Monday, December 9, 2013

New Virginia Wines Shine at the Washington Wine Academy's "State of Wine"

On Saturday night, December 7th, I joined dozens of wine fans at the Washington Wine Academy event State of Wine: a Tasting of Virginia Wines. Because of junior basketball, I was late arriving and didn't get a chance to sample from a couple wineries, but for those I did try, 2014 will be another stellar year for Virginia wine.

Participants were first treated to two sparkling wines from Trump Winery and Serious Cider from Foggy Ridge Cider.  Hard cider is serious business in the Commonwealth and Foggy Ridge is one of the leaders. And Trump continues the former Kluge Estate's champagne methodois mentality.

I headed over to the Paradise Springs Winery booth and found Drew Wiles pouring the family's latest two releases: a Viognier and Cabernet Franc. Both had just been bottled, yet no signs of shock, and both were quite agreeable - with the Viognier melting with a creamy apricot flavor. 

Turning around, I eased my way through the most crowded tabled to sample a trifecta of Barboursville Vineyards, Linden Vineyards, and RDV Vineyards. Barboursville had contributed their Octogan, enough said, perhaps the best longest running wine in Virginia.  Jim Law is probably the most celebrated winemaker in Virginia and many of his Linden wines are usually quite affordable - particularly the Riesling Vidal and vineyard specific chardonnays. I really enjoyed the Riesling Vidal because that combination is now a rarity in Virginia and is quite flexible. Out of the two Linden reds, I preferred the 2006 Boisseau, a blend of predominately Petit Verdot and Merlot, with plenty of dark fruit (blackberry) with traces of cassis. The single varietal 2010 Linden Petit Verdot was tannic heavy - sucked my mouth dry - but would love to sample again in a few years. Finally, we got to try the 2009 RdV Vineyards Rendezvous - a big Bordeaux blend (35% Merlot, 32% Cabernet Sauvignon, 21% Cabernet Franc, 12% Petit Verdot) with a heavy price tag $75. Much has been written about RdV and for what its worth - they make great wine - this one smooth and creamy balanced by easy tannins and nice acidity.

Over at Pearmund Cellars, I had time to taste their whites - a Viognier, Chardonnay, and a Traminette dessert wine.  The Viognier was completely different from the Paradise Springs; more floral, less cream; but shows Virginia excels in either style. The grapes for Old Vine Chardonnay is harvested from the historic Meriwether Vineyard and the wine is a solid offering. However, it was the Traminette that was the most interested, with the spice cutting through the sugar and easing the dessert feel. A pretty cool offering.

Finally, I spent much time with the Old Wino and Horton Vineyards. The winery is releasing a new,  Reserve brand to prove that they can compete in the same higher end field as the Barboursville and Lindens, yet at an affordable $20.  Horton wines are always consistent and you can be assured that each of these will be well worth your outlay. Particularly the Syrah, which I falsely assumed was co-fermented with some Viognier. This is one smooth and silky wine. The Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot, and Chardonnay were also nice - but if you can find the Syrah - that's the first choice. Thanks for the Washington Wine Academy for hosting the event. Cheers.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Second Annual Virginia Wine Summit a Crowd Pleaser

Oz Clarke praises Virginia wines for their quality and uniqueness

RICHMOND - More than 250 members of the wine trade, including wine critics, sommeliers, restaurateurs, chefs, retailers, winemakers and winery owners gathered at The Jefferson Hotel October 28 for the second annual Virginia Wine Summit.  Hosted by Governor Bob McDonnell and First Lady Maureen McDonnell, and presented by the Virginia Wine Board and The Virginia Tourism Corporation, the event was a sell out for the second consecutive year.

Wine experts and industry leaders, both domestic and international, attended the summit. They tasted Virginia wines, comparing them to vintages from California and France and discussed how to continue to move Virginia wines forward, gaining prominence within the United States and on the world stage.

Internationally acclaimed British wine authority Oz Clarke gave the keynote address. One of the world's leading wine experts, Clarke has one of the finest palates of any wine writer.  He has won all of the major UK and US wine writing awards, including the Glenfiddich, Andre Simon, Wine Guild, James Beard, Julia Child, World Food Media and Lanson awards.

"Virginia wine has a rich and deep history, dating back to 1607," said Clarke.  "But what makes Virginia wine so brilliant is what has occurred in the past 20 years.  The soils and climate are completely different; no new world winemaker would have thought to start a vineyard here, except for two crusaders back in 1976: Dennis Horton and Ginanni Zonin. 

"When I tasted Horton's first Viognier in 1993 I sat up with a jolt; 386 years after Jamestown the Virginia wine industry, wine identity and wine future was established - the two crusaders had made the right choice.  Virginia should not try to be California or France.  The only way to show the brilliance of Virginia wine is to do what others can't do - Viognier, Norton, Cabernet Franc. They can't produce your wine and you shouldn't try to produce theirs."

