The growth of Virginia wines has been a decades-long story involving more people than we could count - but much of what's been done to develop Virginia's sparkling wines may be credited to one man with a passion for the vine.
Patricia Kluge brought Claude Thibaut from Champagne, France by way of California to create a sparkling chardonnay for her now-defunct winery. Ten years later, Thibaut 's success with sparkling wine is putting Virginia on the map.
Michael and Robin Sexton toast to a new year with a taste of Trump Winery's Blanc de Blanc.
"They're pretty special, I think," said Robin, visiting from Palm Beach, Florida.
"I think it would be difficult to tell the difference between a Virginian and a Champagne," said Michael.
Trump produces four sparkling wines.
"They're all methode champenoise, so very traditional making of creating them," said Jonathan Wheeler, sparkling wine-maker at Trump Winery.
Popping corks is so popular, Trump's even hired a winemaker to focus only on sparkling. Wheeler credits central Virginia's land and growing conditions.
"Everything put together creates a very specific wine that's not quite like Champagne, and not quite like California, but something great on its own," said Wheeler.
About a dozen Virginia vineyards are now bottling bubbly.
One Frenchman from the Champagne region has put his expertise to work helping craft half of those sparkling wines. Claude Thibaut arrived in central Virginia a decade ago.
"Virginia chose us. We came, we bring our tradition, expertise," said Thibaut, who makes Thibaut-Janisson sparkling wine.
He bottled 500 cases of his first vintage of Thibaut-Janisson in 2005. Production topped 2,000 cases Monday. Each bottle of Thibaut's sparkling wine ages two years in an Afton cellar.
"We have some very nice flavors, very nice aromas similar to the ones we have in France in Champagne," said Thibaut.
Thibaut is toasting to a new year and a healthy future for Virginia's fizz.
"I believe we have some good future in Virginia sparkling wines," said Thibaut.
Thibaut and Trump say sales of sparkling spike from just before Thanksgiving to the New Year. Winemakers credit vineyard weddings for the growth in Virginia sparkling production. They say guests want to toast with local taste.
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