Yes, Virginia, you can make your own.
Ideal growing conditions in Virginia’s vineyards led to a superb 2008 harvest and a bumper crop of grapes. Prodigious yields, plus increased vineyard acreage statewide, means the cellar runneth over. So wineries with more grapes than fermentation tanks are offering Chardonnay and Cabernet Franc to home winemakers.
“We don’t use all that we grow,” says David Gibbs, owner of Virginia Mountain Vineyard in Fincastle, “so anyone can buy here or at the farmers market.”
One ton of grapes yields 160 to 170 gallons of wine, says Doug Flemer, owner of Ingleside Vineyards in the state’s Northern Neck. At 75 cents to $1 per pound of grapes, it doesn’t cost much to produce Château d’You. Flemer often sells in manageable 200-pound lots: That quantity “fits into trash cans for fermenting,” he says, “but you’ll need some glass carboys [three-to-six-gallon demijohns] for storage.”
Virginia residents are allowed to produce up to 200 gallons of wine a year per two-adult household. But Virginia law prohibits any individual who manufactures wine from selling it, removing it from the premises, or giving gifts of more than one liter per person per year.
Bottom line: You can make about 1,000 bottles yet give away only 11⁄3 bottles per friend. Which means you can either drink 2.76 bottles a day, make less wine, or make more friends.
This article appeared in the December, 2008 issue of The Washingtonian.