This is the second post in a two-part series. Read Part 1 here.
On a recent trip made with a group of friends to Virginia’s idyllic Monticello Wine Trail outside Charlottesville, we arranged to visit a gauntlet of the areas best wineries and to meet with some of the areas most interesting, important, and innovative winemakers.
We quickly discovered that King Family Vineyards’ talented winemaker, Matthieu Finot was a common thread between these wineries, placing him, I suppose, right at the heart the quality revolution. Born in Crozes Hermitage in the Rhone Valley and well travelled thereafter, Matthieu typifies the ambitious, worldly, tuned-in and connected culture of the new Virginia.
But if Finot represents the future, this is in part thanks to the fact that Virginia began to attract winemakers looking for a challenge and interested in making a difference, like Claude Thibaut from Thibaut-Janneson. Thibaut, a vastly experienced winemaker who makes sparklers with the traditional methode champenoise, has succeeded in Virginia in part because of his empirical and practical approach to traditional winemaking.
Listening to Thibaut speak about the intricacies of grape growing in Virginia, from pest regulation to the advantages and disadvantages of different biodynamic methods, is to receive a master class in marginal climate grape growing. Having made massive batches of champagne for years at champagne powerhouse Nikolas Foullette, Thibaut now produces only small batches. Thibaut-Jannesen wines are difficult to find, and even harder to come by now that the White House is snatching it up by the case, serving Thibaut-Janssen to everybody from the President of France to the Queen of England. If you get your hands on a bottle, be happy.
I’m thrilled by these wines. I can’t believe that Virginia makes sparklers of such intensity and sophistication, and in an Old World style that I’d gladly take over many vaunted California sparklers. Enjoy the look on your friends’ faces when you blind taste them on a bottle and then tell them they’re from Virginia.
If the wines of Thibaut-Janssen are worldly but traditional, the wines of King Family Vineyards have one foot in both the Old and the New World. The region’s culture fosters collaboration, and Thibaut and Finot at King Family are more than just neighbors — Thibaut makes the champagne for King Family. While Finot was away during our visit, we were very lucky to have the knowledgeable James King to tell the story of his family’s wines and explain the connections. But judging from the wines, it would seem that some of Thibaut’s practicality and precision has rubbed off over the years on Finot. Read the rest of this entry »