Keswick Vineyards owner Al Schornberg accepting the Governor’s Cup from Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe (right)

On Feb. 22nd at the Marshall Ballroom in Richmond, Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe announced the winner of the 2016 Virginia Governor’s Cup Competition: Keswick Vineyards Cabernet Franc 2014 Estate Reserve.

In accepting the Cup from the Governor, Keswick Vineyards’ owner Al Schornberg explained that he and his wife Cindy searched all over for a place to realize their dream of making great red wine, but that they both agreed on Virginia; “And when both people in a marriage agree so much on something, it’s probably a good idea.” He also thanked his winemaker and son-in-law Stephen Barnard, and thanked the Virginia wine industry for being such a supportive, collaborative group of people.

Tasting the Cup Winner

On the nose, the Keswick Vineyards Estate Reserve 2014 had complex aromas of black fruits, sage, basil and bay leaf with a hint of oak in the background. On the palate, the wine had big dimension and volume for a cabernet franc; solid black fruits, vibrant acidity, and elegant herbal tones. This is a lovely food wine and a fine example of first-class varietal Virginia cabernet franc.

The Governor’s Case

In the previous post I listed the 38 gold medal-winning Virginia wines in the competition (all certified as coming from in-state fruit). At the gala ceremony, the wines from that qualified to be served in the Governor’s Case (the top 12 wines of that group) were announced, as follows:

Winery/Vintage/Wine/Other Name
Barboursville Vineyards 2014 Vermentino Reserve
Bluestone Vineyard Estate Grown 2014 Chardonnay
Cardinal Point Clay Hill 2014 Cabernet Franc
Fabbioli Cellars 2012 Cabernet Franc
Glen Manor Vineyards 2013  Hodder Hill (meritage-style blend)
Granite Heights Winery 2010 Evening Serenade (meritage-style blend)
Horton Vineyards 2014 Petit Manseng
Keswick Vineyards 2014 Cabernet Franc Estate Reserve
Michael Shaps 2014 Petit Manseng
Naked Mountain Winery 2012 Petit Verdot
North Gate Vineyard 2013 Meritage
Stone Tower Winery 2013 Meritage Hogback Mountain (meritage-style blend)

Other Virginia Wine Industry Awards

Justin Rose, the new President of the Virginia Wineries Association, announced that Mitzi Battenhouse, former President of the VWA, was receiving an Appreciation Award for her work. The Virginia Wine Person of the Year Award was given to Annette Boyd, Executive Director of the Virginia Wine Board Marketing Office. Gordon Murchie announced the Lifetime Achievement Award in his name, which was awarded to Amherst County grape growers Len and Kay Thompson, longtime members and officers of the Virginia Vineyards Association.

Tasting Notes from the 2016 Governor’s Cup Gold Medal Winners
(Random order based on tasting order)

Cardinal Point Clay Hill Cabernet Franc 2014
Solid black cherry on the nose and palate. Rich, full-bodied with smooth tannins. A large style for the cool 2014 vintage but solid and well-balanced.

Horton Vineyards Petit Manseng 2014
Previously made in a dry style, this petit manseng is everything you want in that grape; very fruity, juicy ripe tropical fruitlarge volume and full-bodied; tastes off-dry but the three percent residual sugar is balanced with brisk acidity in the finish. Yummy and versatile.

Veritas Vineyards “VR” meritage-style blend 2013
Fun aromatics of bright red fruits and spice. On the palate, the wine is smooth, rich and velvety in the mid-palate, with a long finish of lingering red fruit flavors.

Fabbioli Cabernet Franc Reserve 2012
A nose of bright red cherries with hints of leafy herb. On the palate, wow! Tight, bright, concentrated red fruits, firm acid and a solid mid-palate, racy and will benefit from another year of age.  A cab franc you can enjoy in the summer.

Stone Tower Hogback Mountain 2013
Very dark ruby. Nose: black cassis and dark concentrated black fruits. On the palate, dense, layered, supple with a solid ripe black fruit core, elegantly balanced with French oak. Very young but Large, with lots of finesse. Exceptional, worth laying down.

Keswick Vineyards Signature Cabernet Franc 2013
A fine cabernet franc but slightly different from the Cup-winning 2014. Deeply dark for a cab franc, with a complex nose of scented damson plus and black cherries. On the palate, firm solid black cherry but still lively, fresh and stylish.

Gadino Cellars Nebbiolo 2010
Nebbiolo has a good track record in Virginia for wineries who know how to treat it in the vineyard (cane pruning mandatory) and in the winery (high acid/high pH). This is a lovely, mature nebbiolo you an enjoy right now or next autumn. The nose has scented rose petals, truffles and clean forest floor aromatics and reminds me of Gattinara. On the palate, it is mellow for nebbiolo, round, well-integrated, mature and easy to enjoy.

Glen Manor Hodder Hill 2013
A “Left Bank” styled meritage blend with 69% cabernet sauvignon. Color: dark ruby. Nose: zesty black fruits but still mostly closed. Palate: solid cassis, firm acid, fine, long finish, v. young but promising.

Granite Heights “Evening Serenade” 2010
A “Right Bank” style meritage blend of 80% merlot and 20% cabernet franc. Nose: classic markers for St. Emilion: scented red and black fruits with herbs and base notes of mocha and clean earth. On the palate, layers of fruit with mocha in the finish and herbal notes; rich and plush but with a fresh lingering finish. As classy, and classic a “Right Bank”-style Virginia blend as I’ve tasted.

Barren Ridge 2010 Meritage
This classy petit verdot-based blend also won a gold medal last year in this competition. The nose is smooth, rich, dark and smoky. On the palate, black fruits and lavender and herb notes. On the palate, the plush dark petit verdot (45%) dominates, with a smooth lush texture. Mature, drink this year.

Michael Shaps “L. Scott” 2013
An original blend of 33% tannat, 33% malbec, 16% each cabernet sauvignon and merlot, and 20% petit verdot. Nose: smoky black fruits, bacon and wet stone. Palate: rich, intense but also delicate and finely balanced. Large, full volume and dry but also elegant; stylish.

Michael Shaps Tannat 2013
Color: dark ruby. Nose: smoky red meat and struck flint. Palate: coats the tongue with rich, smooth, round, dense, ripe and long tannins, with a finish surprisingly elegant. Also stylish.

Breaux Meritage 2013
Nose: complex, hard to describe; spice and fruit integration, with a whiff of cardamon. Palate: rich red fruits, some black also, plush texture, lingering hint of spice; a sexy wine!