Due to the pandemic, the Governor’s Cup gala was replaced by a Facebook reveal of the Governor’s Case (top twelve wines by score) the highest scoring of those wines, the 2021 Governor’s Cup. This year, a record 544 wines produced an impressive 96 gold medal wines, the top twelve being the Governor’s Case. And the winners are…

Cup Winner: Barboursville Vineyards 2015 Paxxito
Other Governor’s Case Wines:
  • Barboursville Vineyards 2016 Octagon
  • Barboursville Vineyards 2019 Vermentino Reserve
  • Bluestone Vineyard 2019 Petit Manseng
  • Breaux Vineyards 2016 Meritage
  • Breaux Vineyards 2016 Nebbiolo
  • Carriage House Wineworks 2019 Petit Verdot
  • R.A.H. Wine Co. – 2017 Series 1
  • King Family Vineyards 2017 Mountain Plains (Meritage-style blend)
  • Michael Shaps Wineworks 2015 Meritage
  • Trump Winery 2014 Brut Reserve
  • Veritas Vineyards and Winery 2017 Petit Verdot

This year, the top Virginia cider was also announced: Lost Boy Cider- 2020 Comeback Kid.

Interestingly, despite what the judges agreed was uniformly high quality in the final round of judging, for a second year in a row the Cup was won by a “passito-style” white dessert wine that had been pressed from slow-dried grapes. T

he 2015 Barboursville Vineyards “Paxxito” (formerly known as Malvaxia) was the winner this year; last year it was 868 Vineyards with a Vidal blanc made by the same cool and slow drying method. In his acceptance speech for the Cup last year, 868 owner Carl DiManno said he had been inspired by Barboursville’s Paxxito, which has also placed in the Governor’s Case most years in the last decade. This year, other vintners followed DiManno’s lead, and there was a flight of about half a dozen such “passito-style” white dessert wines, none of them mediocre. This could be an entirely new category of top Virginia dessert wine, although Barboursville Vineyards has been producing this style wine, based on the Vin Santo of Tuscany, for many years.

While most wineries placing in the Governor’s Case this year are familiar top-tier wineries, it’s refreshing to see very new wineries bursting onto the scene with Governor’s Case-level wines. Carriage House Wineworks only opened its doors last fall; it is an “estate run premium boutique winery” based in Waterford (Loudoun Co.) Michael Fritze is one of the owners and its winemaker, and uses fruit from neighboring wineries as well as his own estate. Fritze describes the ’19 Petit Verdot as “Bin fermented and barrel aged in American Oak.  Dark purple color.  Floral (violets), dark fruit, tar.  Full bodied, tannic, bold & chewy, it is a big age-able wine.”

The R.A.H. Wine Company does not have a website, but its Registered Agent is Maya Hood White, the vineyard manager and sparkling winemaker at Early Mountain Vineyards in Madison. This cryptically-named “Series 1” is actually a dessert Petit Manseng with a few years of bottle age, and was described on Cellar Tracker by the taster A. Menenberg as “a very, very tasty dessert wine that brings juicy acid sufficient to allow this to shine next to many baked, dairy and fruit-forward desserts.” Congratulations, Maya!

This competition showed impressive depth in recent vintages, with one 2014, two 2015s, and three each for 2016, 2017 and 2019. The last three vintages may continue to impress us at the winery and in the Cup competition next year.