In addition to the keynote, Clarke led a comparative tasting of Cabernet Francs from Virginia and other wine regions.  Dave McIntyre, wine writer for the Washington Post led a discussion on the ageability of Virginia wines, and Todd Kliman, author and Washingtonian dining editor led a session on Virginia wine and food pairings.

Virginia wines fared extremely well in the comparative tastings of Cabernet Franc and Viognier.  In addition, Virginia wines aged well, a testament to the quality of the wines produced.  Many new and exciting wines and vintners were showcased, including varietals most people do not associate with Virginia, such as Pinot Noir, Vermentino, Petit Manseng and Hard Cider.  Virginia has a distinct advantage over other wine regions because wines are not mass produced here.  More talented winemakers are coaxing more out of the grapes and the soil, learning to use the terroir to its full advantage.

"You may look at Virginia and see sparking wine, Cabernet Franc or Viognier. I see jobs and revenue booming," said Governor McDonnell.  "Wine is the fastest growing part of agriculture in Virginia, due to the hard work and no excuses attitude of the folks in the industry.  In the past four years the industry has doubled in size, to 511,000 cases or 6.1 million bottles. Sales have increased 23% and sales outside of Virginia have increased 69%.  As I pass this baton may the next Governor of Virginia continue to make the wine industry a priority."

For more information about the Virginia wine industry, please visit the Virginia
Wine Marketing Office’s website at or call 804-344-8200.

# # #


Oz Clarke leads "Francly Speaking," a comparative tasting of Cabernet Francs from Virginia vs. other wine regions at the second annual Virginia Wine Summit 10/28/13.

Karen Batalo Marketing & PR
804.262.9130 Office
804.337.3045 Cell

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Using theCompass Winery & Brewery Locator in Southwest Virginia

For those traveling down Route 81 to southwestern Virginia, take a look at the theCompass Winery and Brewery Locator. Besides wineries in Virginia, it will help you locate wineries near the border in Tennessee and North Carolina. In the past we've explored Coltsfoot Winery, Corey Ippolito Winery, and Countryside Vineyards & Winery. This year we hope to tackle Abingdon Vineyard & Winery. Cheers.


Sunday, September 1, 2013

A Day of Tubing & Tasting at Twin Oaks Tavern Winery

 This Saturday we decided to spend the day along the Shenandoah River, specifically tubing the warm waters at Watermelon Park. On the return ride towards Loudoun County we had a couple of winery options, Veramar Vineyard, Bluemont Vineyard, and our choice: Twin Oaks Tavern Winery. The winery opened a few years ago behind the Evers family's stone house: Twin Oaks Tavern. This building was built around the turn of the century and operated as an inn until the 1950's. Visitors would escape the summer humidity by venturing to the Blue Ridge Mountains, and enjoying the cooler temperatures and views of the Shenandoah Valley below.  On our visit, local musician Lenny Burridge was entertaining guests on the patio where we remained the rest of the afternoon enjoying a bottle of Chardonnay.

Twin Oaks offers several wines, with the estate Chardonnay the sole white. It is aged slightly in French oak,  providing a slightly buttery flavor, but refreshingly acidic finish. The reds were also nice, the Cabernet Sauvignon full of dark, dark cherry flavors and the Raven Rocks Red more berry then cherry and a smoother finish. They also source Norton grapes from Chrysalis Vineyards and the result is a jammy, acidic wine, that should mellow as it ages in the bottle.  The winery also produces two fruit wines, a peach and a raspberry, but our party definitely preferred the grape wines. And the views of the Shenandoah Valley are quite impressive. A perfect end of the day, listening to Lenny, drinking Virginia Chardonnay, and enjoying the sites. Cheers.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Swedenburg Estate Vineyard Transforms to Greenhill Winery & Vineyards

We've been behind the times this summer and just learned that Swedenburg Estate Vineyard has closed and will soon re-open under new ownership as Greenhill Winery & Vineyards. At this time, we are not familiar with the reasons, but it's sad to see the passing of a historic Virginia winery. I've missed walking into the winery and seeing Ms. Swedenburg, then being under suspense whether she will emit a partial scowl or a welcoming smile. For those who are unfamiliar, Mrs. Swedenburg, is the reason we can now purchase wine from most states as she was the driving force behind the 1995 U.S. Supreme Court decision expanding the legality of interstate wine sales. Before the ruling, some states allowed in-state wineries to ship directly to consumers, but not out-of state companies. The ruling was a major victory for small family-owned wineries who want to expand their businesses or who simply wanted their customers to be able to ship wine to their homes. 

