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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.         

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