On Tuesday, February 24th, at a gala reception at the John Marshall Ballroom in Richmond, the annual Virginia Governor’s Cup Awards ceremony took place. Governor Terry McAuliffe announced the winner from the gold medal wines that placed in the Governor’s Case, which was the red Bordeaux blend “Clio” vintage 2009, made by a vineyard turned winery, Muse Vineyards, near Woodstock in the Shenandoah Valley. Clio is a roughly equal blend of the four Bordeaux varietals, Petit Verdot, Cabernet Franc, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon. The proportions vary according to the year; the 2009 vintage had an even 25% of each varietal.
The 2009 vintage was not a fruit-forward style, but had firm and even severe acid for the first few years. However, for both reds and white wines, it has proved a classic vintage for Virginia, producing Governor’s Cup winners four of the last five years.
The winery proprietor is Robert Muse whose wife Sally Cowal is co-proprietor and director of sales and marketing. Tim Rausse, son of longtime Virginia winemaker Gabrielle Rausse, is winemaker. “I have had a romantic conception of vineyards at least since I was thirty. As a lawyer, I have had probably too much involvement with Congress and the executive agencies in Washington, D.C. to be the sunniest of optimists,” admits Robert on their very detailed website. “The idea of agriculture, the rural life, frankly seemed a lot cleaner. As with all start-up endeavors, we have been through some frustrating times at Muse Vineyards, but at the same time I cannot imagine many activities as intensely satisfying as winemaking.”
The 2009 Clio has an intriguing aroma of ripe but fresh black fruits with exotic spices like cardamom and coriander. On the palate the wine is smooth but lively with fine fresh acid in the finish. It drinks more like a 2010 or 2012 than a 2009, which speaks well of its aging capacity.
As a judge in the Governor’s Cup Competition, I remember the red Bordeaux blend category as being very competitive with many fines wines of different styles. Some were rich and smooth, some oaky and punchy, some light and fresh, others earthy and dark. This was a wine of finesse that was fruit-driven and surprisingly young and fresh; I was surprised to learn that the alcohol level was 14.5% because the firm fresh acid on the finish made it seem much lighter.
Other Gold Medal Wines in the 2015 Governor’s Cup Competition
Barboursville Vineyards 2012 Octagon
Barren Ridge Vineyards 2010 Meritage
Bluestone Vineyard, Inc 2010 Meritage
Catoctin Creek Winery 2012 Meritage
Cross Keys Vineyards 2013 Touriga
Delfosse Vineyards & Winery 2013 Petit Verdot
Fabbioli Cellars 2012 Tannat
Granite Heights Winery 2012 Petit Manseng
Hiddencroft Vineyards 2012 Petit Verdot
Ingleside Vineyards 2014 Albarino
Jefferson Vineyards 2012 Meritage
Jefferson Vineyards 2010 Meritage
Keswick Vineyards 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon Estate Reserve
King Family Vineyards 2012 Meritage
King Family Vineyards 2012 Petit Verdot
Michael Shaps Wineworks 2012 Raisin d’Etre White
Michael Shaps Wineworks 2012 Petit Verdot
Michael Shaps Wineworks 2012 Tannat
Muse Vineyards 2009 Meritage (Cup Winner)
Naked Mountain Winery 2010 Tannat
Narmada Winery 2010 Yash-Vir (meritage blend)
Narmada Winery 2010 Melange (meritage blend)
North Gate Vineyard 2012 Meritage
Paradise Springs Winery 2013 Chardonnay
Paradise Springs Winery 2012 Meritage
Pearmund Cellars, LLC 2013 Petit Manseng
Pollak Vineyards 2012 Meritage
Rockbridge Vineyard 2010 V d’Or
Sunset Hills Vineyard 2012 Reserve Cabernet Franc
Vint Hill Craft Winery 2012 Petit Verdot
Other Awards in the 2015 Governor’s Cup
Aside from wines, awards are given to individuals who make outstanding contributions to the Virginia wine industry at each Governor’s Cup gala.
Gordon Murchie Lifetime Achievement Award was presented by Murchie to Jim Law, winegrower of Linden Vineyards, now celebrating 30 years. In accepting the award, Law said, in his typically understated and modest way, “I consider this award an honor because it comes on the vineyard side. That’s where we need to focus as an industry.”
Virginia Wine Person of the Year Award was presented to Jay Youmans, MW who has coordinated the Virginia Governor’s Cup Wine Competition for the last few years and has raised the level of logistics and judging to make it a pre-eminent state wine competition featuring judges from across the country (including this writer) and Steven Spurrier, Decanter columnist and renowned wine taster. In accepting the award, Youmans thanked the volunteers and judges who had worked on the competition, as well as the VWA and Lindsey Parris, keeper of the database and confidentiality of results.
Legislator of the Year was John Watkins of Chesterfield.
In his brief remarks leading up to the presentation of the Governor’s Cup, Governor Terry McAuliffe pointed out that the U.S. Embassy in Beijing had served Barboursville’s Octagon during his trade visit there. “I need your help,” the Governor told the audience frankly. “We are tied with Texas for fifth place in American wine production.” [Boos from the audience] He proudly pointed out that for the first time, Virginia exports exceeded three billion dollars in 2014 and urged the planting of more vineyards in the Commonwealth.