As Greenhill Winery moves forward, they have hired Sébastien Marquet, Doukenie Winery, as their winemaker consultant. When visiting the tasting room, they offer several wines - a Vidal, Blanc de Blanc, Syrah, and the Philosophy - a Bordeaux blend. We wish them well.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

June Happenings in Maryland Wine Country

There's a lot going on north of the Potomac, so I decided to share a few special events happening in Maryland Wine Country. First, this weekend finds Old Westminster Winery hosting their official Grand Opening on Saturday, June 8th from 12 to 5 pm. If you recall, we featured winemaker Lisa Baker in a VirginiaWineTV video last year and the Baker family received wide acclaim for their offerings at this year's conference. So pair some excellent wine - their Cabernet Franc is my favorite - with locally sourced baked bread and farm raised cheese as well as live acoustic music.

Not far away, but two weeks later, Linganore Winecellars is hosting their Vine Rewind Wine, Music & Art Festival during the weekend of June 22 & 23. This festival pays tribute to the music of the 70s, 80s, & 90s and features many regional performers such as The Reagan Years, All Natural, the Leslie Avenue Band, and Spiral. Attendees will be able to sample 19 Linganore wines and take tours of their eco-friendly wine-making facility. Try the Traminette, I hear its quite good and don't miss TRYs.

Finally, the Maryland Wineries Association (MWA) is preparing for Maryland Wine Week, a period (June 14-24) designated to encourage Maryland wine consumers to ask for Maryland wine at their favorite wine shop or restaurant. The MVA is also assisting local restaurants and wine shops host a range of events themed around Maryland wine; including wine maker dinners, tastings, wine flights, and more. Check back to the events website for more updated event information. Cheers to Maryland wine.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Mother's Day at Pippin Hill Farm & Vineyards

It seems we spend quite a few Mother's days in Charlottesville and this year we continued the trend by visiting a few wineries and breweries within the Monticello Wine Trail. On Sunday we stopped off at Michael Shap's Virginia Wineworks in order to stock up on their excellent boxed wine - yes boxed wine - made from 100% Virginia fruit. One box holds the equivalent of 4 750ml bottles and cost between $35-$40. In addition to the traditional Chardonnay, Viognier, and Cabernet Franc boxes, the winery has now boxed a White & Red Blend as well as a Rose - made from the bleed from the Michael Shap's. brand Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot and Merlot grapes. The White Blend consists of Traminette, Vidal, Riesling, Viognier, & Petit Manseng whereas the Red Blend is comprised of Merlot, Petit Verdot, Tannat, and Malbec. Being on a schedule, we didn't even get to the Michael Shaps branded wines but were all too happy bringing home a couple boxes.

But while browsing the barrels in the tasting room we noticed a few for Pippin Hill Farm & Vineyards. We knew that Shaps is their winemaker, one among many for Shaps, and remembered that they winery hosts a full service kitchen. No need to head all the back to town; instead we became one of dozens of families who made Pippin Hill their Mother's day destination. The winery is located outside of North Garden right off Route 29, south of Charlottesville and we navigated to the winery using the new Compass mobile app. Upon arriving we realized why the parking lot was full. The view of Castle Rock and Mill Mountain are spectacular - can't believe I left the HD video camera at home. And even though the winery was crowded, the Andrews run an efficient operation. There was never a wait at any of the tasting bars and we only had a slight wait to have a large party seated in the dining area.

And we used that time efficiently by sampling several of their wines. The Pippin Hill Farm Blanc de Blanc was a favorite as was the Winemaker's Select White, Viognier, and Chardonnay Reserve. The Select White was similar blend as the White box above and the Chardonnay Reserve was my favorite white as it only exhibited a touch of oak treatment. For reds, I enjoyed the Winemaker's Select Red, an easy drinking wine that includes Merlot and Chambourcin. The single varietals were solid with the Cabernet Franc being my preferred red.

During lunch, we feasted on sliders, prawns, cheese plates, and later Chesapeake oysters and caramel popcorn - all washed down with Viognier and the Winemaker's Select White. Having a sustainable mindset, the winery sources from local and regional farmers and Chef Amalia Scatena's team created small, but filling entrees. A pretty awesome day - and according to the harshest critic - her new favorite Virginia winery. Cheers.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Middleburg Gets Some Signage For Their AVA

Courtesy of Boxwood Winery
The Commonwealth of Virginia is home to a number of American Viticultural Areas (AVA) such as Monticello (1984), the North Fork of Roanoke (1987) , the Northern Neck George Washington Birthplace (1987), Rocky Knob (1987), and Virginia’s Eastern Shore (1991), as well as sharing the Shenandoah Valley AVA (1987) with West Virginia. As you can see, the last AVA from the above list was Virginia’s Eastern Shore in 1991, with the remaining acquiring a designation in the 1980's.

