King Family Vineyards Meritage ‘07 Wins 2010 VA Governor’s Cup

Feb 27

The King Family Vineyards 2007 Meritage has won the coveted 2010 Virginia Governor’s Cup award for red wine.  Selected from more than 200 entries representing all of the appellations in the Commonwealth, King Family Vineyards 2007 Meritage is a blend of 56% Merlot, 20% Petit Verdot, 16% Cabernet Franc, and 8% Malbec.

The Governor’s Cup (red wine division) took place in January. Gold medal winning wines were eligible to compete for the Cup; judges knew the vintages and the varietal class or blend, but the identity of the wines was unknown. This writer was a judge in the competition, and during the final Cup round, identified one of the four meritage (red Bordeaux blend) wines as the standout of the gold medals; it was in fact this wine that other judges also agreed was the best of the lot, the King Family ‘07 meritage. The Virginia white wines will be judged later this year and announced in conjunction with October Virginia Wine Month.

“When I make wine I put my heart and soul into making wine and sometimes in competitions you don’t get the result you expect.  So it is really nice to get this kind of recognition,” said winemaker Matthieu Finot.  “It really is so flattering because there were other really good wines that entered the competition.  What is important also is to stay humble and work hard because every vintage presents a new challenge.  Even though I feel great receiving this award, I am always pushing and working hard to make the best wine I can every year.”

“We could not have done this without our winemaker, Matthieu Finot and our entire staff at King Family Vineyards. It is an honor and a privilege to receive this award, and it is a testament to the dedication, hard work and talent of our entire team, ” said Ellen King, owner, King Family Vineyards.

“It is truly an honor to be recognized by your peers.  We are always trying to make the best wines we can, and we’re glad to know people are enjoying them,” said  David King, owner, King Family Vineyards. It was a big night for King Family Vineyards; David King was also given the Virginia Wine Industry Person of the Year award by the Virginia Wine Board. A big part of his earning this award was his volunteer work on the Virginia Wine Board helping to create the new legal state distribution entity to allow Virginia wineries to self-distribute. But with his characteristic humility, King remarked “This award isn’t about me, it’s about all of you as an industry.”

A family-owned and operated boutique winery located in Crozet, the King Family Vineyards specializes in small productions of ultra-premium wine that showcase the remarkable qualities of nearly 100% estate grown fruit. Founded in 1998, the winery’s first vintage was only 500 cases. Today, the winery produces approximately 5,000 cases of wine per year.

Tasting the King Family 2007 Meritage

Like most of the top award-winning Virginia meritage wines, the King Family ‘07 meritage has about 60% merlot as the dominant varietal.   Cabernet franc is also a strong component, which is typical. Where this wine differs from the varietal ratios prior to 2005, is that petit verdot component is higher than the cabernet franc (20% to 16%). Also, 8% malbec is included. Malbec has a tight cluster and rots easily in this humid climate; only in warm, dry vintages like ‘07 can a reliable crop be produced, and it’s inclusion in this wine helps differentiate it from other fine meritage wines that nevertheless fell short of this.

The bouquet is subtle but complex, with elements of cherry, cedar, spice, and smoke. On the palate, the wine is elegant with well-integrated flavor elements but fine, smooth, long-lasting tannins, and exotic spice elements likely brought in by the malbec and petit verdot. Oak and fruit flavors are well-balanced. While many ‘07 wines are a bit low in acid, juicy and forward, this wine drinks like a fine classified growth from Bordeaux’s Left Bank. You might dispute this due to the 58% merlot base, but the tannic punch of the petit verdot and the exotic sandlewood spice of the malbec recall something like Chateau Pichon Comtesse de Lalande, a Grand Cru Classe from Pauillac (Pichon uses about 5% petit verdot, one of the highest ratios of the great chateaux, which is said to add spice and perfume). For fans of classic Bordeaux elegance, this is a great New World version with a Virginia twist in the grape ratios, that drinks like a classified growth but at a fraction of the price. For fans of Virginia wine, this is a great benchmark that unlike many of the ‘07 reds, will age gracefully for years.

For a complete list of winners and further information about events, tours and tastings, please visit the Virginia Wine Marketing Office’s website at or call 1‐804‐344‐8200. View an earlier post on this blog for complete medal results in the red division of the 2010 Virginia Governor’s Cup

Wineries Unltd. Program Director Interviewed on Wine & Dine Radio

Feb 05

Richard Leahy, author of this website and Program Director for the Wineries Unlimited trade show (the largest for the wine industry east of the Rockies), was interviewed on Wine & Dine Radio by Lynn Krielow Chamberlain on Thursday 1/28. On the interview he explains the relevance of the seminar program (conference theme: “Balancing Costs and Quality for Profit”) and how speakers and sessions will address this theme.

Wineries Unlimited 2010 Conference: “Balancing Costs and Quality for Profit” [MP3 Audio File]

Wineries Unlimited takes place March 9-12 at the Valley Forge Convention Center in King of Prussia, suburban Philadelphia, PA. For information and registration please visit

Maryland Wine Supporters: We Need Your Help

Feb 04

Maryland residents who support liberalization of the state laws that prevent wineries shipping direct to adults, take notice! The state legislature in Annapolis is debating possible changes to liberalize the state’s restrictive wine laws, and you can be “Wine/Tea Party” Activists in bringing positive change to state government.

