Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

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December 14, 2013

Va. wine heritage center under consideration

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (AP) — The Charlottesville area could soon be home to the state’s first wine heritage center.

The Daily Progress reported Saturday that the state awarded a $20,000 grant to Albemarle County to hire a consultant to study the proposed center’s location, business model, programming and other details. A draft report is expected before the end of the year.

Albemarle County is matching the state grant, and about a half-dozen local and statewide organizations are providing monetary or in-kind support. The total cost of the project has not been determined.

If the project advances, “it would be very exciting for the Virginia wine industry,” said county spokeswoman Lee Catlin.

“When you look at the accolades that the Virginia wine industry is getting, we’re being mentioned in the same breath as internationally known wine regions,” Catlin said. “We felt like a wine center that celebrated the history of the wine industry would serve as a launching point for Virginia wine tourism.”

A training vineyard and wine processing facilities also could be incorporated into the center, and those elements might be used by students in Piedmont Valley Community College’s viticulture program, said Valerie Palamountain, the college’s dean of workforce services.

“We have a pretty robust program as it is, but we’re sharing a training vineyard with Monticello,” said Palamountain. “If we had a vineyard that didn’t have to be commercially successful, we’d be able to do more experimental things.”

Virginia is home to about 250 wineries, according to Annette Boyd, director of the Virginia Wine Board Marketing Office.

Unfortunately, Boyd said, the stories behind the people and places that made Virginia wine history have faded with the ages. She said the center would serve to preserve and pull the pieces of Virginia’s past and present wine story together in one place.

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