In terms of the contemporary Virginia wine making industry, that's ancient history and quite a lot has changed since those early petitions. For instance, the petitioner of the North Fork of Roanoke AVA, Woolwine Winery, was the precursor to Chateau Morrisette and this AVA as well as Rocky Knob are currently home to very few commercial vineyards. In contrast, the number of vineyards in Northern Virginia have escalated rapidly in the past two decades particularly in Fauquier County and its northern neighbor Loudoun County, where there are now over 60 wineries operating between the two. 

Back in 2006, Rachel Martin, Executive V.P. at Boxwood Winery thought there was enough similar characteristics in geology, soil, climate and geography between many of these wineries that warranted a petition to the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) to designate a distinct AVA. The TTB defines an American Viticultural Area (AVA) as
A viticultural area for American wine is a delimited grape-growing region having distinguishing features as described in the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) at 27 CFR part 9 and a name and delineated boundary as established in part 9 of the regulations. These designations allow vintners and consumers to attribute a given quality, reputation, or other characteristic of a wine made from grapes grown in an area to its geographic origin.
According to Martin, the designation matters for a number of reasons, first because it will allow wineries within the AVA to label their wines as “estate bottled” if the wine meets these conditions as stated by Steve Heimoff:
Take the term “estate bottled.” Up until now, a wine can be called “estate bottled” only if (a) it is labeled with an appellation of origin, and (b) the bottling winery is located in the labeled viticultural area, grew all of the grapes used to make the wine on land owned or controlled by the winery within the boundaries of the labeled viticultural area; and crushed the grapes (there are some additional restrictions).
Second, an AVA designation gives a wine a place of origin, even if it doesn't meet the estate condition. Since 85% of the grapes must be grown within the AVA, it gives consumers confidence that a particular wine labelled with an AVA contains fruit grown in that jurisdiction. Perfect for the locapour movement.

Finally, an AVA designation provides a huge marketing advantage to the area and even the state, particularly when the Virginia Wine Board and the Secretariat of Transportation and the Secretariat of Agriculture and Forestry get involved.  These agencies have developed the Virginia Wine Region Sign Program which, as you would expect, road signs promoting the various AVAs and wine regions within the state. 

View Midleburg AVA in a larger map

In September of 2012, the TTB announced that Martin's petition had been approved and the Middleburg AVA was officially created. The AVA boundary is quite detailed and maps to 46 unique points bounded by the Potomac River to the north and mountains to the east, south and west. The TTB lists these map points in detail here. In total, the Middleburg AVA covers approximately 190-square miles (121,600 acres) and contains 229 acres of commercial vineyards and 14 wineries.  I've created a map of these wineries that is also embedded above. It includes many of our favorite NOVA wineries, but is also interesting in terms of those that are outside the boundary. For instance, the borders exclude eastern Middleburg and Chrysalis Vineyards as well as the western slope of Short Hill Mountain and Breaux Vineyards. Other neighboring wineries may feel disappointed, but all should expect to benefit from the designation as well as the Virginia Wine Region Sign Program.

And yesterday, March 26, First Lady Maureen McDonnell and Secretary of Agriculture and Forestry Todd Haymore unveiled the Middleburg Virginia AVA sign at a ceremony hosted by Boxwood. Both the sign and AVA designation will assist in the continued expansion of the Virginia Wine Industry. In the words of Rachel Martin, "This AVA designation promotes Northern Virginia as a recognized US wine growing region further placing Virginia in a national context of making wine and allows us to tell a more comprehensive story of Virginia vineyards, wines, viticulture and winemaking practices."

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Time for LOVE By The Glass: Virginia Wine & Dine Month

It's that time of the year again. Yes Tax time; but also Virginia Wine & Dine Month, a collaboration between the Virginia Tourism Corporation and Virginia Wine Marketing Board. The theme for March is "LOVE By the Glass", where restaurants and wine retailers in the Commonwealth are encouraged to feature Virginia wines. Nearly 300 such entities have agreed to participate, and why not. There are over 230 wineries in Virginia making the state the fifth largest producer in the U.S.

Like a majority of old world wines, Virginia wines are bonded to the culinary experience. To see an example, take a look at our video pairing wine and food at Potomac Point Winery. And according to Secretary of Agriculture and Forestry Todd Haymore, "This is a perfect match of the two." He explains further, "each year we see more restaurants and wine shops across Virginia choosing to promote Virginia wines. We hope this year's March Virginia Wine & Dine Month will spur additional interest from new trade partners. We continue to get positive feedback about the growing interest in Virginia wines and its vibrant culinary community. "

To find a sample of the participating restaurants as well as travel packages, visit the official LOVE By the Glass page. And since we favor videos, check out the latest For the LOVE of Travel webisode.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Where Did All the Gold Medal White Wines Go?

