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Thursday, February 23, 2023

It’s a Petit Year for Virginia Wine at the 2023 Governor’s Cup

Main Street Station
Richmond, Virginia

Small grapes, big wines... that's the big story the Virginia Wine Dogs took away from the 2023 Virginia Governor's Cup Competition. And as a member of one of the smallest breeds in the dog world, Yorkshire Terrier and blogger-in-chief Ecco is thrilled the wine world has discovered small is beautiful. 
Governor Glenn Youngkin introduces the winemakers in the Governor's Cup Case, noting: "We only serve Virginia wines" at the Executive Mansion.

Before introducing Virginia's top 12 wines for 2023, a few observations.

Big Future for Petits
Half of the wines in this year's outstanding Governor's Cup Case come from the small berries of Petit Verdot (four wines) or Petit Manseng (two wines). And Petit Verdot is the dominant grape in the Delfosse Screaming Hawk, the Governor's Cup winner. Historically, Petit Verdot was a blending grape, and Petit Manseng is traditionally crafted as a sweet desert wine. Now these grapes are shining in Virginia as single dry varietals. Once thought to be Virginia's signature red and white grapes, it appears Cabernet Franc and Viognier are being eclipsed by the Petits (neither made the case).

Red Blends Finish Strong and Long
Rounding out the reds in this year's case are four strong Bordeaux-style blends, among them the Governor's Cup winner from Delfosse.

Virginia Wines Coming of Age
The 2023 competition saw a record 142 gold medals awarded by the distinguished judging panel. Consider that only 13 golds were awarded in 2012 when the competition first took on its current format. That speaks volumes for the high quality wine being produced in Virginia today. 

2021 Shaping Up to Be a Strong Year
Last year's competition saw 2019 vintages shine; this year, they're sharing the stage with their younger siblings from the class of 2021, which earned five spots in the case.

Monticello Reigns Supreme
Not only is the Governor's Cup returning to the Monticello AVA, but six more wines from the region where Mr. Jefferson first dreamed of growing wine in Virginia made the case. Northern Virginia, Shenandoah, and Eastern Virginia also are represented.

Best of the Best
After an evening of tasting the Governor's Cup Case wines (and a few others), the Wine Dogs had some favorites of our own. We'll lead with our top four, in no particular order, followed by the rest of the case. 
Kim and Mark Kramer showcase the Mountain and View Screaming Hawk from Delfosse; York checks out the cup with winemaker Andrew Bilenkij
Wine Dogs agree the 2021 Screaming Hawk Meritage from Delfosse Vineyards and Winery is a winner. With Petit Verdot in the lead (50%), the blend is rounded out with 30% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Cabernet Franc, and 10% Malbac for a long and pleasant finish. Delfosse also won golds for their 2020 Petit Verdot Reserve and 2021 Go-Go Girl. 

Cellar Rat Cory presents the case wines from Trump Winery
A second red blend that delighted the Wine Dogs' palate is the 2019 New World Reserve from Trump Winery, with 45% Merlot, 30% Cabernet Franc, 15% Petit Verdot, and 10% Malbec. As per usual, a Trump sparkling found its way into the case - this time the 2016 Blanc de Noir. Three additional Trump wines earned gold.
Paradise Springs Tasting Room Manager Molly Hoke pours the wine while Founder and Yorkie lover Jane Kincheloe raises a glass to the Wine Dogs
In a rich field of Petit Verdot's, the Paradise Springs Winery 2021 Brown Bear Vineyard PV stands out as everything they say a Petit Verdot can't be. This is a complex wine that hits all the right spots on the palate with enough fruit to balance the tannins, even at a young age. Paradise Springs took five additional gold medals home to Northern Virginia. They will be opening a second Virginia winery and tasting room in the Charlottesville area in the fall.

Eric Paddock does a little bit of everything at Barboursville, while Luca Paschina consistently makes some of the most outstanding in Virginia
Refreshing was the word the Wine Dogs chose to describe Barboursville Vineyards 2021 Vermentino Reserve. The 2020 Vermentino claimed a place in Virginia's prestigious case last year, leaving the Wine Dogs to wonder why more Virginia wineries aren't trying this grape. Barboursville also earned gold for the 2021 Sauvignon Blanc Reserve and 2021 Sauvignon Blanc.

Director of Operations Aubry Fisher shows off the 50 West Vineyards 2020 Petit Manseng
The first of the Petit Mansengs in this year's case was produced by winemaker Jason Burrus for 50 West Vineyards, recently purchased by Katie and Chris Key, along with Sunset Hills Vineyard, which earned gold for their 2020 Reserve Cabernet Franc. 

Linda, JJ and Mark were having a great time serving Barren Ridge's Petit Verdot
Barren Ridge Vineyards added a taste of the Shenandoah Valley to the Governor's Cup Case with their 2019 Petit Verdot, produced by winemaker Jessi Gatewood who forged her love of the science and art of the vine under the guidance of Gabrielle Rousse.

