868 Estate 2017 Vidal Blanc Passito Wins 2020 Governor's Cup... Carl Tinder named "Grower of the Year"... Loudoun Museum Opens Exhibit on Cultivation of VA Wine Industry... Barboursville Viognier Makes Wine Enthusiast List of Top 100 Wines in the World... Wine Enthusiast names Paradise Springs' Kirk Wiles as "40 Under 40 Tastemaker"... Gabrielle Rausse named Southern Food Legend by Southern Living... 2019 Governor's Cup Goes to Horton Vineyards; Doug Fabbioli Top Dog in Loudoun... VA Wine Sales Up 6%; Cider taking off... International Winery Review "Virginia Wine Has Come of Age"...

Tuesday, February 25, 2020

2020 Governor's Cup: Blending is Golden in the Grape Dominion

Main Street Station
Richmond, Virginia

With more than 300 wineries and 537 vineyards growing over 400 acres of grapes, Virginia has truly become the Grape Dominion. To help shine a spotlight on the top dogs in the industry, Virginia’s Governor’s Cup Competition assembles a distinguished panel of judges under the direction of Master of Wine Jay Youmans.

The winners this year give credit to the maturing quality of Virginia wine. A Wine Dogs “paws up” to each of the 10 wineries whose 12 wines were judged the best in Virginia and make up the Governor's Cup Case.

A few observations from this year’s case.

It’s all about blending. Half the case is comprised of red blends for the second year in a row. The case also includes a Tannat, a Cabernet Franc, and a Petit Verdot.

868 Estate’s Passito is a trend-setter. The first hybrid grape (Vidal Blanc) to win the competition; the first Governor’s Cup wine made from 100 percent Loudoun County grapes; and the first dessert wine to win in 15 years. It is complimented in the case by a second Vidal-Blanc based dessert wine  and a Vermentino.
868 Estate Winery's trendsetters Carl and Delisa DIManno bask in the glory of the evening. 
Although still dominant with seven spots in the case, regions outside the Monticello AVA are asserting themselves. Loudoun is Top Dog, and the case includes a healthy blend of wine from Northern Virginia and the Shenandoah Valley.

If you are looking to sample Virginia's finest, follow the Wine Dogs' lead and put these on your list.

Afton Mountain Vineyards blends beuatiful views with beautiful wines. The 2017 Tradition is a classic Bordeaux-style blend of Merlot (41%), Petit Verdot (37%) and Cabernet Sauvignon.
Afton Mountain's Jill Schildkamp invites the Virginia Wine Dog team to visit Afton Mountain's pet friendly vineyard cottages.
Barboursville Vineyards earned three golds this year, claiming two spots in the case with the refreshing 2018 Vermentino Reserve (a double gold winner in the San Francisco Chronicle competition) and the 2014 Octagon.
Barbourseville winemaker Luca Paschina treats York to a taste of the 2014 Octagon, making a repeat appearance as a Governor's Cup gold medal winner. 
Another winery with a spectacular view, Delaplane Cellars struck gold with the 2017 Williams Gap, a bold red blend created by winemaker Rick Tagg.
Lisa Christopher, Guest Experience Manager at Delaplane Cellars, tells York about changes with the new management, including a second venue for events.
Wow! Lake Anna Winery's 2017 Tannat is earned two paws up and a wagging tail from Wine Dog York. This 100% varietal from Spotsylvania County made the Governor's Cup with two other Lake Anna wines (Chardonnay and Petit Verdot) earning gold.
Doug Boardway and Trish Lambert were all smiles pouring liquid gold for the Lake Anna team.
Winemaker Michael Shaps continues to rack up the golds in the Govenror's Cup competition. The winemaker extraordinaire made the case with his 2016 Meritage. The 2017 Meritage also won gold, as did six others under the Michael Shaps label plus six wines he crafted under the Virignia Cellars label. The 2017 Shenandoah Reserve Red, from Shenandoah Vineyards, also secured a spot in the case for Shaps, who took over stewardship of Virginia's second oldest winery in 2018.
The team lines up to pour Michael Shaps wines: Jason Greer (Cellar Master), Robin Hurst (Assistant Winemaker), Kevin, and Jason Greer (Associate Winemaker, Shenandoah Vineyards).
Pippin Hill Farm & Vineyards, where Michael Shaps is also the winemaker, claimed three golds and earned a spot in the case for its 2014 Petit Verdot. Check out #PippinPups.
It's clear Dave Kamierski and Carolyn Fifer have been pouring quite a bit of Pippin Hill's Petit Verdot.
Pollak Vineyards hauled in a total of five golds in the competition, earning spots in the case for the 2017 Cabernet Franc Reserve and 2017 Smuggler (a red blend). 
The Wine Dogs are good smugglers, but Pollak's Smuggler is exceptional, York tells Aaron Spring.
Completing the case is Rockbridge Vineyard's 2017 Vd'Or, a truly golden wine combining Vidal Blanc, Vignoles, and Traminette pressed from frozen grapes.
Rockbridge's VD'Or is a regular in wine copetitions and earned the Governor's Cup in 1995.

How Sweet It Is: Dessert Wine Wins 2020 Governor's Cup

Main Street Station
Richmond, Virginia

For the first ime in 15 years, a dessert wine claimed the coveted Virginia Governor's Cup. At the 2020 Governor's Cup Celebration, 868 Estate Vineyards in Purcellville won "Best in Show" honors for the 2017 Vidal Blanc Passito, beating out more than 530 wines.

And for the first time, Loudoun County can claim to be first in grapes. The award-winning wine is made from from 100 percent Loudoun County fruit. The Monticello AVA has dominated past competitions; The Barns at Hamilton Station won the 2017 Governor's Cup; but with grapes from the Charlotttesville area.