There's been a few comments in the twittersphere noting that Viognier, and for that matter, all white wines are under-performing in the Virginia Governor's Cup Competition. For a little background, in the past, white wines and red wines had their own competition, but starting in 2012 the revamped Governor's Cup combined the two and included new requirements that the wines be sourced from 100% Virginia fruit. In 2012, two white wines were awarded Gold medals; the Tarara Vineyard & Winery Honah Lee White Blend and the White Hall Vineyards Gewurztraminer. On the other hand, ten red wines were awarded Gold medals, including the Governor's Cup Winner Glen Manor Vineyards Hodder Hill. There was also a sparkling wine Gold medal - the Trump Winery Kluge SP Blanc de Blanc. In the 2013 competition, white wines fared even worse as the Virginia Wineworks Michael Shaps Chardonnay was the only white Gold medalist. Along with the Trump Winery Sparkling Rose, the remaining wines were red, including the Governor's Cup winning Barboursville Vineyards 2009 Octagon.  

There results are significant since, in 2011, the Virginia Wine Marketing Board designated Viognier as the Commonwealth's "signature grape". If Viognier is the state's future, why isn't it preforming better in the competition? Let's start by looking at the entrees.  In 2013, over 400 wines were submitted in which I do not have the actual breakdown between red, white, sparkling, or ciders. However, I did compute the medal winners in which there were approximately 109 white wines, 243 red wines, and 10 ciders or sparklers. Out of the 109 white wines, 23 were 100% Viognier - thus the grape accounted for 21.1 % of white medalists and 6.4% of all medalists.  In comparison, 32 single varietal Chardonnay wines were awarded medals resulting in 29.4% and 8.9% of white and overall medalists respectively. On the other hand, there were 41 wines labelled as Meritage that medalled, and of these, 9 or 22% were award gold medals.  Not a bad showing.

What does the above analysis mean? I don't know - maybe this entire exercise is statistically meaningless. It does show that there's defiantly some awfully good Meritage being produced in the state and that Virginia Chardonnay is just as good (or better) than Virginia Viognier?  Yes, there were more than  twice as much red wines entered than white wines (assuming the ratio of medalists equals the ratio of submitted); but this doesn't help us statistically. The question remains, why did only one white wine win a Gold Medal. Some people on Twitter noticed the absence of some major Viognier players such as Pearmund CellarsChrysalis Vineyards, and Chester Gap Cellars - but I don't think their entry would change the results significantly.

In the case of Viognier, maybe there is just not enough fruit being grown in the state. Only a third of the state's wineries even produce a Viognier wine. The past few years have also witnessed unseasonable weather patterns that may have affected Viognier grapes more than others. Or, is Viognier just too fickle in the vineyard. Maybe consistent, year over year, quality or quantity is difficult. In any event, this may help explain Viognier's absence, but not necessarily Chardonnay or other white wines.

Or perhaps, as many have suggested, Virginia is a red wine state. Bordeaux reds seem to work, whether its both cabernets, Merlot, Malbec, and Petit Verdot. Add Syrah and Tannat and Virginia looks solidly Red. Obviously, a two year sample is too short to provide a definitive analysis, but it does suggest a pattern.

That being said, I don't think it invalidates Viognier being named the Commonwealth's signature grape. We all know there is very nice Viognier being produced in state and as a marketing campaign, the grape can differentiate Virginia  from other regions. We all know the Governor's reference to Napa versus Virginia, but do we really think Virginia Meritage would compete against Napa reds in the marketplace. Some perhaps, but generally no. On the other hand, can Virginia Viognier compete against California or Washington? My answer would be affirmative.  What do yo think? 

Friday, February 22, 2013

Governor McDonnell Announces Barboursville Vineyards Awarded 2013 Governor’s Cup ~ 2009 “Octagon

February 21, 2013

RICHMONDGovernor Bob McDonnell, who championed major changes to the Virginia Governor's Cup competition in 2011 that made it one of the most stringent and comprehensive wine competitions in the United States, awarded the 2013 Virginia Wineries Association’s Governor's Cup to Barboursville Vineyards’ 2009 Octagon 12th Edition. By winning this year’s Governor’s Cup, Barboursville becomes the first Virginia winery to win the award four times. Barboursville also won in 1992 (1988 Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve), 1999 (1997 Cabernet Franc), and 2007 (1998 Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve). The Governor’s Cup award announcement was made Thursday evening at the Virginia Wineries Association’s Governor’s Cup Gala.

Speaking at the Governor’s Cup awards, Governor McDonnell said, “I congratulate Luca Paschina, the Zonin family, and the entire Barboursville team for winning this year’s Governor’s Cup for their 2009 Octagon, one of Virginia’s most iconic red wines. Luca’s Octagon wines are personal favorites of mine, and I know this award winning 12th Edition will make the Virginia wine industry proud now and in the years to come. I also commend the winemakers of the other distinguished wines that comprise this year’s Governor’s Cup Case. I am confident that wine aficionados and enthusiasts alike will take notice of Octagon and the other impressive offerings in this case. The advancements in Virginia winemaking are on display in every bottle we have here tonight and the stringent requirements of the Governor’s Cup competition ensure that Virginia wines receiving medals have been through the most demanding evaluation process."

