Interest grows in local wines

Vicki Ruckman, co-owner of All Things Virginia at the Farmhouse, loads a rack of Virginia wines at her store along Main Street in Woodstock. Wine and cider sales in Virginia had record sales this year. Rich Cooley/Daily

WOODSTOCK – Flourishing interest in Virginia wines and increased wine sales are benefiting local retailers like Vicki Ruckman.

“There’s an awful lot of interest in local wines and the Virginia wines. They’re getting so much more publicity nationally and internationally,” said Ruckman, who is the owner and operator of All Things Virginia at the Farmhouse.

Earlier this week, Gov. Terry McAuliffe announced that sales for both wine and cider increased significantly in the 2015 fiscal year that ended on June 30.

Total sales of wine in the state topped $1.9 million in that period, with sales at vineyards increasing by 6.3 percent.

Without providing specific figures, Ruckman noted that wine sales have increased for them in recent years.

To illustrate this, Ruckman said there were products from around 10 vineyards in the state when she took All Things Virginia in 2013.

Now, she said, the company carries wine from 26 different wineries and vineyards throughout the commonwealth – with products from local businesses like North Mountain Vineyards, Cave Ridge Vineyards and Muse Vineyards.

Ruckman said that All Things Virginia has loyal local customers as well as visitors from the Washington, D.C., area and other states.

“We’ve got a lot of local repeat customers who come here to supplement their visits to the tasting room,” Ruckman said.

Ruckman attributed this newfound interest in Virginia wines to an increase in quality and variable growing conditions for the vineyards that has led to diversity.

“We’ve got a lot of granite here, because we’re in the valley,” she said. “But we’ve got different growing conditions than they do in Charlottesville and than they do in Northern Virginia.”

Even in the valley, Ruckman explained that the varying year-to-year conditions can result in different tastes in the grapes plucked from the same vine.

Ruckman said the Muse Vineyard’s 2009 Clio Bordeaux blend – which took home the Governor’s Cup as Virginia’s top wine earlier this year – has a vastly smoother taste than its younger and fuller-tasting sibling from 2010.

“Although it’s the grapes – exact same vines, exact same percentages, bottled and barrel-aged for the exact same amount of time – they are very different,” Ruckman said.

The difference between the two, Ruckman noted, is that 2010 featured hotter weather conditions than 2009.

“That’s why California’s done so well and why they have so many wineries, because their weather is more stable,” Ruckman said. “They don’t have 4 feet of snow one winter and nothing the next.”

Ruckman added, “But I think it’s actually more fun and more interesting to see the differences that those inconsistencies (in weather) make.”

Ruckman said the growing list of wineries and vineyards in the region has made Shenandoah County a bit of vineyard destination.

“If you’re coming from Northern Virginia, and you’re going to spend the day out here, you don’t wanna go to just one winery,” Ruckman said.

Ruckman noted that the recently opened James Charles Winery near Winchester and its proximity to Valerie Hill Vineyard, which is a little more than 4 miles away, increased business for this very reason.

For a retailer and wine enthusiast such as Ruckman, the growth and expansion of new operations means more opportunity to try new and potentially exciting wines.

“It’s just the opportunity to broaden my horizons and my experience,” Ruckman said. “Obviously we’re looking for wines to bring in here, too. So it’s twofold.”

Contact staff writer Kevin Green at 540-465-5137 ext. 155, or kgreen@nvdaily.com