govcup_logo-ddb0361edcae9c7553ecae56ada5a69fThe Virginia Wine Governor’s Cup competition  took place Jan. 31-Feb. 2nd at the Jefferson Hotel in Richmond, under the direction of Jay Youmans, MW. The Virginia Wineries Association has released the identities of the 38 Virginia wines which won gold medals in the competition which had over 430 entries. As ususal, red wines dominated the gold medals, but in fairness (disclosure: this writer was one of the judges) it should be pointed out that only 20 or so white wines were judged in the final round (where all silver and higher medals are evaluated). Competition chair Jay Youmans, MW points out that when the Governor’s Case (and Governor’s Cup) awards are made public at an industry gala on Feb. 22nd, the top scoring white gold medal wines will be included in the Case. This was a modification introduced by the Virginia Wineries Association this year, following feedback that not enough fine Virginia whites were reflected in the Governor’s Case.

Winery                       Vintage       Wine                                     Other Name
Ankida Ridge Vineyards 2014 Chardonnay
Barboursville vineyards 2014 Vermentino Reserve
Barren Ridge Vineyards 2010 Meritage
Bluestone Vineyard, Inc 2013 Dessert wines Blue Ice
Bluestone Vineyard, Inc 2014 Chardonnay
Breaux Vineyards Ltd. 2013 Meritage
Cardinal Point, Inc. 2014 Cabernet Franc
Delaplane Cellars 2013 Meritage Williams Gap
Fabbioli Cellars 2012 Cabernet Franc
Gadino Cellars 2010 Nebbiolo
Glen Manor Vineyards 2013 Meritage
Granite Heights Winery 2010 Red Vinifera Blend (Non-Meritage) Evening Serenade
Granite Heights Winery 2010 Red Vinifera Blend (Non-Meritage) Lomax Reserve
Granite Heights Winery 2012 Red Vinifera Blend (Non-Meritage) humility
Horton Vineyards 2014 Petit Manseng
Keswick Vineyards 2013 Signature Series Cabernet Franc
Keswick Vineyards 2014 Cabernet Franc Estate Reserve
Michael Shaps 2013 Meritage
Michael Shaps 2013 Tannat
Michael Shaps 2013 Red Vinifera Blend (Non-Meritage) L. Scott
Michael Shaps 2013 Dessert wines Raisin D’Etre White
Michael Shaps 2014 Petit Manseng
Naked Mountain Winery 2012 Petit Verdot
North Gate Vineyard 2013 Meritage
Notaviva Vineyards 2012 Petit Verdot Excelsis
Paradise Springs Winery 2012 Tannat Single Vineyard, Williams Gap Vineyard
Paradise Springs Winery 2012 Red Vinifera Blend (Non-Meritage) PVT, Williams Gap Vineyard
Paradise Springs Winery 2013 Meritage Williams Gap Vineyard, Silver Creek, Honah Lee, Leaping Fox
Pearmund Cellars, LLC 2013 Petit Verdot
Pearmund Cellars, LLC 2013 Chardonnay
Pollak Vineyards 2012 Meritage
Pollak Vineyards 2012 Merlot
Stone Tower Winery 2013 Meritage Hogback Mountain
Sunset Hills Vineyard 2010 Petit Verdot
Sunset Hills Vineyard 2013 Aldie Heights Cuvee
The Barns at Hamilton Station Vineyards 2013 Petit Verdot
Veritas Winery 2013 Meritage Vintner’s Reserve
Vint Hill Craft Winey 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon

Cleaning Up: Multiple Gold Wineries

Virginia wineries at the top of the quality tier don’t just make one good wine…they make several. Fully half of the 38 gold medal-winning wines were from wineries that won more than one gold medal in the competition this year. Michael Shaps Wineworks south of Charlottesville won a whopping five gold medals, across the category spectrum from dry white to dry red to dessert wines. That’s not just being lucky!

Granite Heights Winery near Opal, a small but quality-focused winery that’s closed during the winter, brought home three gold medals, all for dry red wines. Paradise Springs Vineyards near Clifton also brought home three golds, also all for dry red wines. Bluestone, Keswick, Pearmund, Pollak, and Sunset Hills Vineyards all won two gold medals apiece.

Vintage Character

You know a region is well-suited to a wine category if it produces gold medal wines with them year to year. In the five vintages from 2010-2014, only the 2011 vintage was missing from this year’s red wine gold medals, not because the vintage produced none, but because that vintage is sold out. The statuesque 2010 wines are deep and bold, the 2012s are forward and fruity, producing 8 of the red gold medals, and the 2013s are firm, solid and balanced, with age-worthy wines that are starting to drink well but will improve with further aging (16 of the 38 total gold medals).

The cool, sunny 2014 vintage was great for aromatic whites and cabernet franc, all of which were well represented in this year’s gold medal awards. Interestingly, chardonnay and cabernet franc both out-performed viognier with gold medals (two each) from 2014, although in fairness the viognier crop that year was decimated by primary bud necrosis or winter damage, and with the small quantity resulting, few wineries would want to hold back 50 cases of their small production to qualify to enter the competition.

Red Trends

There has been a debate in recent years about which grape is Virginia’s best, signature red grape. This writer has suggested, and this year’s gold medal results seem to confirm, that red blends are really Virginia’s strong suit instead of varietals. If you want to look at straight varietals though, this writer has also concluded based on results in this competition that tannat and petit verdot are not only up-and-coming, but performing more impressively as solo varietals than merlot or cabernet franc.

The Cup winner, and the 12 wines that made the Governor’s Case, as well as silver and bronze medal winners, will be announced Tues. Feb. 22nd in Richmond, with the Cup presented by Governor Terry McAuliffe.

Download the 2016 Virginia Governor’s Cup Gold Medal Winner list