Ag and Forestry secretary to unveil them next week
By Sally Voth
The Shenandoah Valley American Viticultural Area will get its first sign promoting the region as a wine destination next week as part of a state promotion.
Virginia Secretary of Agriculture and Forestry Todd Haymore will be at Veramar Vineyard in Berryville Wednesday to mark the unveiling of one of three wine region signs in the region.
Gov. Bob McDonnell announced the regional signs in April, saying it was a way to attract more visitors to state wineries. A news release from McDonnell's office describes an AVA "as a designated wine grape growing region in the United States distinguishable by certain geographic features."
There are more than 200 wineries around the state, which ranks fifth in the U.S. in wine grape production, according to the release.
"[Wednesday's unveiling] will be the final release of the signs that have been in this first wave of signs being placed around the state," Haymore said in a Friday afternoon phone interview.
Two more Shenandoah AVA signs will be unveiled -- one near the Clarke and Fauquier county lines at the U.S. 17/50 intersection and the third on U.S. 250 at the Augusta and Nelson county lines, he said.
Seventeen signs will have been unveiled in the first wave of the program, he said. Another round will like take place early next year, according to Haymore.
Virginia AVAs include Rocky Knob, North Fork of Roanoke, George Washington Birthplace, Eastern Shore, Monticello and Shenandoah Valley, and there are about two dozen wine trails, according to the Virginia Wine website, virginiawine.org.
"Since we launched this program, a new AVA has been created in Northern Virginia, called the Middleburg AVA," Haymore said. "I think certainly the Shenandoah AVA will be on the list to get more signs moving forward.
"It's a joint effort by the secretariat of transportation and my secretariat, working in partnership with a governor's initiative, which was promoting Virginia wine and Virginia wine tourism."
Federal Transportation Enhancement Program funding with matching moneys from the Commonwealth Transportation Board is paying for the signs, Haymore said.
"The governor made the promotion of the Virginia wine industry one of his top economic development priorities within my secretariat, so it's been a great, great effort in working with our wineries, our winemakers," he said. "We've got a lot more things planned over the course of the last 15-16 months of the administration."
Virginia Wine Distribution Co. Chairman Randy Phillips, who is also the owner and winemaker at Cave Ridge Vineyard in Mt. Jackson, said the wine signs have been in the works for some time.
"It's important for people to realize there are different regions of the state, and we think that Shenandoah has a distinction for its growing environment," he said. "It helps, I think, promote the region as a quality wine region and just reminds people as they enter it to seek out and look for wines from the Shenandoah Valley."
There are about 15 wineries in the Shenandoah Valley AVA alone, according to Phillips, who is also the president of the Shenandoah Wine Growers Association.
"Statewide, there are about 15 new wineries every year," he said. "It's definitely in a growth phase."
Contact staff writer Sally Voth at 540-465-5137, ext. 164 or email email@example.com