Colorado, and this year Maryland.
The 2013 Drink Local Wine conference will be held in Baltimore Maryland on April 13 to focus on Maryland wine. Like Virginia, Maryland has a growing wine industry. There are now 61 wineries producing thousands of cases of wine each year. The conference will focus on the growing Maryland wine industry, drinking local, and who the movers and shakers currently in the Maryland wine industry. We’ll hear how they are doing it and what direction they are taking to continue the growth that has started in Maryland.
The conference will conclude with the Grand Tasting of Maryland Wines and Twitter Taste-off taking place at The Warehouse at Camden Yards. The Twitter Taste-off is a great opportunity to taste wines from 20 Maryland wineries. Participants are able to taste the wines and “tweet” their impressions live on Twitter. We are looking forward to this event!
Are you a wine blogger, wine writer, or someone interested in local wine? Will you be attending the Drink Local Wine conference in Maryland? If not, think about attending the conference this year. You can find out more on the Drink Local Wine website or the Maryland Wine website. And if you are planning to attend, how about leaving a comment to let us know so that we can plan on meeting you there! We will be there representing Virginia Wine Time and our sister site, Maryland Wine Time. See you there!