Barboursville’s award-winning Octagon is a Meritage-style blend of the winery’s best Bordeaux varietals. The wine is made only in top vintage years. The 2009 vintage is comprised of 70% Merlot, 15% Cabernet Franc, 10% Petit Verdot and 5% Cabernet Sauvignon. The wine’s tasting notes are as follows: It has a deep garnet color, with aromas of chocolate, red berries, cranberries, gaining further depth with tar, spice and a touch of forest floor. Dry yet somewhat fruity, medium to full body with a long finish of tannins. A wonderfully structured old world style red blend.

"It has been a pleasure and a reward to follow the evolution of the 2009 vintage of Octagon. Since harvest I took notice of its promising characters, and I was not shy to share with many that it was destined to be among the best wines I will ever produce in my life," said Luca Paschina, Barboursville’s General Manager and Winemaker. “The Virginia Governor’s Cup award is an honor and further validates the character of a wine that has already won 90 points at Wine Enthusiast, the Gold Medal of the Beverage Testing Institute in Chicago, of the Winemaker’s Challenge and Critics Challenge in California, and the Platinum Medal of the Sommelier Challenge, also in California."
The 2013 Virginia Governor’s Cup Competition was conducted over two weeks of tasting. The preliminary tastings were held over ten days at the Capital Wine School in Washington DC, while the final round of tastings was held at the Jefferson Hotel in Richmond. The Governor's Cup award winner was selected from the 2013 Governor's Cup Case, the top 12 scoring wines of the competition, which were selected from 377 entries of both red and white wines, from 93 wineries.

In addition to Barboursville’s 2009 Octagon, the other 11 wines (along with varietal descriptions as appropriate) forming the Governor’s Cup Case include:

·         Cooper Vineyards – 2010 Petite Verdot Reserve
·         King Family Vineyards – 2010 Meritage
·         Lovingston Winery – 2009 Josie’s Knoll Estate Reserve (Meritage)
·         Philip Carter Winery – 2010 Cleve (Petite Verdot, Tannat)
·         Pollak Vineyards – 2009 Cabernet Franc Reserve
·         Potomac Point Vineyard and Winery – 2010 Richland Reserve Heritage (Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Tannat, Petite Verdot
·         Rappahannock Cellars – 2010 Meritage
·         RdV Vineyards – 2010 Rendevous (Meritage)
·         RdV Vineyards – 2010 Lost Mountain (Meritage)
·         Sunset Hills Vineyard – 2010 Mosaic (Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Petite Verdot)
·         Trump Winery – 2008 Sparkling Rose (Chardonnay, Pinot Noir)

At least 10 cases of each wine included in the Governor’s Cup Case will be used by the Virginia Wine Board Marketing Office for marketing purposes. A number of cases will be shipped to select wine media, promoting Virginia wines to a larger national and international audience. The award winning wines will be used for educational purposes at Virginia winemaker roundtable discussions to improve overall quality of Virginia wines. Governor’s Cup Case wines will also be used by Governor McDonnell on select domestic and international marketing missions and other events designed to promote Virginia wine and winery tourism.

The Governor’s Cup competition, revamped in 2011 at the request of Governor McDonnell, is a result of a partnership among the gubernatorial-appointed Virginia Wine Board (VWB), the Virginia Wineries Association (VWA), which owns and manages the competition, and the Virginia Vineyards Association (VVA). Any wine made from 100% Virginia fruit was eligible for the competition, while ciders and fruit wines had their own category and medalists. All entries included an affidavit with a certification of 100% Virginia fruit and vineyard particulars, including grower names and location, as well as information on alcohol, acidity or basicity (pH), and residual sugar.

        Jay Youmans, one of only of 30 Masters of Wine (MW) in the U.S., directed the competition. Youmans, who is also a Certified Wine Educator (CWE) and the owner and educational director of the Capital Wine School in Washington, DC, recruited wine judges from the professional wine buying and wine media community. The judges were compensated for their time for a rigorous schedule of judging to ensure the competition maintained the highest level of professional evaluation. There were 45 judges in the preliminary round and 15 judges in the final round. A list of the judges along with their bios can be found at

One of the most important aspects of the revised competition is the educational component of the judging. After the competition, regional forums for the winemakers will be held with the judging director. Notes with the judges’ blind comments will be shared with individual winemakers, so that they will get direct feedback on how their wines were received.

