Virginia’s Millionaire Winegrowers

Sep 08, 2013 777

By Roger Morris

For those of us who were writing about wine at the time, it was a surprising, even humorous-sounding, development. The Italians were coming to Virginia to make wine. The year was 1976, and we had already been shocked once that season. Napa Valley (with some help from Sonoma grapes) had just won both red and white categories of what could have been called the "Justification of Paris." Californians, Time magazine breathlessly informed us, could make wine just as good as those snot-noses in France!

But the Italian expedition was perhaps even more shocking. It was America's Bicentennial celebration, and all of us who were old enough to pick up a wine glass (tiny things in those pre-Riedel days) knew what founding dad Thomas Jefferson discovered the hard way: you can't make vinifera wine on the East Coast. So why had the wealthy, well-respected Zonin family decided to invest millions in trying to do just that?

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