Yesterday at Barboursville Vineyard my wife and I were fortunate to sit at the same table as Barboursville's winemaker during a dinner featuring Michel Richard and Roberto Donna. His name is Luca, he has been with Barboursville for 13 years and he grew up an hour or so from where Roberto grew up in Piedmont. Barboursville is also owned by an Italian company which is one of the largest vineyard owners in Italy; their announced intention is to bring great wine to the Virginia countryside.
Luca was especially proud of a wine called "Barboursville 1998 Cabernet Reserve." Among the awards it had won was one for being the best of any American wine out of almost a thousand submitted for review in a very prestigious North American competition. His '99 was part of the prix fixe service for Saturday's dinner, not the '98. Two hours into the meal, after several bottles of wine shared between couples who had become friends by then, he offered to open a bottle of his '98.
I believe that I can recognize a serious wine in a blindfolded test. I also believe that I have been quite fortunate to have tasted some of the greatest wines available in the past 20 years or so. With three or four glasses "preparation" I tasted his '98 Reserve. It was delicious. But he cautioned it needed an hour or two to open. Fair enough. I bought two bottles with the intention of drinking them, properly decanted and myself, fully "sober" (if you will!) to appreciate his effort. Today, typing this I am (still) fully "sober," (well, at least for the moment) but I have decanted one of the two bottles for two hours. My wife, who understands none of the snob appeal of Lafite or Margaux, even Leonetti or Masseto, certainly not Screaming Eagle, just pronounced the '98 Barboursville Reserve "totally delicious."
Realistically, this is not on the level of them. But it is truly remarkable. If I were Parker I would probably give this 92 or 93 points. It really is a delicious wine with complexity and depth. As one who has been critical of Virginia reds, claiming never to have had even a palatable one let alone a decent one-I have now had one that is excellent and worthy of comparison to Napa's and Walla Walla's best. It's not cheap, either: $49. But it's worth it.
And I never thought that I would taste a red Virginia wine that is worth $50. This is.