Celebrating with Jefferson Vineyards Winemaking duo David Woodside and Chris Ritzcovan; Chris remembered the Wine Dogs from their 2012 visit
Jefferson Vineyards landed two spots in the Governor's Cup Case. There's the refreshingly dry 2021 Petit Manseng and a well balanced Meritage in Jefferson's signature chalkboard bottle. Jefferson also took home a golds for a pair of Petit Verdots.

Owner David Foster and Winemaker Eric Schenkel assure us Mountain Run Winery is very dog friendly   
The newcomer to this year's Governor's Cup Case is Mountain Run Winery in Culpeper, Virginia. In addition to placing their 2021 Petit Verdot in the top 12, Mountain Run earned golds for their 2021 Petit Manseng and 2021 Viognier. "Of course" Mountain Run allows dogs: look closely at the Petit Verdot label and you'll find a dog statue atop the large rock.

Pollak's Wine Club Manager Sarah has a winning smile to go with a winning Petit Verdot
The closest thing to a Cabernet Franc in the case is the Pollak Vineyards 2017 Meritage crafted by Benoit Pineau. The oldest Meritage in the case has had time to develop silky tannins in a full-bodied wine featuring 60% Cab Franc as its base, followed by Merlot (24%) and Petit Verdot (16%). 

Henry is crazy about Williamsburg wines and Yorkies (Wine Dog shout-out to Bailey and Peanut)
Last but certainly not least among the four Petit Verdots in the Governor's Cup Case is the 2019 Petit Verdot Reserve from The Williamsburg Winery. A lovely wine with a finish that lingers with satisfying warmth. Enjoy it by your fireplace with your favorite Wine Dog!

Delfosse Screaming Hawk Soars to Top in Governor’s Cup Competition

Winemaker Andrew Bilenkij takes home Governor's Cup with first vintage-to-bottle wine at Delfosse  

Main Street Station
Richmond, VA 

For the second year in a row, a Meritage blend claimed Top Dog honors in the Virginia Governor’s Cup competition, and once again, Petit Verdot is the dominant grape. The 2021 Screaming Hawk Meritage from Delfosse Vineyards and Winery is a blend of Petit Verdot (50%), Cabernet Sauvignon (30%), Cabernet Franc (10%) and Malbec (10%). The grapes are estate-grown.

Located in Nelson County, about 30 miles outside Charlottesville in the Monticello AVA, Delfosse was established by the late Andrew Delfosse in 2002. 
Founder Claude Delfosse at a winery brunch in 2012

High school sweethearts Mike and Adrienne Albers realized a dream when they purchased the 330-acre property in 2016. This year, after bringing on Andrew Bilenkij as winemaker, they realized another goal when Governor Glenn Youngkin announced Delfosse won the 2023 Governor’s Cup.
Governor Glenn Youngkin presents the 2023 Governor's Cup to Delfosse’s owners Mike and Adrienne Albers and winemaker Andrew  Bilenkij

“Since coming to Delfosse in 2019, this is one of my first vintages to see from vineyard to bottle,” Bilenkij noted. His Screaming Hawk Meritage bested 614 entries from 115 Virginia wineries, to claim best-in-state honors. 

Albemarle CiderWorks claimed repeat honors for best-in-show cider in Virginia, this year for its 2021 Orchard Blush. 
York congratulates David Timmerman, Assistant Cidermaker at Albemarle CiderWorks 

In all 142 wines, ciders and meads won gold in the competition and were showcased at the Celebration, with special recognition given to the top 12 (including the Delfosse Screaming Hawk), which will comprise this year's Governor's Cup Case. Read about them here.  

Virginia Wine Dog Pomeroy visits Delfosse in 2012. The winery remains pet friendly. Look for a rebranding as Mountain and Vine Vineyards and Winery.

Thursday, March 24, 2022

Governor's Cup Case Showcases Spirit in Virginia's Wine Industry

Wine Dog York awaits reveal of the Virginia's top wine
Main Street Station
Richmond, Virginia
"There is a spirit in our wine industry, a very special spirit,"  said Governor Glenn Youngkin as he revealed the winner of the 2022 Virginia Governor's Cup competition. The Commonwealth is currently home to 315 wineries, and has claimed its place as one of the top producers in the country - and in the world - as is evident from the quality of the 12 wines comprising this year's Governor's Cup Case.

The 2022 case stands out as one of the most balanced in the competition's history - both in the variety of wines and the wine-producing regions represented. 

A few observations about this year's competition:

Women Winemakers Take Their Place
Three of the wines in this year's Governor's Cup Case were crafted by women winemakers, including the top dog, Cana's 2019 Unite' Reserve, produced by Melanie Natoli, who aptly observed that two years ago, there were no women standing among the makers of Virginia's top 12 wines. 

Regional Variety
Six wines from the Monticello AVA found a home in this year's case, which should bring a smile to Mr. Jefferson's face. But the Middleburg AVA is top dog and claims two additional spots in the case. Loudoun and the Shenandoah Valley also are represented.

