BRIDGEWATER— As Virginia’s wine culture evolves, one Bridgewater winemaker is celebrating the diversity of regional flavors in a cooperative showcase for winos to explore.

Bluestone Vineyard began the monthly informational and flavorful event, Wine Among Friends, in December to invite Virginia winemakers to meet with the market face-to-face and answer any questions the public may have.

Lee Hartman, winemaker at Bluestone Vineyard, started the program as a First Friday event with plans to run until April. Hartman said wine is often considered a luxury product reserved for more urban areas, but he hopes bringing winemakers from around the state into the Valley will expand local interest.

“When I think about wine culture in Virginia, a lot of it is centralized more around the more populated areas ... but here in the Shenandoah Valley, we have such an awesome opportunity to build up wine culture, and that’s what we’re doing with this,” Hartman said.

On Friday from 5-8 p.m., winegrower Jake Busching offered a Viognier, a Tannat and F8 — a blend of Tannat and Petit Verdot — from his own wine label as well as a Cabernet Franc from Hark Vineyards, whom he also grows for. For 22 years, Busching has grown grapes and made wine around the state with a focus on providing soil-to-bottle products.

Previously at Pollak Vineyards, Grace Estate Winery and Michael Shaps Wineworks, Busching said he enjoys the opportunity to share his experience and insight with visitors to the tasting room.

“I’ve seen the full industry statewide, and I find it entirely fascinating,” Busching said. “I love educating the wine drinker.”

Nate Walsh, co-founder of Walsh Family Wine, was the first guest host for the educational event at Bluestone in December. Walsh said the opportunity to explore Virginia’s culture of wines is valuable for consumers because it showcases the variety and unique styles capitalized by the region during a period of evolution.

“I’ve worked in the Virginia wine industry since 2004, and the growth has been outstanding. The wine quality has gone up really significantly, and the types of wines get more and more interesting and more unique to Virginia and the different regions,” Walsh said. “It’s still on an upward trajectory in regards to really interesting types being planted and smart, good winemakers moving into the state and taking up projects here.”

Next Wine Among Friends night on Feb. 7 will be led by Dr. Joy Ting, research enologist and exchange coordinator at Virginia Winemakers Research Exchange, who produces small-batch wines under the brand Joy Ting Wines.

For each evening, the guest winemakers bring four selections for individuals to sample. Hartman said the featured wines are a platform for smaller production organizations and individual brands, such as Ting and Busching, to reach otherwise inaccessible clients.

“Not every winemaker in the state has tasting rooms. We wanted to give him and other winemakers like him an opportunity to try their wines,” Hartman said. “We’re trying to show people what wine is, what it can be and see it through the eyes of the winemakers who make it and the farmers who grow it.”

Bluestone Vineyard is open 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Thursday and Saturday, but the tasting room remains open until 8 p.m. on Fridays and is open 1-6 p.m. on Sunday. In Bridgewater, the vineyard is located at 4828 Spring Creek Rd.

Contact Kathleen Shaw at 574-6274 or Follow Kathleen on Twitter @shawkareport

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