Barboursville Vineyards is located in the Monticello American Viticulture Area of Central Virginia, in and around the Charlottesville region. The historic Virginia winery is located on the estate of James Barbour, former Governor of Virginia, in Barboursville. The winery was founded in 1976 by Gianni Zonin, a prominent Italian winemaker whose family has roots in Italian viticulture going back to 1821. The Zonin Group is based in Vicenza, Italy. Barboursville is Zonin's sole American venture.

Sales of Virginia wine reached a record high in fiscal year 2012 with more than 485,000 cases, or more than 5.8 million bottles, sold. Virginia currently ranks fifth in the number of wineries in the nation with 230. Virginia is also the nation’s fifth largest wine grape producer. According to a recently released economic impact study, the Virginia wine industry employs more than 4,700 and contributes almost $750 million to the Virginia economy on an annual basis.

For a complete list of previous Governor’s Cup winners and further information about the Virginia wine industry, events, tours and tastings, please visit the Virginia Wine Marketing Office or call 804-344-8200.


Media Contact: 
Karen Batalo

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

VWA Announces Gold Medalists in the 2013 Governor’s Cup®

We've been slow to publish this press release courtesy of the Virginia Wine Marketing Office.  One of the Gold medal winners is Potomac Point Winery and their Richland Reserve Heritage which we featured in a video last year in Pairing Wine and Food with Potomac Point Winery. (See entire video below.)  Congratulations to all the winners.
Richmond, Va. (Feb. 14, 2013) - Twenty Virginia wines have been awarded gold medals in the Virginia Wineries Association’s 2013 Governor’s Cup® Virginia Wine competition, which was held over a four week period.  2013 marks the 31st year of the competition, though it was revamped in 2012 to become one of the most stringent and thorough wine competitions in the country.

The gold medalists from this year’s Governor’s Cup were selected from 377 entries of both red and white wines, from 93 wineries.  The top 12 scoring wines, which comprise the Governor’s Cup Case, showcases the state’s top wines. The top scoring wine of the competition is awarded the Governor’s Cup.

The Governor’s Cup Case boosts the visibility of the state’s highest-scoring wines by inviting judges with national and even international stature. This year’s esteemed panel of judges had the difficult task of ranking each wine based on a unified scoring system. Of the 20 gold medals, 18 were awarded to red wines and one was awarded to a white wine and one to a sparkling wine.

There are several theories as to why the red wines dominated the competition. One theory is because of the timing of the competition, when few whites are available. Red blends dominated the field with ten gold medals, followed by eight Meritages, five Cabernet Francs, two Petit Verdots, and one Cabernet Sauvignon.  The remaining two gold medals were awarded to a Chardonnay and a sparkling wine. See the table below for complete details.

Any wine made from 100% Virginia fruit is eligible for the Governor’s Cup Competition. (Ciders and fruit wines have their own category and medals.) Entries must include an affidavit with a certification of 100% Virginia fruit and vineyard particulars, including grower names and location, as well as information on alcohol, acidity or basicity (pH), and residual sugar.

The rapid growth of Virginia’s vibrant wine industry has made it one of the fastest growing agricultural sectors in the state.  In 1979, there were only six wineries in Virginia. Today, there are over 230 wineries in Virginia, and 380 vineyards that cultivate over 3,000 acres of grapes. The state’s wine industry’s growth is escalating as fast as the state’s advancements in wine quality and reputation.

The winner of the 2013 Virginia Governor’s Cup will be announced in a week at the start of the Virginia Wine Expo on Thursday, 2/21. For more information and a complete list of awards, visit the Virginia Wine Marketing Office’s website at or call 1‐804‐344‐8200.

2013 Virginia Governor’s Cup Gold Medal Winners

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Viognier finds a new style at Corcoran Vineyards

In 2011, the Virginia Wine Board designated Viognier as the Commonwealth's Signature Grape in order to better market Virginia's growing wine industry. On one hand the policy made perfect sense, since the grape excelled in the Virginia climate and personally, Virginia Viognier is one of my favorite wines. On the other hand, the decision was criticized because only about a third of Virginia wineries produced a Viognier wine and at times the grape can be very temperamental in the vineyard.

For instance, Corcoran Vineyards (Waterford Virginia) lost their entire 2010 harvest to frost, came back strong in 2011 with a wonderful dry Viognier, but in 2012 - - -. Well last year, the fruit composition was just too high in sugar for a dry wine. What is a winemaker to do?  Looking at the success of their red port styled wine - the Chambourcin USB - Lori Corcoran thought, why not a white port? She fortified the wine to 18% with grape brandy - just under the legal 20% threshold - and then aged the wine and used A. Smith Bowman Distillery bourbon barrels. The result is initially, a hot wine with a little burn, but very quickly the butterscotch\vanilla flavors subdue the flames and the wine coasts to a smooth finish. This is a truly unique flavor and a style I never imaged for Virginia's signature grape. The white port is not available yet - this was a sneak preview - but keep checking the Corcoran website for a release date.