White Wines Finish Strong
While whites have struggled in past years to make the cut, this year's case features a diverse and refreshing mix of  white varietals, including Chardonnay, Vermentino, Albariño, a sparkling and a dessert wine.

Blending Rounds Out the Reds
All seven of the reds in this year's case are Meritage-style blends, although the dominant grape varies. 

2019 Delivering on Its Promise
Even though the wines are still young, 2019 is clearly delivering on its promise to be a great year for Virginia wine. Half the case is comprised of 2019 red blends, including a Petit Verdot-dominant blend from Wisdom Oak Winery named simply Nineteen. 

Jay Smith of Wisdom Oak Winery which pays homage to an excellent year with its Nineteen blend.

Not only did Cana Vineyards and Winery win the Governor's Cup for the 2019 Unite' Reserve, but Cana is the only winery to claim two spots in the case with their 2019 Le Mariage. And Tasting Room Manager Alison was quick to point out Cana is for Canines, offering a very dog-friendly environment.

Winemaker Jason Burrus helped 50 West Vineyards win a spot in the case with the closest thing to a Cab Franc in the winners' circle. The 2019 Ashby Gap is 75 percent Cab Franc and 25 percent Cab Sauv, with grapes coming from the Middleburg and Shenandoah Valley AVAs.

The Governor's Cup Case would not be complete without a wine from Barboursville Vineyards. This year's representative is a very refreshing 2020 Vermentino Reserve, the youngest wine in the case, displayed by the Palladio's Somm Alessandro Medici. Barboursville brought home a total of four golds from the competition.

A second refreshing white in the case is the 2020 Albariño from Maggie Mallick Wine Caves, which also picked up a gold for Maggie's Tempranillo. Tasting Room Manager Krista confirms dogs are welcome at Maggie Mallick, which hosts DockDog events at their pond.

Michael Shaps may not be big on having his picture taken with Wine Dogs, but he sure knows how to rake in the gold. Seven golds in this year's competition for Micahel Shaps Wineworks, including the 2019 Chardonnay which made the case. An additional two golds for his Shenandoah Vineyards wines, with the 2019 Reserve Red making the case, shown here by Cellar Master Jason Greer. Magnificent nose - the Wine Dogs give it two paws up.

Pollak Vineyards won four golds in this year's competition, with a spot in the case going to the 2017 Meritage (60 percent Cab Franc). Winemaker Benoit Pineau says 2019 produced fruit so dry and concentrated, he couldn't even make Rose'.  Earned a gold next year and should mature beautifully.

The good folks at Rockbridge Vineyard are real dog lovers as well as wine lovers. While owner Jane Rouse gave York a hug, John explained how they brought two big dog beds into the tasting room for guest dogs. Rockbridge won two golds this year, with the 2018 V D'Or (a dessert wine) claiming a spot in the case. 

The winemaking team of Nathan Vrooman and Rachel Stinson at Stinson Vineyards produced a case-worthy wine with their 2017 Meritage. Love the label which features daughter Wells, also a 2017 vintage.

Cheers to Trump Winery, a top producer of sparkling wine. Winemaker Jonathan Wheeler produced another case-winner with the 2015 Brut Reserve and took home four golds in the 2022 competition.

Women in Wine Come of Age in Virginia; Cana Claims Governor's Cup

Cana is Top Dog in VA Wine and super dog friendly! 
Main Street Station
Richmond, Virginia

This year the Virginia Governor's Cup Celebration occurred in March, which happens to be Women's History Month; coincidentally, Melanie Natoli made history as the first woman to win the coveted award. Her Cana Vineyards 2019 Unite' Reserve beat out 614 wines from over 100 wineries to earn best-in-state honors. 

Unite' is a red blend dominated by Petit Verdot (65%) and finished with Cabernet Franc (29%) and  Merlot (6%). All of the fruit comes from Cana's Middleburg estate.

Governor Glenn Youngkin presents the 2022 Governor's Cup to Cana's Melanie Natoli
Natoli came dressed for success in a blue suit, having observed that two years prior all of the winemakers on stage were men, most of them were wearing blue suits. "It is a great honor to take this home, not just for myself, but for all the amazing women winemakers we have here in the industry," Natoli said, adding " We may be few in in number but we are mighty in passion and skill."

Virginia's Women in Wine - Maggie Malick, Melanie Natoli, and Rachel Stinson
Three women winemakers are represented in this year's Governor's Cup Case (the top 12 wines in Virginia). Natoli has two wines: Unite' and Cana's 2019 Le Mariage (also a Bordeaux blend). Rachel Stinson contributed another red blend, Stinson Vineyards 2017 Meritage, and Maggie Malick won a spot for her namesake winery's 2020 Albariño.

Secretary of Agriculture and Forestry Matt Lohr presented the award for the top cider in Virginia to Albemarle Ciderworks for its 2019 Virginia Hewes Crab. 

In all 127 wines, ciders and meads won gold in the competition and were showcased at the Celebration, with special recognition given to the top 12 (including the Cana Unite'), which will comprise this year's Governor's Cup Case. Read about them here

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