Of all the familiar expressions defining what we do, the phrase which appeals to me most is, “regional winery,” because it gives a sense of place in the world of wine. At Barboursville, we well understand the meaning of the word, regional, and have always drawn inspiration from the essence of it, by pursuing the finest wine the region can give. This is all that they do in Pauillac, this is all that they do on Howell Mountain. Here, we call the fulfillment of that pursuit, Octagon.
In the weeks just past, The Washington Post and Washingtonian have conducted blind tastings of two successive vintages of Octagon -- 2005 and 2006 -- against the finest red wines at or above its price, from Napa Valley, Pauillac, and St Emilion. Each of these critical trials has been published as an experience of Bottle Shock, a second Judgment of Paris, recalling the 1976 tasting in which Napa wines were recognized as the equal of Bordeaux. This is exactly what the two separate panels of wine experts from across the Potomac have resoundingly said of Octagon, repeatedly assuming our wine to come from France, or less plausibly, from California. The syllogism was once so simple: the wine is an authentic and classic Bordeaux blend, and it is excellent -- and we all know where such things must come from.
In The Washington Post and at his blog, critic Dave McIntyre argues it is time to begin to take “local wines” seriously, and we are grateful for the honor in the phrase. The best wine is local. The best local wine is also, by definition, age-worthy. We have seen this affirmed time and again, 2 years ago with our 9-year-aged Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve ‘98 winning the Virginia Governor’s Cup, and most recently in Michael Broadbent’s assessment of Octagon III in August, 2009, updating his original tasting in late 2002 -- “Sweet, full, rich, excellent flavour with a dry finish and, by any standards, superb.” Those of you who took the opportunity join us for Palladio Restaurant’s 10th anniversary celebration last weekend, discovered this with Octagon VII 2004, showing how eloquently this blend does knit together into a transcendent, finer wine over time. We will pour it again, possibly for the last time at a public presentation, along with Octagon IV 1999 and 2 recent vintages, in this year’s Octagon feast on October 17th (reservations here).
Our founder, Gianni Zonin, has explained our commitment to our region as the foundation of our philosophy -- "We are farmers because of our awe and gratitude for the character of this earth, and we are vintners because it is natural to desire to celebrate it, and to share it.” I pass along the report from Vicenza’s daily newspaper on this “Judgment of Paris,” in which he is shown with an image of Octagon.
Good news travels home. On that note, last weekend, at our feast for Palladio’s 10th, I was surprised and honored to accept State Senator Edward Houck’s presentation of a Joint Resolution from the Virginia legislature, commending me for the work that we do here, and citing our pursuit of Octagon at the top of the list. For you, really, not for us, I write to urge you to be proud of “local wine” and your “regional winery.” You have earned the right to be commended for your outstanding taste, for the quality of the wine you pursue, and again, as ever, for your support and friendship.