“Wine Country”… Which is More Unexpected, Azerbaijan or Virginia?

As expats, wherever we travel we find interesting facts about the countries we explore.

Azerbaijani wine  label


Apparently, that characteristic sticks with us, even after we repatriate.

This was brought home to me again as I discovered something new when we went to visit friends who had just moved to Charlottesville, Virginia, the home of Thomas Jefferson and the university he founded, the University of Virginia.

Not many people know that Jefferson, in addition to being the principal crafter of our Declaration of Independence, also managed a 5,000 acre estate that produce wine grapes among other things.

I’ll bet you also didn’t know that there are enough wineries in Virginia that they even have a map of Virginia “wine country”? Neither did I, but indeed they do.

I’m not new to the wine world, having lived all my life in wine-producing regions- Texas (surprise), California, Azerbaijan (a stretch), and now Virginia continues the trend. (I’ll bet no one ever thought those places would be in the same sentence as wine producers!)

I have to admit though, that I was quite surprised to hear that Virginia produces “award winning” wines. I’ll be honest- I was skeptical. I’ve tasted some other states’ wines that I would rate as … well, let’s just say, I wouldn’t.

No one has ever mentioned how many climatic or “viticultural” zones Virginia has, so hearing them say we were in “wine country” was news to me. To hear people praising Virginia wines made me wonder who had been drinking what, but I agreed to give the Virginia wine tour a try.

When I lived in Azerbaijan, in any conversation with local folks, you would hear certain facts recited within the opening moments of virtually every conversation upon meeting a new expat. The first was always that Azerbaijan has 9 of the 11 climatic zones. So proud are the people of their diverse land, that this factoid would be inserted into nearly every conversation.

I thought about the wines I had tasted that have surprised me from Azerbaijan and around the world, some positively and others, well, not yet, but in the end, all were worth a try.

Azerbaijan Black Grapes: How Would You Rate Wine Around The World?

Islamic Winemakers?

After the collapse of the Soviet Union, Azerbaijan had to jump-start everything on their own. Oil came first, naturally, but in due time wine and spirits caught the attention of the government, which then put out a request for bids to take over the development and production of wine and beer.

Interesting for a Muslim country, I thought at the time. But, Azerbaijan was honoring its historic heritage as well as its secular and religious culture.

When the offers and awards were announced, everyone was quite surprised at who had won. It seems that the French had won the beer concession, and the British had won the wine award! (…what??!)

The general consensus was that someone had mixed up the announcement, but, mais non! This is exactly what happened.

Most expats felt that warm wine and fussy beer were in the offing!

The beer, “Khirdalan,” actually turned out to be quite good according to the working crews that consumed vast quantities of it on Friday nights. That it was also only about $.85 per litre helped a lot, I’m sure.

The wines took longer to produce of course, but people were proud of the “Seven Beauties” and “Maiden Tower” names, even if the contents were as yet untested. Azerbaijan wines have an interesting history.

Someday maybe Caucasus spirits will be on the map… literally!

According to historians, wine-making in Azerbaijan dates back to ancient times. Several sorts of grapes were cultivated throughout Azerbaijan.

In both the Goygol Rayon (region) and the Khanlar district of the country, archaeologists have found jars with remains of wines which date back to the second millennium B.C. The Greek historian, Strabo who had traveled to northern Azerbaijan (Caucasian Albania at that time), described cultivation of crops of grapes as so abundant that the residents were not able to harvest them.

Wow… after seeing the devastation of the vineyards a few years ago, that’s hard to believe. What an example of how the Socialist experiment dis-improved the lives of its people. Virginia Wine Medals and awards: Can Third World Wines Compete

But here, it’s a different story.

We learned that “Virginia Wine Country is the strongest of the East Coast’s wine regions. Rich with tourism, wine country’s various regions host a multitude of events and festivals, including the exciting Virginia Wine Month each October.”

This according to none other than “The Donald”- Donald Trump has purchased a vineyard and winery in Virginia, not far from where we were this week.

Virginia must be doing something right to be on the radar of big names like Trump. Surprised? Here’s more, another fun fact (not as exciting as the climatic zones, perhaps, but interesting, nonetheless), courtesy of the “Virginia Wine Notebook” blog and “VA Wine Ambassadors,” John Thompson and David Rosse:

Which of the following celebrities/moguls does not own a winery in the state?

A. Robert Duvall

    B. Donald Trump
    C. Dave Matthews
    D. Jack Kent Cooke

Maybe someday this one-time restaurant owner and intensely private Virginia resident will plant some vines. He would love the smell of ripening grapes in the morning.*

(* An insider reference to a famous Robert Duvall  quote, for our international readers who may not have 
seen the film, "Apocalypse Now")

We tasted both reds and whites on our tour, and, for John and David, we were much surprised.

In fact guys, we’re planning to take you up on your mission to “spread the word to the world about the unexpected pleasures of the Virginia wine scene” by following your tour around wineries of the Shenandoah Valley AVA. We’ll let you know hoe it turns out!

Maybe one of these days you can take a trip to Azerbaijan and do the same for them? (smile)

Wine Tasting World Tour

Tasting the World… Cheers!

2 thoughts on ““Wine Country”… Which is More Unexpected, Azerbaijan or Virginia?

  1. Hello!
    We definitely have a passion in common: wine!
    Have a look at my latest post on Adelaide, Barossa Valley and the McLaren Vale. A destination to include in an extensive trip to Australia, if you’re fond of wine 🙂

    Have a good one!


  2. If we were planning an Australian wine vacation, where would you recommend flying into to start? Your blog and this discussion have started me thinking… you’re the only ones in summer, we’ve got snow on the ground and basking on the white sands or under a grape arbor has some definite appeal! 😉


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Communicate More Effectively

... with loved ones, people you are not close to, and those you do not want to ever get close to yet still seem to invite you to arguments

benedikt julian zacher.

digital marketing. furniture. design.


What the World Taught Me... and other lessons along the way

Marie, Let's Eat!

We live in Tennessee, eat well, and tell the world about it.

Storytime with John

Pull up and listen...I've got a funny one for ya...

Travel Greece Travel Europe

Travel Greece, Travel Europe blog offers useful tips and insights to help you on your travels throughout Greece and Europe.


Living wide and eating well.

Chronicles of a Travel Addict

Solo, budget, ethical travel with a literary twist

International Schools Review

ISR Blogs are open to site members and visitors alike. Your Voice Counts.

Life in Baku

Exploring Baku and Azerbaijan


The ultimate guide for independent travellers seeking inspiration, advice and adventures beyond their wildest dreams

Lili Coffin's World of Wine

Featuring the best wine, travel and food of California.

Lisa + World

The Life and Laughs of a girl who doesn't take anything too seriously.

Preservation Journey

Connecting travel, architecture and volunteering - brought to you by Adventures in Preservation

So where's the snow?

Muddling through in Austria, God and life, teaching and gardening plus the occasional cow

Taking Route

Taking Root While en Route

The Art of Breaking Bread

See the world. Taste the world. Come together. Change the world.

The Happy Traveler

Seeking to read the pages of Earth's Book.


The greatest WordPress.com site in all the land!


...because not all of us have our Peking ducks in a row


The one-stop site for "trailing spouses."

Starts at Fifty

Never too late to start anything

Matt on Not-WordPress

Stuff and things.


This WordPress.com site is the bee's knees

The Neighborhood

is under renovation in preparation for our 6th Season


A great WordPress.com site

Marsha's Bungalow

the WW2 era chicken coop

All Romance Reads

Get Your Swoon On

%d bloggers like this: