Delfosse 2021 Screaming Hawk Meritage wins 2023 Governor's Cup... #VAWines capture 80 medals; 7 double golds @SF Int. Wine Competition... MV@MV - Muse Vineyards at Mount Vernon... Ducard Vineyard Wins VA's First Norton Challenge... Cave Ridge Fossil Hill Reserve 2019 Wins Shenandoah Cup... Atlantic Seaboard Recognizes VA's Sharon Horton and Joy Ting... 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... VA Wine Sales Up 6%; Cider taking off... International Winery Review "Virginia Wine Has Come of Age"...

Friday, December 3, 2021

Wine Dogs' Virginia Wine Experince

The Homestead Resort
Hot Springs, Virginia

The Wine Dogs were very excited when they learned the venerable Homestead Resort was opening the Virginia Wine Experience, a new venue that "showcases the history of winegrowing in Virginia from the founding of Jamestown in 1607 through today." So when an unrelated event brought them to The Homestead, they put "The Experience" at the top of their activities list.

The Experience has a dedicated site across from The Homestead's Wine Cellar. The seating area offers  spectacular views of the mountain retreat from floor-to-ceiling full length windows. 

Inside is an impressive collection of Virginia wines, selected by consulting project manager Fred Reno, (Thomas Jefferson Wine Company). The selections lean heavily toward the Monticello AVA, although Chrysalis and Linden were also among the available wines. Sadly, Virginia wines were notably absent at the Homestead's bars and restaurants.

Trevor and Mary were attentive and enthusiastic hosts in the Wine Experience room. Eager to learn, they will be excellent ambassadors for the industry.

The regular "experience" consists of either flights (four choices of five wines each - White, Red, Reserve, or Virginia Hybrid and Native American Wines) or wines by the glass. The flights are pricey, but the pours are generous. Ecco chose the Red Flight, and enjoyed a solid lineup: the Early Mountain Foothills, Rosemont Syrah, Barboursville Cabernet Franc Reserve, Michael Shaps Petit Verdot, and Blenheim Merlot. The flights could be better curated (the tasting sheet does not even include vintage).

The larger experience is the monthly dinner with featured winemaker. In December, that is Michael Shaps. The date is December 11 event in the Jefferson Dining Room. 

Tuesday, November 16, 2021

Bluestone Vineyard Claims Shenandoah Cup

Ecco congratulates Curt and Lee Hartman of Bluestone Vineyards
Bluestone Vineyard
Bridgewater, Virginia

A big wine dogs Paws Up to Bluestone Vineyard and the Hartman family, winner of the 2021 Shenandoah Cup. The 2017 Houndstooth (great name!) is a rich and satisfying Bordeaux blend. Bluestone also made this year's Governor's Cup Case with its 2019 Petit Manseng, and their 2019 Chardonnay also earned gold in the Shenandoah Cup competition. 

Ecco is excited to note that Bluestone welcomes furry visitors: "Friendly dogs on a leash are always welcome at Bluestone. Dogs are welcome in the Tasting Room and outside around the Tasting Room." The Shenandoah Valley is a top emerging wine region in Virginia and an especially charming place to visit during the fall leaf season. 
Winemakers representing the 11 Gold Medal wines in the Shenandoah Cup competition.

In addition to Bluestone, nine wines from six wineries earned gold:

Briede Family Vineyards claimed gold for the 2019 Tannat. Look for unique hybrids in Paul and Loretta Briede's Winchester tasting room - they were the first in the country to plant the Arandell grape,
Paul Briede with the 2019 Tannat

Winner of the 2020 Shenandoah Cup, Cave Ridge Vineyard earned two golds this year - for the sparkling Blanc de Blanc and the 2019 Fissel Hill, a blend of Petit Verdot, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Cabernet Franc.
Cave Ridge General Manager Megan Phillips and Becky Smith 

Also doubling down on the gold was CrossKeys Vineyards, with the 2019 Meritage (a Right Bank, Merlot-based blend) and 2019 Petit Verdot.
CrossKeys founder Bob and son Babak Bakhtiar, the marketing manager display the 2019 Meritage

The 2017 Muse Clio continues to shine, adding Shenandoah Cup gold to the gold in the 2021 Virginia Governor's Cup competition (the 2009 won the Governor's cup in 2015).
Muse's Sally Cowal, a former U.S. Ambassador turned wine ambassador

Rockbridge Vineyard took home two gold medals - for the 2017 DeChiel White Riesling and the 2017 Vd'or, a dessert wine which also earned a place in the 2020 Governor's Cup Case. 
Rockbridge's Shep Rouse has been making wine in Virginia since 1986 

Check out these and other outstanding wineries (cideries, breweries, and meaderies) along the Shenandoah Valley Wine Trail, which stretches from Winchester down to Lexington. 

