WASHINGTON – Virginia’s wine industry is getting a lot of attention these days. In just the past year, the former 776-acre Kluge Wine Estate was purchased by Donald Trump and the Virginia wine country was listed as one of the top ten wine destinations by Wine Enthusiast magazine.
But are the wines any good? Rest assured, many of them are delicious. Earlier in the year, I was asked to participate as a judge in the annual Virginia Governor’s Cup wine competition. Over 400 wines were submitted to the competition. They ranged from traditional table wines to fruit-centric dessert wines and only wines made from 100 percent Virginia-grown fruit were allowed to participate in the competition.
After two days of swishing, sniffing, slurping and spitting, the results from the initial round were tabulated and sent off to the event organizers, who then whittled the list down for the final judging in Richmond.
Recently, the Virginia Wineries Association announced the winner of the 2012 Virginia’s Governor’s Cup and put together a “sample case” of the winning wines for wine journalists and critics to try.
I assembled a panel of amateur wine enthusiasts and asked them to evaluate the Governor’s Cup case. The wines were evaluated based on appearance, aroma, taste and overall quality and scored on a scale of 1 (lowest) to 10 (highest). The identity of the wines was kept concealed until the end of the tasting.
Here are the top six results from my informal panel of judges (scores have been averaged):
2009 Glen Manor Vineyards Hodder Hill Meritage, Front Royal, Va. Score 9.3 – This wine took first place in the 2012 Governor’s Cup competition as well as in my amateur competition. It is a blend of traditional Bordeaux varietal wines, including cabernet sauvignon, merlot, cabernet franc and petit verdot. Comments from the panel included, “long finish, really well-balanced,” “impressive flavors of dark fruit and roasted coffee,” and my personal favorite, “it’s yummy.” ($40)
2008 King Family Vineyards Meritage Blend, Crozet, Va. Score 9.1 – According to the winery’s website, grapes for the wine are “estate-grown merlot, cabernet franc, and petit verdot blended with locally sourced malbec.” My panel liked the “earthiness” and “expressive nature” of the wine and flavors of “cherry compote” and “cocoa and coffee.” I liked the structured finish. ($30)
2009 Keswick Vineyards Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon, Keswick, Va. Score 8.8 – This wine was my personal favorite. My favorite comment about this wine was “it tastes like it was made for steak.” The firm tannins and dark fruit could certainly hold their own against any sirloin. ($40)
2007 Delfosse Vineyards & Winery Meritage Blend, Faber, Va. Score 8.7 – Produced in the shadow of Thomas Jefferson’s old stomping grounds, this wine is a blend of cabernet sauvignon, merlot, petit verdot and cabernet franc. The common consensus among the panel was “really smooth” and “easy to drink.” ($40)
2010 Veritas Vineyard & Winery Vintner’s Reserve Meritage Blend, Afton, Va. Score 8.3 – The meritage (blends) were a bit hit with the panel. This particular one elicited remarks such as “spicy,” “refined” and “fruit-driven.” ($25)