More than 150 years before California had vineyards, settlers in Jamestown, Va., were crushing grapes.
And by the time Father Junipero Serra brought the Mission grape to San Diego, Thomas Jefferson was planting Monticello with European vinifera.
For the next century Virginia wineries struggled, then were killed off by Prohibition. It was not until the 1970s, when new wineries planted chardonnay, merlot, and cabernet franc, that people took notice of the state's viticulture.
Virginia's wineries have grown from six in 1979 to 230 today. It boasts 15 distinct wine regions, seven approved as American Viticultural Areas, annual production of 475,000 cases and 2010 retail sales of $73 million, according to the most recent data available.
Wine tourism has become big business, too, with 1.6 million visitors spending $131 million annually. The state has 26 wine trails, many on or near Civil War battlefields.
Driven largely by investors from other industries and other states, millions of dollars have been poured into Virginia land far less expensive than Napa or Sonoma Valley.
A winery begun 10 miles south of Charlottesville by Patricia Kluge, the former wife of media billionaire John Kluge, was sold last year to Donald Trump whose son, Eric, now manages the 1,300-acre Trump Winery.
Over the past decade I've been impressed with the progress of Virginia's wines, especially its Bordeaux-style reds. A tasting of several showed me that they have gone from promising, one-dimensional wines to well-made, more complex varietals with standout fruit flavors.
The most impressive was a Stinson Vineyards Meritage 2011 ($35) made in the Blue Ridge Mountains, a Bordeaux blend at just 13.4 percent alcohol, aged 14 months. It had everything I look for in a red wine - a balance of pronounced fruit, softened tannins, and enough acid to give it spark.