Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson didn’t drink, but some of the generals’ fans apparently do.
The Museum of the Confederacy has applied to the state’s Alcoholic Beverage Control Board for off-premises licenses to sell wine at its gift shops. The licenses are for the museum’s shop in the Court End neighborhood near VCU Medical Center and the museum’s new branch in Appomattox County, a museum official says.
“In Appomattox, we found that a lot of buyers are buying the Virginia’s Finest products,” spokeswoman Vickie Yates says.
The Virginia Wine Board sponsors a series of more than 20 wines with labels and names commemorating Civil War battles and events, such as Dahlgren’s Raid Red, made by the Byrd Cellars in Goochland County. It commemorates an 1864 cavalry raid through the county by Union Col. Ulric Dahlgren. Red’s a fitting color. He was killed.
Most of the others are Confederate- or battle-themed, although one, Emancipation from Democracy Vineyards in Nelson County, is a merlot celebrating the freeing of slaves.
“The labels are really attractive,” Yates says.
One simply features the stone pyramid to the Confederate dead that towers over one end of Hollywood Cemetery. It’s one of the 10 or 11 wines made by Woodland Vineyard on Genito Road in Chesterfield County. The winery produces only about 200 cases a year, maker Melissa Jeltema says, making it one of the state’s smallest. A cabernet sauvignon commemorates the rough-hewn monument, although museum officials have not contacted her about selling her wine.
“Sure, I’d be happy if it sold my wine,” Jeltema says.
The Museum of the Confederacy’s Yates said she isn’t sure how long the licensure will take, and that the museums have no plans to sell beer. The license was first sought for the Appomattox branch, but officials decided that as long they were at it, they’d add the Richmond gift shop, known as the Haversack. “My assumption is that Appomattox will sell more,” she says.
Suzanne Hall, a spokeswoman for the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, says that it doesn’t sell alcohol from VMFA’s gift shop. The museum’s restaurants sell it, but only a few such institutions sell booze to-go.
Many military leaders on both sides likely would have eschewed it as well. But not all. Union Gen. Ulysses S. Grant famously drank, and Confederate Maj. Gen. George Pickett, who lost the namesake Gettysburg charge 150 years ago next month, also imbibed.