Lessons from the Virginia Governor’s Case

This year’s Virginia Governor’s Cup was awarded last Thursday to The Williamsburg Winery for its 2010 Adagio, a Bordeaux-style red blend. And once again, the results of the competition show that Virginia wine’s strength lies with these blended wines rather than single-varietal wines such as Cabernet Franc. Frank Morgan has the view from the awards ceremony over on Drink What YOU Like.

The Governor’s Case, the top 12 scoring wines in the competition set aside to showcase what the Old Dominion is accomplishing in its vineyards, includes seven Bordeaux blends. No Cab Francs, once touted as Virginia’s most promising red grape, made the final 12, which included two Tannats, a Nebbiolo, a Chardonnay, and a dessert blend of Moscato Ottonel and Vidal. Here’s the list, in alphabetical order, courtesy of the Virginia Wine Marketing Board:

  • Barboursville Vineyard – 2008 Malvaxia Passito
  • Barboursville Vineyard – 2010 Nebbiolo Reserve
  • Barboursville Vineyard – 2010 Octagon
  • Barren Ridge Vineyard – 2009 Meritage
  • Fabbioli Cellars – 2011 Tannat
  • Horton Vineyards – 2010 Tannat
  • King Family Vineyards – 2011 Meritage
  • North Gate Vineyard – 2011 Meritage
  • Rockbridge Vineyard – 2008 Meritage, DeChiel Reserve, unfiltered
  • Sunset Hills Vineyard – 2010 Mosaic
  • The Williamsburg Winery – 2010 Adagio (CUP WINNER)
  • Two Twisted Post Winery – 2012 Chardonnay

Eight other wines garnered gold medals – meaning they attained an average of at least 90 points from the 15 judges evaluating the final round, but they were not in the top 12. These were:

  • Afton Mountain Vyds – 2012 Festa di Bacco
  • Cedar Creek Winery – 2011 Cabernet Franc
  • Cobbler Mountain Cellars – 2011 Meritage
  • Fabbioli Cellars – 2011 Tre Sorelle
  • Jefferson Vineyards – 2010 Estate Reserve
  • Jefferson Vineyards – 2010 Meritage
  • Pearmund Cellars – 2010 Ameritage
  • Veritas – 2012 Viognier

The Fabbioli, Cobbler Mountain, the two Jeffersons and the Pearmund are all Bordeaux-style blends, while the Afton Mountain Festa di Bacco is a blend based on Sangiovese. Veritas, my perennial favorite Viognier, is the lone gold medalist for Virginia’s signature white grape.

Some observations about this list of top wines, beyond the prevalence of Bordeaux blends:

  • What can we say about Barboursville scoring three of the top 12 spots? Luca Paschina is Virginia’s premier winemaker, at the helm of a winery that has found the magic combination of commercial and critical success.
  • Tannat may be a new star for Virginia wine. Look for more plantings, though it would be interesting to see it play a role in more of the state’s blends too.
  • Astute observers will note that the Sunset Hills 2010 Mosaic was also in last year’s Governor’s Case. It repeated this year because there is no competition restriction about re-entering previous winners. Its double success proves its quality, but also suggests that being in the Governor’s Case does not automatically sell out a wine.
  • Note the number of winners that are from 2011, supposedly a horrific vintage. (Well, it certainly was a horrific harvest, with constant rain throughout September and early October.) The number of 2011s represented here suggests that the quality of winemaking throughout Virginia has dramatically improved, and that her winemakers are able to cope with whatever Mother Nature throws their way.
  • The lack of white wines reflects an inherent bias in the timing of the competition. Most 2012s are sold out, while 2013s haven’t been released yet. (The initial judging of more than 430 entries was held in early January, with the final round of 130 in early February. I was a judge in the final round.) To give equal opportunity to whites, the Virginia Wineries Association may want to consider holding the judging at a different time of year.

About Dave McIntyre

Wine columnist for The Washington Post, co-founder of DrinkLocalWine.com, and blogger at Dave McIntyre's WineLine (dmwineline.com).
This entry was posted in Cabernet Franc, Competitions, Eastern US, Virginia, Wine and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to Lessons from the Virginia Governor’s Case

  1. Pingback: Terroirist: A Daily Wine Blog » Daily Wine News: Loyal Service

  2. Thank you for the mention and link, Dave. Much appreciated. Second your thoughts about the Gov Cup results. Will admit that I was surprised to see the 2010 Mosaic in the competition again this year. Not because it doesn’t deserve gold – on the contrary, Mosaic is an excellent wine made by one of the Virginia’s most talented young vintners. Instead, I was surprised more so by the fact that the wine didn’t sell out after placing in the Governor’s Case last year. I assumed – incorrectly, obviously – that earning a spot in the Governor’s Case guaranteed that resulting consumer demand would (far) exceed supply. Not so much.

    To me, this as surprising as seeing 2011 so well represented, and much more surprising that only one white wine placed in the Case.

  3. Kurt Jensen says:

    Dave, you missed Cobbler Mountain’s gold medal. Their 2011 Meritage also won a gold medal this year. Did you notice that the Rockbridge 2008 Meritage won a silver medal in last year’s competition?

    • Kurt – You are right, and I apologize to readers and to the good folks at Cobbler Mountain. The article above has been edited to reflect their achievement.

      Thanks for pointing it out.


  4. Bob Garsson says:

    Dave, thought you were spot on in observing that blended wines are the strength of the Virginia wine industry. But on your point about Cab Franc — “No Cab Francs, once touted as Virginia’s most promising red grape, made the final 12,” — I’d point out that Adiago is 42 percent Cab Franc (and Petit Verdot, another promising Virginia grape often made as a varietal, accounted for another 28 percent), suggesting that Cab Franc’s promise may be realized in Virginia’s Bordeaux-style blends.

    Your point about whites is also right on. Virginia makes world-class Viogniers, for example, and it’s a shame not to have more of them in the competition. I think Veritas does an especially good job with Viognier.

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