Thursday, April 29, 2021

Wine Dogs' Top Seven Takeaways from the 2021 Virginia Governors Cup

Purcellville, VA

In normal times, we get to taste Virginia's top wines as the winners are announced at the Governor's Cup Gala. Thanks to COVID, there was no gala. The Governor's Cup winner and its case companions were revealed virtually on March 9. And tonight, we get to taste the case.

Here are the Wine Dogs' top seven takeaways from this year's competition.

1. Barboursville Continues Its Reign

Luca Paschina and the team at Barboursville Vineyards are true royalty in the Virginia wine world. Barboursville has appeared in every Governor's Cup Case since the competition was revamped in 2012 and racked up a record five Governor's Cup wins. This year's case features three Barboursville wines, with the 2015 Paxxito claiming the Governor's Cup. Paws up! 

2. In Diversity, Virginia Finds Strength.

Wines in the 2021 Governor's Cup Case include a sparkling (Trump 2014 Brut Reserve), two dry whites (Barboursville 2019 Vermentino Reserve, and Bluestone 2019 Petit Manseng), red blends from Michael Shaps Wineworks, Breaux Vineyards, Barboursville, and King Family Vineyards, two Petit Verdots (Veritas and Carriage House Wineworks), a Nebbiolo (Breaux) and two dessert wines (Series 1 from R.A.H. Wine Company and Barboursville's cup-winning Paxxito). There is much talk about the diverse wine-growing regions of the state represented in this year's case. While the Monticello AVA remains dominant, wines from the Middleburg and the Shenandoah Valley AVAs are featured, which brings a diversity of soils and growing conditions. There is also diversity in price, with winning wines ranging from $22.99 to $80.

3. Where's Franc?

Notably absent from the lineup was a single-varietal Cabernet Franc, arguably Virginia's most distinguished grape. A possible explanation is that Virginia produces so many outstanding Cab Francs that it is difficult for any one to stand out from the pack (just as there are so many adorable Yorkies the breed rarely tops the toy dog group). Eleven Cab Francs did earn Governor's Cup Gold, and the Wine Dogs were able to sniff out substantial proportions of their favorite grape in several of the red blends. When asked what distinguished the 2017 Mountain Plains from the King Family Meritage, winemaker Matthieu Finot noted it showcases more Cab Franc (35% to a 43% Merlot base, finished with 22% Petit Verdot). Barboursville's 2016 Octagon, one of the most iconic red wines in Virginia, contains 38% Cab Franc to 46% Merlot, balanced by 16% Petit Verdot. 

4. Notable Newcomers.
A couple of notable newcomers in the Governor's Cup Case this year. Bruce Meadow and Michael Fritz of the newly opened Carriage House Wineworks have been growers for years, and Mike is off to a great start as a winemaker, capturing a spot in the case for their 2019 Petit Verdot. The delicious wine is 100% Petit Verdot and successfully rebuts the argument that PV is not complex enough to stand on its own. The other newcomer is a newcomer in label only. Maya Hood White who produced the case's R.A.H. Series 1 is well known and respected in Virginia wine circles for her work in the vineyard and cellars at Early Mountain.

5. Taking a Pass(ito).
For the second year running, the Virginia Governor's Cup went to a passito-style wine. While appreciative of the delicate labor of love this wine was for Luca Paschina, the Wine Dogs are among those questioning the sweet wine dominance. With so many outstanding dry wines, does Virginia truly aspire to be defined as the next Sauterne, Tokaj or Port? Jennifer Breaux, who hosted the Wine Dogs' tasting, suggested that the order of judging may play a role. Coming after so many heavy, tannic reds, the dessert wines offers a refreshing and welcome relief. And with more and more wines moving into the gold category (this year saw a record 96 wines and ciders earning gold), the challenge becomes more acute. 

