The bus is 45 minutes late picking me up due to the ladies on board needing Starbucks, but I don’t mind. The Washington Wine Academy and Reston Limousine have started bringing groups from Washington D.C. to Charlottesville to tour wine country, and intrigued by reports of Long Island wine tours gone mad (drunken bachelorette parties! Table dancing! Nudity!), and by a recent Leesburg Today article claiming that “Virginia wine success will come from tourism,” I decided to get on the bus and see for myself what this approaching success will look like. Imagine my delight when I stepped on board and saw 11 young female wine enthusiasts in sundresses and sandals, all eager to help our wine industry make it big.
Don’t drink and drive, but do ride and drink: Groups from Washington D.C. can now get a taste of our area wine country, thanks to the Washington Wine Academy and Reston Limousine.
It’s Kelly’s birthday. She is turning (shut up! Don’t say it!) 29, and so all the girls have gotten together for a Charlottesville wine tour. Visit two Charlottesville area wineries! Lunch and shopping at the historic Downtown Mall! I am assured by WWA president Jim Barker and Kristin Tanzi, the business development coordinator for Reston Limousine, that the kind of party-bus mentality that’s causing wineries all over the country to post “No Limos” signs is strictly prohibited here. That’s great, I think, as the bus flies past our turn and heads for Fluvanna County. I point this out to the grizzled driver, Chuck, who calmly replies, “WHAT! I’M JUST GOING THE WAY I KNOW HOW! WHERE WAS I SUPPOSED TO TURN?”
We arrive at Blenheim winery late and the bulk of the ladies head immediately to the deck to take in the view. Greg, on the tour with his wife, Alma, moved to D.C. from California and remembers his grandparents taking him to Napa Valley before it began to choke on its own tourist vomit. His assessment of the difference between here and there is that “Napa has lost that small town feel.”
We are late getting into Charlottesville for lunch and shopping. Chuck takes another wrong turn and when I point this out to him, he thoughtfully says, “WHAT!” and jackknifes the bus across the median.
After lunch and no shopping (we’re running late), the ladies sleep, chat about how best to pack for a flight to Cabo, and listen to their iPods. Chuck expertly steers the bus down the narrow roads leading to Barboursville Vineyards as oncoming cars pull over onto the shoulder, honking their horns in friendly greeting.
Barboursville is packed. We get off the bus and stand in line at the entrance. “That’s the downside of the growth of Napa,” Greg says pointing at the rolling hills, “they don’t have any of this.” But inside, the theme park cum food court vibe prevails. Luckily, the winery is having its spring barrel tasting, and we indulge in verticals of the Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon reserve, and taste the 2007 Octagon, which has yet to be bottled.
So, whither cometh our success? After tasting Barboursville wines dating back to 1991, and stretching forward to the unreleased ‘07 vintage, I know the answer I would give: the wine. But economically, I guess it’s not that simple. The day winding down, three of the ladies sit sulkily on a brick wall and smoke. I ask if the birthday girl had fun. “Yeah,” one of them says, not looking at me behind her large round sunglasses, “I guess she’s enjoying it.”