Virginia’s wine industry gave itself its annual report card Thursday, and Barboursville Vineyards was named valedictorian – its 2009 Octagon red blend won the Governor’s Cup.
The trophy was presented to Barboursville winemaker Luca Paschina by Gov. Robert McDonnell tonight at a ceremony in Richmond. It’s the fourth time since the Virginia Wineries Association started the competition in 1982 that Barboursville won top honors, making it the Old Dominion’s most celebrated winery, as well as its most commercially important.
It’s also a gratifying win for Octagon, a merlot-based blend of Bordeaux varieties that Paschina first created with the 1998 vintage. He has promoted it as the type of icon wine Virginia needs to produce to prove its worthiness as a world-class wine region, but despite commercial success, Octagon has not traditionally fared well in competitions.
“It’s not the most soft, polished and smooth wine,” Paschina told me in a phone interview last week. “I don’t fine it or do micro-oxygenation” – a popular winemaking technique that softens a wine’s tannins – “so the wine is a bit more assertive at a younger age and takes a bit longer to show well. It does really well at table with food, but in a wine competition it comes off as aggressive.”
Yet at the ceremony he showed understandable pride in his creation, calling it “probably one of the best wines I’ve made in my life,” according to a tweet from the ceremony by @VaWineDogs.
The 2009 Octagon won’t be released until August, but Paschina says it will remain priced at $50 despite the accolades. From my recent tasting of a sample, I am confident in saying the 2009 is the best Octagon yet, and I say that as a fan of the wine from the get-go.
In the annual Governor’s Cup judging, held in January, 20 wines received gold medals, up from 13 last year. The top 12 scoring wines will be included in the “Governor’s Case,” to be sent to wine writers throughout the country in an innovative promotion of Virginia’s best wines.
The wines to be included in the Governor’s Case this year include:
Barboursville 2009 Octagon
Cooper Vineyards 2010 Petit Verdot Reserve
King Family Vineyards 2010 Meritage
Lovingston Winery 2009 Josie’s Knoll Estate Reserve
Philip Carter Winery 2010 Cleve (Petit Verdot, Tannat)
Pollak Vineyards 2009 Cabernet Franc Reserve
Potomac Point Vineyard and Winery, 2010 Richland Reserve Heritage
Rappahannock Cellars 2010 Meritage
RdV Vineyards 2010 Lost Mountain
RdV Vineyards 2010 Rendezvous
Sunset Hills Vineyard 2010 Mosaic
Trump Winery 2008 SP Rosé (sparkling)
Coupled with Boordy Vineyards‘ win in last year’s Maryland Governor’s Cup for its 2010 Landmark red, this result shows that the oldest wineries in Maryland and Virginia are still at the top of their game in setting a high quality standard for their thriving wine industries.
I’ll have more on the Governor’s Cup results in my Washington Post wine column next Wednesday. But this isn’t the only recent competition where Virginia wineries have earned some bling. Barrel Oak Winery in Delaplane, Va., won gold medals at the San Francisco Chronicle wine competition for its 2010 Cabernet Franc and Petit Manseng, and silvers for its Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay. And just today, the inappropriately named International Eastern Wine Competition announced that Loudoun County’s Sunset Hills Vineyard took Best of Show: Red for its 2010 Cabernet Franc. Congratulations!