6. An Outsider Is In-Cider.
The Wine Dogs home of Alexandria is not usually associated with the Governor's Cup.
With this year's competition opening to ciders and meads, Alexandria made its debut with Lost Boy Cider claiming first-ever "Best in Show" in the cider category for its Come Back Kid. Founder Tristan Wright reports the Kid is the simplest cider he makes (and the first), consisting of simply yeast and apples from Virginia's Shenandoah Valley. Ecco adds Lost Boy is dog friendly and hosted a great Howl-o-ween paw-ty for the Animal Welfare League of Alexandria in 2019.  

7. The Virginia Wine Board Is the Big Winner.
2021 was a difficult year to hold a wine competition, yet Judging Director Jay Youmans has labeled it the Best Competition Ever, with a record 544 entrants. Judging had to be done remotely, with tasting kits sent to the panelists. Announcing and tasting the winners posed additional challenges. The Reveal on March 9 was seamless, a perfect blend of technology and talent to introduce the 12 case members and award the Governor's Cup.
The consumer tasting on May 3 brought together 250 people at 10 different socially distanced locations. Notwithstanding a few technical glitches, it was a memorable experience featuring interviews with each winemaker, including Michael Shaps direct from France. Wine Dogs chose Breaux, and were treated to a delightful food plate to complement their wines. Paws up to all involved.         

Tuesday, March 30, 2021

Wine Dogs Dig Up Gold at Ingleside

Oak Grove, VA

The Virginia Wine Dogs are hot on the trail - the Gold Medal Wine Trail that is - sniffing out the 47 wineries, cideries and meaderies that racked up gold in the 2021 Governor's Cup Competition. First stop, Ingleside Vineyards in the Northern Neck of Virginia (the George Washington Birthplace American Viticultural Area - Washington's birthplace is just down the road).

Ingleside numbers itself among the pioneers of the modern Virginia wine industry - opening in 1980 with the first wave of post-prohibition wineries. Doug Flemer planted his grapes on the historic estate that had been in his family since 1890. Today, the winery's focal point is a European-style brick courtyard, surrounded by old farm buildings transformed to serve as the tasting room, winery, event space and museum (filled with antique wine bottles, Native American artifacts and Chesapeake waterfowl decoys). 

Ingleside is a three-time Governor's Cup winner (1983, 1984, and 1986) and claimed a spot in the 2017 Governor's Cup Case). The winery earned gold in this year's Governor's Cup Competition for two of its whites - the 2019 Albarino and the 2018 Chardonnay Reserve. The Albarino is available on the white tasting flight (which also includes the 2019 Pinot Grigio, 2019 Viognier, Coastal White, and 2019 Chardonnay Reserve). The 2018 is available only for purchase, so of course, we did.

Ecco was grateful the flight came with a proper tasting glass, allowing her to fully appreciate the peach on the nose of the Albarino and nectar on the palate. We've been hearing quite a bit of buzz about this Spanish grape's promise in Virginia lately (most recently on Frank Morgan's Open that Bottle of Virginia Wine Night). Ingleside's Albarino certainly impressed - Ecco gave it two paws up. 

Score another paw up for pet friendliness, Ecco was made to feel right at home throughout her visit and even met a new friend, Winnie, a three-year-old Nova Scotia Duck Trolling Retriever (kind of a mini-Golden). Winnie is clearly a devoted wine dog - note the grape colored leash and harness.

There is a charming gift shop in Ingleside's tasting room, lovingly stocked by Nancy Flemer. As much as she enjoyed the wine, Ecco couldn't resist bellying up to the Doggie Tasting Bar. Suffice it to say, she loved her visit to Ingleside.

Ingleside's unique take on Virginia's LOVE sign.

Tuesday, March 9, 2021

Wine Dogs Count Down to the 2021 Virginia Governor's Cup Reveal

Alexandria, VA

The Virginia Wine Dogs have been following the Governor's Cup for more than a decade. As we prepare for tonight's 2021 Governor's Cup Reveal, we look back at past postings on Virginia's Top Dog of Wine.

COUNTDOWN 2010: Open less than a year, Paradise Springs Winery may be just a pup in Virginia's growing kennel of top wineries but they're demonstrating show quality - claiming the Governor's Cup at Monticello on Wednesday night for their 2009 Reserve Chardonnay. This is the first time since 1991 that a Chardonnay has won the cup. Munchkin and Pomeroy extend their congrats to Jane Kincheloe and Kirk Wiles and all our friends in Paradise.

