Christina’s Review: Beyond Jefferson’s Vines by Richard Leahy

Beyond Jefferson's Vines by Richard Leahy
Published by Sterling Epicure on 2012
Genres: Beverages, Cooking, Wine & Spirits
Pages: 226
Format: Hardcover
For 30 years, Thomas Jefferson grew grapes in his Monticello vineyards in hopes of producing fine wine --but to no avail. Today that has completely changed. Virginia wine now has a reputation as some of the best in America, with increasing sales and more wineries (nearly 200) welcoming an ever-larger number of visitors. Richard Leahy, a former editor for Vineyard & Winery Management magazine, has written the essential book on Virginia wine, covering its history, interviews with the state's top winemakers, and updates on the latest industry developments.

beyond jeffersons vinesI purchased the first edition of this book over a year ago to reference when I was building my website for a digital public history project. I had skimmed the book and read select sections then, but never finished it. When I found out Richard Leahy would be speaking at our first Business of Wine class at George Mason University, I decided it was about time I read the whole thing, and I am glad I did.

As many of you know, I am passionate about learning and sharing the history of Virginia wine. Virginia wines have grown in national and international prominence, and are important to our local economy. The history of Virginia wine traces back to the colonial origins of Virginia. It is a rich history, filling the centuries and impacting the state economically and agriculturally. The history of wine in Virginia is one of failures and progress… after some failed attempts and shattering events such as Prohibition, the industry is now thriving, productive, and profitable. Leahy explored this history and where the industry is today, featuring wineries from across the state and wine enthusiasts who have helped to bring light to this growing industry for the state and country.

Leahy started with some of the history and direction for Virginia wine. From there, he moved into information on how to attend tastings like a professional and a suggested route to follow, touring vineyards throughout the state. Leahy divided the state into its six viticultural areas:

  • Monticello
  • North Fork of Roanoke
  • Northern Neck (George Washington’s Birthplace)
  • Rocky Knob
  • Shenandoah Valley
  • Virginia’s Eastern Shore

Personally, I found the directions from vineyard to vineyard to be an unnecessary addition, but understand others may use these as a guide to trace his journeys through the state from each vineyard.beyond jeffersons vines autographed

A new edition of his book was released in November, 2014… I highly recommend starting with this edition if you can get your hands on it! The state’s wine industry has grown exponentially since his first edition was published in 2012. There are many new vineyards that have opened, and sadly, a couple that have sold or closed since his first book. Virginia has continued to grow in prominence and increase their presence and awards on the national and international stages. In his new edition, Leahy highlighted some of this recent information and Governor’s Cup winners and expanded his research/travels.

I enjoyed some of the fun facts that were presented throughout Leahy’s book as well. For example, I did not know Dave Matthews (of the Dave Matthews Band) owned a winery here in Virginia. Yes, he does! It is Blenheim Vineyards, located just south of Charlottesville. Another personal fun fact I learned is there is a term for two of my passions combined into one real thing called “wiking” – for those who like hiking and wine! How did I not know there was a larger group out there in Virginia who enjoy “wiking” like me… this book exposed me to a new world!

I do recommend this book for anyone interested in the wine industry, especially the growing Virginia industry. If you are looking to map out a summer plan, vacation to the east coast/Washington, DC, or just looking for a day-escape in the beautiful Virginia countryside, definitely check out this book. For the history lover, the first few chapters touch on the history of wine in the state. (my personal favorite) Cheers!

pj - christina

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