Wine of the week: Virginia Governor’s Cup winners

Virginia’s wine industry continues to attract a lot of attention, and not just because the wine country is a beautiful place to visit, but also because there are many very good wines to sample while taking in the scenic views.

And judging from the results of the Virginia Governor’s Cup Wine Competition earlier this year, there are more good wines to enjoy. Last month, 18 renowned judges participated in the annual wine competition, where over 500 wines were submitted by 100 Virginia wineries for evaluation. The wines ranged from traditional table wines to fruit-centric dessert wines and all of the wines were produced from using only fruit grown in Virginia.

There were two rounds of judging. In the preliminary round, over the course of 10 days, each wine was tasted by seven judges. This is a single-blind tasting, meaning that judges only know the grape or category of a wine, but the vintage, winery and name are hidden behind coded-glasses. Individual judges’ scores of a wine are averaged into one score after the lowest score is dropped.

In the final round, 12 judges assess the highest-ranking wines from the preliminary round. Each judge samples all of the final-round wines. Each wine in the final round receives a final average score after lowest is dropped. The 12 wines with the highest average score are identified as the “Governor’s Cup Case.” The wine with the highest overall score is the Governor’s Cup Winner.

The Virginia Wineries Association, in partnership with the Virginia Wine Board and the Virginia Vineyards Association, recently announced the winners of the 2019 Governor’s Cup competition.

Here are some of the top wines from the competition.

It’s nice to see one of my favorite wineries get the nod from the judges this year as the overall winner of the Governor’s Cup competition. Petit Manseng is actually very popular in southwestern France and is famous for being the only wine used to baptize a royal child. The 2016 Horton Vineyards Petit Manseng is a rich, full bodied dry white wine with aromas of honey, toasted hazelnuts and acacia blossom. Flavors of tropical fruit, guava, mango and orange peel are kept in remarkable balance by pitch-perfect acidity. $25

Family-owned and operated King Family Vineyards is a boutique winery located in Crozet, Virginia, whose goal is to make great wine from quality fruit with minimal intervention from winemaker, Matthieu Finot, a native of the Rhone Valley. Finot hit it out of the park with the 2016 King Family Vineyards Meritage. A blend of merlot, Petit Verdot, Cabernet Franc, and Malbec, this wine is full of vibrant aromas of raspberry, savory herbs and wet stone, which complement a rich pallet of clove, red currant, and baked blueberry flavors. Firm tannins provide a lengthy finish with just a touch of spice. This well-structured wine will continue to develop complex tertiary components with extended bottle aging. $36

Winemaker Michael Shaps, who moved to the Burgundy region of France in 1990 to study oenology before returning to Charlottesville in 1995, had a winning entry with a grape not many people are familiar with. Tannat is originally from the Madiran region of France, and Michael was one of the first to work with it in Virginia. The 2015 Michael Shaps Wineworks Tannat is high acid, high alcohol and high in tannin, which makes it great for aging. Notes of black fruit, tobacco, and leather. Pair with heavier meats, such as beef tenderloin, or strong cheese like blue and Parmesan. Aromas of black cherry, dark plum and earthy notes on the nose lead to powerful flavors of blackberry, blueberry, leather and baking spices on the full-weight palate. The firm tannins provide a lengthy finish and ageable structure. $32

Nestled in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, Early Mountain Vineyards sits on land with a deep and rich history. The first landowner of the property was Revolutionary War veteran Lt. Joseph Early, who served under General George Washington at Valley Forge. Today, Jean Case and her husband, Steve, own the property and have significantly expanded its acreage of classic Bordeaux-type varietals, such as Cabernet Franc and merlot. Their 2016 Early Mountain Vineyards Eluvium is a blend of 56 percent merlot and 44 percent Petit Verdot. The merlot contributes density and aromatic purity while the Petit Verdot contributes structure, depth, and power. On the nose, the fruits are dark with plum and blackberry accentuated by sage, cedar and wood spice. The flavors echo the aromas, structured and layered with ample and persistent tannin. $38

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