COUNTDOWN 2011: Munchkin and Pomeroy popped into Fox Meadow Winery on Sunday to give give their neighbors a personal "paws up" and pick up a bottle of the 2011 Governor's Cup winning Le Renard Rouge (2008) to taste for themselves. Grrrr-eat! Congratulations to our Blue Mountain neighbors, Dan and Cheryl Mortland. The award was announced at the Virginia Wine Expo on Friday Night. Sixty Virginia wineries submitted 196 entries in this year’s cup competition. This was the pups' first actual view of the Governor's Cup.

COUNTDOWN 2011 (Part 2): Munchkin and Pomeroy headed to New Kent Winery in October to congratulate the winery on winning the 2011 Governor's Cup for White Wines. The 2009 Reserve Chardonnay was judged best from among 162 wines entered from 52 wineries. Notice something different about the award? In 2011, the Governor's Cup competition was divided between Red Wines in the Spring and White Wines in the Fall.

COUNTDOWN 2012: Governor Bob McDonnell presented the Governor's Cup to a surprised Jeff White, owner and winemaker of Glen Manor Vineyards for the 2009 Hodder Hill, a Meritage blend which the Governor called "“a stunning representation of the best in Virginia wines." It was the first time Glen Manor entered the competition. More than 400 Virginia wines competed. This year introduced a significantly revamped competition led by Master of Wine Jay Yeomans, a requirement that all wines have 100% Virginia grapes, and the debut of the Governor's Cup Case (top 12 wines in Virginia).
COUNTDOWN 2013: The 2013 Governor's Cup winner was Barboursville Vineyards' 2009 Octagon, beating out 400 wines. It marked a record fourth time Barboursville has claimed the Governor's Cup. Luca Paschina, Winemaker and General Manager, called the 2009 Octagon "probably one of the best wines I every made in my life" -- adding that he has been making wine since he was 14.  The 2009 Octagon has also claimed a 90-point score from Wine Enthusiast, gold medals form the Beverage Testing Institute in Chicago, and the Winemaker's Challenge and Critics Challenge in California, and the Platinum Medal of the Sommelier Challenge in California.

COUNTDOWN 2014: The 2014 Governor's Cup was awarded to Williamsburg Winery for the 2010 Adagio. The graceful blend of Cabernet Franc, Merlot, and Petit Verdot already has the wine world taking note - earning 94 points in the Beverage Testing Institute's International Wine Competition. It was produced by Matthew Meyer, who has been Williamsburg's winemaker since 2002. This year, 410 wines from 96 wineries competed.

COUNTDOWN 2015: Top Dog in the Virginia Wine World is Muse Vineyards, winner of the 2015 Governor's Cup. The prize went to the 2009 Clio, a Bordeaux blend and one of the first produced from the vineyard by Robert Muse and Sally Cowal. This year, 390 wines from 94 wineries were entered in the competition.

COUNTDOWN 2016: Paws up to our good friends at Keswick Vineyards, winner of the 2016 Governor's Cup for their 2014 Cabernet Franc! Accepting the cup, owner Al Schornberg said: "All we wanted to do was make a great red wine. Dreams come true in Virginia Wine country." Ecco was privileged to inspect the cup at her next visit to Keswick.

COUNTDOWN 2017: The barking news out of Richmond is that The Barns at Hamilton Station in Hamilton, VA, will be taking home the 2017 Governor's Cup. The award-winning wine is the 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon, confirming once again that Virginia can produce a full-bodied Cab. The Barns opened in 2012, a post-government-service project of owners Andrew and Maryann Fialdini. Michael Shaps is the winemaker. A total of 494 wines were judged in this year's competition. York's photo in the Governor's Cup made the Richmond Times Dispatch!

COUNTDOWN 2018: Over 440 wines competed, but only one could be declared top dog in the Virginia Governor's Cup competition. This year's prize went to the King Family Vineyards for their elegant 2014 Meritage. This is the third time the King Family Vineyards has claimed this prestigious honor.

COUNTDOWN 2019: For the first time since the Virginia Governor's Cup Competition was revamped in 2012, a white wine has claimed Best in Show. Horton Vineyards' 2016 Petit Manseng bested over 500 wines from 102 wineries to earn the 2019 Governor's Cup. Horton Vineyards is one of the pioneers in the modern Virginia wine world, currently celebrating its 30th Anniversary. Founder Dennis Horton brought Petit Manseng to Virginia in the late 1990s (along with Viognier).

COUNTDOWN 2020: For the first time 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. This would be the last event the Wine Dogs attended before the COVID lockdown . 

COUNTDOWN 2021: ?????

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