Gov. Ralph Northam presents 2020 Governor's Cup to the 868 Estate Vineyard Team
Virginia Wine Dog York was on the scene to report, and caught up with an ebullient Carl DiManno. The co-founder and winemaker at 868 Estate Vineyards called the 2017 Passito the culmination of a labor of love. "A lot of love and hard work went into this wine, but it was well worth it," adding "I am thrilled that Loudoun’s wines are getting the recognition that they deserve.”

Three other pillars of the Virginia wine industry also were honored at the Governor's Cup Celebration:

Justin Rose of Rosemont Winery, was named Virginia Wine Person of the Year

Randy Phillips, general manager of Cave Ridge Vineyard won the Gordon Murchie Lifetime Achievement Award
George Hodson of Veritas Vineyards was named the David King Wine Advocate of the Year
All 64 Gold Medal wines from the competition were showcased at the Celebration, with special recognition given to the top 12 (including the 868 Estates Passito), which will comprise this year's Governor's Cup Case. Read about them here.

Virginia Loves Carl DiManno's Passito  

Sunday, November 24, 2019

Wine Dogs Get a Taste of Texas

Texas Hill Country AVA, TX

Your favorite Virginia Wine Dog is reporting from deep in the heart of Texas where the wine is flowing in a region that "feels like Napa in the 1960's" - growing fast and producing some really good wine according to Dave Bryant, 4.0 Cellars new General Manager who comes from the vaunted California region. Sound familiar, #VAWine fans?

Similarly situated to Virginia’s Monticello AVA, the Texas Hill Country AVA begins just west of Austin where the University of Texas is located and spreads across 22 counties. At 15,000 square miles, it is the second largest AVA in the country. Wine Enthusiast named it one of the Top 10 Wine Travel Destinations in the World in 2015.

Wineries line the highway along U.S. 290 (aka Wine Road290), where Ecco’s tour began. There are some 88 wineries between Fredericksburg and Johnson City, not to mention the breweries and distilleries.

Ecco managed to take in four during her two-day visit:

Becker Vineyards, the big dog, produces more than 100,000 cases of wine a year. Check out the vintage log cabin and the estate’s lavender field (the Lavender Festival is the first weekend in May).

4.0 Cellars represents the marriage of three solid High Plains producers who combine forces in a tasting room in Hill Country. The modern facility showcases wines from McPherson Cellars, Brennan Vineyards, and Lost Oak Winery.

Barons Creek Vineyards opened in 2016 by Chase brothers Mike, Chris, and Marc. The dramatic tasting room opens onto a spacious back courtyard framed by villas which are available for rent.

Duchman Family Winery lies off the 290 Trail in Driftwood. Founded by Drs. Lisa and Stan Duchman in 2004, the winery showcases Italian varietals and was featured on HGTV as one of the one of the 20 most picturesque wineries in the country. Ecco was enchanted by the 2015 Tempranillo, recently awarded a double gold and honored as the Best Tempranillo at the San Francisco International Wine Competition.

The Virginia Wine Dogs left with a few observations.
  • Most Texas Hill Country Wineries use grapes grown in the Texas High Plains. Tempranillo shone among the reds; Roussanne was a favorite white.
  • Pets are generally welcome on the patio but not in tasting rooms (seems that Texas law is behind Virginia, where a 2018 law made it the winery's choice on whether dogs can visit tasting rooms). 
  • Don’t want to drink and drive – take the 290 Wine Shuttle from downtown Fredericksburg or one of 18 wineries on the loop. 
  • Many wineries also operate storefront tasting rooms in the town of Fredericksburg. 
  • Tastings tend to be pricier than in Virginia.

No visit to Texas Hill County could be complete without a stop in Luckenbach, Texas. 
Feeling no pain!

Wednesday, November 20, 2019

Wine Dogs Meet the Briede' Bunch

Briede' Family Vineyards
Winchester, Virginia

Always on the trail for a new adventure, the Wine Dogs set out to explore Briede' Family Vineyards and loved the hospitality!

Built in an old horse stable, the tasting room is small but delightfully decorated with a French country flair. Owners Paul and Loretta Briede' purchased the property in 2000 then decided to start planting and established the vineyard in 2013.

Paul's pride and joy is the Arandell, with Briede' being the only place in the world it is produced. The grape's tiny red-black clusters create an inky wine that delights the palate. Ecco gave the 2017 vintage, produced by Matthieu Finot of King Family Vineyards, an enthusiastic two paws up. The entire crop was lost in Virginia's devastating 2018 season - but a good harvest this year means Arandell will return in 2020, this time teaming up with Nate Walsh (Walsh Family Wine).

The flower that adorns the label was painted by neighbor and local artist Janis Smith.
A second unique grape in the Briede' lineup is the Cayuga, used to produce the Verde, a clean, crisp, slightly effervescent white. The vines are still recovering from 2018, but about 30 cases are expected from the current harvest. Coming attractions not often seen in Virginia include Marquette, Pinot Meunier, and La Crescent.

Sparkling wines also feature prominently on Briede's tasting menu, and they recently debuted their own Sparking Winchester made from the Cayuga grapes. A portion of the proceeds go back to the community - most recently $1,000 to support Shirley's Angels Animal Rescue.

The Wine Dogs November 10, 2018, visit was an afternoon as unique as the Briede's wine - the electricity went off but the show went on, including a performance by singing duo Chuck and Sherrie.

Paul and Loretta believe in sustainable agricultural practices, including an insectary on the property for resident "good bugs." They also have two resident wine dogs, aptly named Chardonnay (yellow lab) and Bordeaux (black lab).

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