And beware, do not consumer too much white port before walking over to the twelve beers on tap at Corcoran Brewing Company. It could lead to an early night. Cheers.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

What is the Best Virginia Wine?

We are often asked the difficult question: "What is the best Virginia wine?".  And in fact, Tom Wark asked me a variation of that question at the 2011 Wine Bloggers Conference -"If I had one wine to bring home from Virginia, what would it be?. And obviously there is no simple or correct answer. Palettes differ among consumers; vintages differ among wines; and some wines may be one year wonders.  Plus, has anyone actually tried every Virginia wine produced? But here goes.

On an annual basis, check out the results of the Virginia Governor's Cup - where a panel of experts determine the best Virginia wines for each year - all from wines produced from Virginia grown grapes. Instead of a vintage approach, my standard answer consists of wines that are commendable year after year.

Now, I understand everyone has different opinions and will find fault with these selections; so - what is your best Virginia wine?

Best Virginia Red Wine
Barboursville Vineyards Octagon
Linden Vineyards Avenius or Hardscrapple
Breaux Vineyards Merlot
Chrysalis Vineyards Norton
Virginia Wineworks Boxed Cabernet Franc

Best Virginia White Wine
Glen Manor Vineyards Sauvignon Blanc
Linden Vineyards Avenius or Hardscrapple Chardonnay
Veritas Vineyards Viognier
Tarara Vineyard & Winery  Charval
Horton Vineyards Viognier

Best Virginia Rosé Wine
Boxwood Winery Rosé
Linden Vineyards Rosé
Paradise Springs Winery Nana's Rosé
King Family Vineyards  Crosé

Best Virginia Sparkling Wine
Thibaut-Janisson Winery Blanc de Chardonnay, Virginia Sparkling Wine
Thibaut-Janisson Winery  Virginia FIZZ
Castle Hill Cider Levity
Trump Winery Blanc de Blanc

Best Virginia Fruit & Honey Wine
Corcoran Vineyards Apple Wine
Village Winery Elderberry Wine
Blacksnake Meadery Wildflower Honey Wine
Coltsfoot Winery Elderberry Wine
Hill Top Berry Farm & Winery  Blue Heeler

Best Virginia Dessert Wine
Potomac Point Winery Rabelos
Corcoran Vineyards USB
Fabbioli Cellars Raspberry Merlot
Horton Vineyards Vintage Port
Veritas Vineyards Othello

Monday, January 7, 2013

The Wedding at Cana Celebrated at Cana Vineyards and Winery

According to the Gospel of John, the first miracle performed by Jesus was at the Wedding at Cana in which at the request of his mother, he turned six stone containers of water into wine. Biblical scholars can debate the fact or allegory of the story, but  Cana Vineyards and Winery, a new northern Virginia winery just outside of Middleburg, celebrates the historic event:

People ask us why we chose the name Cana (“Cay-nuh”) for our winery. In Cana of Galilee, at a wedding feast, Jesus performed the first of His many miracles: He turned water into wine! In the course of the feast, the wine was depleted. If this situation were disclosed, the groom would be shamed. But Jesus showed compassion. At His command, six stone jars were filled with water. A little was drawn out and taken to the master of the banquet. When he had tasted the wine, the banquet master pulled the groom aside and praised him for going against tradition by saving the very best wine for last.
Cana Vineyards also incorporates the Wedding story throughout their operation. Their logo consists of six stone jars and the winery grounds are populated by actual jars and even fountains. And they turn grape juice into wine. Their first decision was to hire wine consultant Alan Kinne (Chrysalis Vineyards) to be their executive winemaker and to source fruit from Loudoun County while their estate vineyard matures. Another decision that caught our fancy was their use of Garbellotto and TW Boswell fermenting tanks for red wines. Fermenting Chardonnay in barrels is a common technique, but for the past 40-50 years red wines have been fermented in concrete or stainless steel before being aged in barrel. But Cana Vineyards has shown that old practices are new because they utilize these fermenting tanks for the Petit Verdot used in their Le Mariage ($34) blend. You would think that the extra oak treatment would produce more tannic content, but in reality, the opposite occurs, the tannins become smoother and more mellow.

The other wines in their portfolio are pretty standard fare for Virginia wineries. There is a rather tasty Apple wine, a Viognier, Traminette (sourced from the Shenandoah Valley), Riesling, Rosé, and my favorite, their Cabernet Franc. This is an earthy wine, a little green pepper and a little tobacco, which is balanced with red cherry flavors. Nicely done.

The tasting room is spacious - particularly the loft, with live music on weekends streaming inside and out. With a view of the Bull Run mountains to the south, this is a nice destination to hang for the day. Check out their live music schedule to choose a day.