The following is information from Adam Borden, Executive Director, Marylanders for Better Beer & Wine Laws:

2/22 Hearing & Bill #s
We finally have a hearing date set in Annapolis: Monday, February 22nd.  We need as many people as possible to attend in order that our esteemed elected officials hear from their constituents.  Please either sign up via our Meet Up page or send me an email.  It is customary for all the PROPONENTS to testify first with the OPPONENTS testifying last, which means we need to address all of their concerns before we even hear them.  We anticipate that the Senate hearing will follow about one week later, and we will let you know when it will happen as soon as we know.

The bill numbers are as follows:
Senate Bill 566
House Bill 716 (will go live tomorrow)

If there was ever a time to think about donating to our cause, NOW IS IT – the pedal is to the metal!  We need to target particular districts and need your help to do so.  Please help fund mailings so that more voters in specific jurisdictions will contact their very influential delegates:

  • Donate $100
  • Donate $50
  • Donate $25
  • Donate Your Own Amount

The reality of politics is that wine shipping may not pass this year (AGAIN!) because we won’t have enough committee votes to get it out of committee.  In theory, representative democracy would correlate with the will of the majority, which we clearly have in both chambers; however, the logic of politics does not always follow that of the rest of the world. 
Help connect the two!

Volunteers for Emails & Calling

In addition to mailing, we need some help calling and emailing constituents in certain districts.  If you are able to spend a few minutes getting the word out, please let me know.

Signing Online Petition

Have you had the chance to sign our online petition and craft your own message for your delegates and senators?  Have you forwarded it to your friends, neighbors and Facebook buddies?  Here’s the link again:

May 2010 be our vintage!

Tastefully yours,

Adam Borden
Executive Director
Marylanders for Better Beer & Wine Laws
4315 Underwood Road
Baltimore, MD 21218
Tel: (443) 570-8102


VA Governor’s Cup Names Red Medalists for 2010

Feb 01

The Virginia Governor’s Cup wine competition, under the management of Yogi Barrett of Taster’s Guild International, completed the evaluation of red wines in round #1 last month at Lansdowne Resort near Leesburg. This year, whites, sparkling and dessert wines will be evaluated in August, enabling the ‘09 wines to be bottled and entered, while the reds were judged in January.

Out of the 200 wines judged approximately 7% received Gold medals, 27% were awarded Silver medals, 29% received bronze medals, leaving 37% with no medals. In an age where, as one industry member has noted, “You can’t swing a dead cat without hitting a wine competition”, the medal allocation in the Virginia Governor’s Cup is very fair, ensuring that mediocre wines did not even receive bronze medals, while the top wines reflect an industry average of 5-10% for the best.

2010 Virginia Governor’s Cup Results: Reds [PDF file]

An Assessment of This Year’s Judging

I judged the Cup competition for the third time this year. Impressions from the judges were mixed. On the one hand, anticipation was high that we’d have four fine vintages from ‘05 to ‘08 allowing a full expression of quality in Virginia reds. While the average level of quality on my panel was higher than last year, it was still disappointing to see a lot of blase wines, and a number with wine faults (H2S-related issues were the most common).

One experienced trade judge pointed out that aside from the ‘07 and ‘08 vintages lately released, the ‘05 and ‘06 wines submitted for judging would be those that  had been on the market for some time but had not yet been sold; while there were many fine Virginia reds from these vintages, whatever is still around from those vintages and was entered (aside from wineries like Linden and Pollak who release reds later than most) is not likely to be so good or they would have sold by now. To be fair, there were silver medals from ‘06, and silvers and golds from ‘05, but mostly, this judge was accurate in his assessment.

The ‘07 and ‘08 Vintages for Virginia Reds

It was a pleasure of tasting the yin/yang contrast of the rich, ripe and juicy ‘07 vintage reds against the fresh, lively, fruity ‘08 vintage with a little more acidity. Both vintages were excellent and complemented one another well.

Cabernet franc from ‘07 was largely luscious, lacking the edginess and green herbal twang we so seldom look for in red wine but have found in eastern cab francs all too often in the past. More tannic reds like merlot, cabernet sauvignon, and petit verdot will probably need some more time, but the vintage was ripe and forward, so it’s worth opening a few bottles this winter to see how your ’07s are progressing.

Every varietal and class of reds did well in ‘07; there were pinot noir, sangiovese, barbera and syrah and chambourcin wines from ‘07 that all won silver medals. Cabernet sauvignon is not a strong grape for Virginia in most vintages, but seven of them won silvers (note: the 2009 Governor’s Cup was won by Keswick’s ‘07 cabernet), and three meritage blends won golds (my favorite wine of the event was a world-class ‘07 meritage).

The ‘08 reds were much more impressive to me than the ‘08 whites by and large, which was surprising since it was a much cooler year than ‘07 and you might have expected unripe, green reds, but both growers and winemakers worked hard to ripen the fruit, weed out the unripe grapes, and give the lovely fragrant fruit character of this vintage the chance to shine. Petit verdot, norton and cabernet franc were the strong suit grapes in this vintage; I love the smoky spicy plum and briar fruit character the ‘08 vintage brings out in petit verdot.

Norton, Virginia’s own native grape, did well in both vintages and probably showed more improvement as a variety than any other grape, although a couple are still showing brettanomyces character (barnyard funk). It’s also encouraging to see more Virginia wineries producing the variety and quality fairly high.

The red winner of the 2010 Virginia Governor’s Cup will be announced at the SunTrust tasting of the award-winning wines at the Virginia Wine Expo, 6-10 p.m. at the Greater Richmond Convention Center. More information and tickets are available online at: