Erin Scala spent her childhood in Virginia wine country, never very far from vines. Unsurprisingly, she ended up in a wine-focused career—first at Fleurie Restaurant in downtown Charlottesville, and later overseeing the cellar and wine service at New York’s Michelin starred The Musket Room.
It was only upon moving to Manhattan that she became aware of the obstacles that Virginia wine faced on the national scene. “I wanted to put some Virginia options on my wine list,” she says, “and was so surprised that they weren’t readily available in New York at that time.” Then, there was the stigma. “A table of businessmen came in, and I tried to convince them to order this really amazing Virginia wine, but the one guy from Virginia at the table totally shut it down,” she recalls. “I think he actually said, ‘all wines from Virginia are bad; let’s get something else.’ So they ended up ordering something that was not as good. I thought it was just crazy.”
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The state has seen around 200 new wineries spring up in the last ten years alone, and the best wines have only gotten better. Now, Scala is back at her old haunt, overseeing the wine programs for both Fleurie and its sister restaurant, Petit Pois, and is thrilled to have found a booming wine culture that has fully embraced its local production. “Our cuisine is French-focused, so I have to keep French wines on the lists here,” she says. “But there are enough awesome Virginia wines now in all of the categories – red, white, rosé, dessert, sparkling – that I could do a 100% local wine list. Not only would I be up for the challenge; I would welcome it.”