Industry opinion is united on the quality of the 2018 vintage in Virginia: it was “The worst ever”, thanks to twice the rainfall Virginia normally gets (close to 100 inches vs. 43 inches). Among white wines, there were some surprisingly good ones, thanks to patient fruit sorting and higher than average acidity, but especially with the red grape crop, which required more time to ripen, it was largely dilute and rot-plagued.
Accordingly, I would have been skeptical if someone had told me to recommend a red wine from that abysmal vintage as a “wine of the week.” I frankly wouldn’t have believed it possible, until I tasted this excellent wine.
While signing copies of Beyond Jefferson’s Vines at 53rd Winery (nee Cooper Vineyards in Louisa Co.), proprietor David Drillock offered me a taste of their ’18 Petit Verdot. I was skeptical, but he was confident, so I took him up on it.
First, the color! Opaque purple just like what you’d expect from a young Petit Verdot from a great vintage. Then, the nose; classic ripe briar fruits with lavendar and rock rose aromas; clean, no veggies, and ripe. On the palate, it’s bracingly high in acidity (that’s 2018!) but once you can get past that, it’s great. The wine was made in a fruit-forward way, and that’s what you get; juicy ripe black briar fruits with floral and spice elements. It’s like a Cru Beaujolais on steroids, only with the classic varietal character of Petit Verdot instead of Gamay.
The wine is still very young and taut, but if you’re a Virginia Petit Verdot fan, you should buy some now (as I did). It will be dynamite as a red wine for Thanksgiving in nine months, or as a Valentine’s Day wine with the right food (or chocolate!) in about a year from now. It will evolve over time but should last awhile just from the acidity. Worth the experience just to try one of the few really good red wines from 2018.