- The Washington Times - Monday, June 17, 2002

Jennifer McCloud was once a wine lover who visited vineyards while on business trips. Now she owns one that is producing prize-winning vintages.
In April, her 5-year-old Chrysalis Vineyards won one of five Best of Show awards for white wine for its 2001 Viognier in the San Diego National Wine Competition. The wine competed against 2,050 others from across the nation; the other four white wine awards went to California wines.
"That certainly is a very prestigious award to receive," said Pam Jewell, spokeswoman for the Virginia Wine Marketing Office, a division of the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. "And for a Virginia wine to receive it in California is very notable."
Miss McCloud, who lives in a sprawling home overlooking her vineyard in Middleburg, works more than 70 hour per week developing her business 25 acres of grapes and a winery offering customers red, white and blush wines from about $12 to $35 per bottle.
Miss McCloud, who has owned and operated other businesses, mostly involving technology, knows every one of the more than 200 acres she owns, and she designed the layout of most of the vineyards and winemaking facilities.
Chrysalis has won numerous awards for its wines and has made a splash in the American winemaking business by helping to reintroduce the Norton grape, which is native to Virginia and was acclaimed as one of the best wine grapes in the world in the 1800s, but faded out of production with Prohibition.
Miss McCloud is not alone in the growing Virginia wine industry. Fifteen years ago, 29 wineries in the state produced about 75,000 cases of wine per year. This year, 70 wineries are expected to produce about 293,000 cases of wine, according to the Virginia Wine Marketing Office.
"We've had some great growing seasons," said the wine-marketing office's Miss Jewell.
She attributes much of this growth to the state government's recent support of the wine industry.
The state has specialists in grape-growing and wine production on hand for Virginia's winemakers to consult. The Virginia Wine Marketing Office also has been instrumental in making Virginia wines a more well-known product in the state and across the country, she said.
But at least part of the drive toward the revitalization of the Virginia wine business, alive since Thomas Jefferson's time, has been the result of a trend in Virginia and other Mid-Atlantic states to find profitable niche agricultural markets, said Mary Davis-Barton, program director of the state wine-marketing office.
"You don't need to have thousands of acres to succeed," she said.
Urban sprawl is taking away the available land for agriculture, making it more difficult for Mid-Atlantic farmers to compete. Wine is considered a "viable" alternative agricultural product, Mrs. Davis-Barton said.
"It's an opportunity for alternative agriculture. We've seen some of our agricultural industries decline a bit, and we've seen younger farmers looking for these alternative products," she said.
Miss McCloud's operation is still relatively small, but is growing. She is selling her wines in several Virginia stores and restaurants and is working to begin distributing them outside the state. Chrysalis produced 5,500 cases of wine in 2001 and will produce about 8,000 cases this year.
The largest winery in Virginia, Williamsburg Winery, produces about 60,000 cases of wine per year, according to its marketing office.
Miss McCloud's offbeat approach also has helped. She has ventured into the production of some alternative wines, not the least of which are her Norton red wines, which until recently were produced primarily in Missouri. Chrysalis is now one of a handful of vineyards in Virginia with Nortons.
"We're doing things a little bit differently," she said. "Instead of following the marketplace, we're interested in seeing the benefits of leading the marketplace."


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