2019 Virginia Governor’s Cup Tasting

I am super grateful I recently got to taste the Governor’s Cup case at James River Cellars. Since I work there, they had us taste for an educational experience after the Virginia Wine Association hosted a tasting at JRC. Out of all the wineries in the case, I have only not visited three!

This year there were 510 entries while 133 wines advanced to the final round. There were 68 Gold (90-100 points), 327 Silver (85-89 points), and 108 Bronze (80-84 points). 68% of the gold medal winners were red wines, specifically red blends. Let’s take a look at this years case!

2019 Virginia Governor’s Cup Case Winners:

Barboursville Vineyards 2017 Vermentino Reserve – 100% Vermentino. It had a floral aroma with a nice dry finish. Think of this as a Sauv Blanc or Pino Grigio. I really enjoyed this one and would have loved a glass!

Virginia Wine Works 2016 Hamlet Vineyards Eltham – 50% Merlot, 50% Petit Verdot. This was a bold wine. The Petit Verdot gave it some pepper notes while the Merlot gave it some jammy notes. I am not a big Petit Verdot lover but I am a Merlot girl, this had a nice balance of both!

Virginia Wine Works 2014 Upper Shirley Zachariah – 46% Merlot, 31% Petit Verdot, 15% Malbec and 8% Tannat. To me this was a big bold red. I got a lot of oak ~ vanilla and spice and well as plum and berry. This is not a blend I would typically pick up. I am not very familiar with Tannat and since this is not a noble grape this is not considered a Bordeaux blend.

Glen Manor Vineyards 2015 Cabernet Franc – 100% Cabernet Franc. This was a very soft Cab Franc. It was comparable to a Pinot Nior. I really enjoyed how light this wine was ~ it did not taste like your typical Cabernet Franc!

Early Mountain Vineyards 2016 Early Mountain Vineyards Eluvium – 56% Merlot, 44% Petit Verdot. This had a very nice berry aroma with a soft smooth finish. This was one of my favorites! While I tasted, I compared this to Hamlet Vineyards Eltham since it was also a Merlot and Petit Verdot blend. Since it had a bit more Merlot I picked up more fruit ~ I love a fruit forward wine!

Paradise Springs Winery 2015 Meritage – 34% Petit Verdot, 24% Cabernet Sauvignon, 22% Merlot, and 20% Cabernet Franc. To me this was very berry forward and jammy. They use their best barrels and four of the noble grapes to make this great wine. This was another one of my favorites!

King Family Vineyards 2015 Meritage – 43% Merlot, 20% Petit Verdot, 31% Cabernet Franc, and 6% Malbec. I did not enjoy the aroma ~ it was a bit floral for a red wine. There were layered flavors of fruit with oak spice.

Virginia Wine Works 2015 Michael Shaps Tannat – 100% Tannat. This was a heavy tannic red. It had an after taste that I did not enjoy. I got a lot of earthy flavors. This is a wine I would definitely have to pair with a meal!

King Family Vineyards 2016 Mountian Plains – 36% Merlot, 35% Cabernet Franc, 29% Petit Verdot. This was the most expensive wine in the case at $70. This was the second King Family wine and it too had a weird aroma to me. This was a full bodied wine that would age well.

Virginia Wine Works 2016 Michael Shaps Petit Manseng – 100% Petit Manseng. This smelled a lot like pineapple. I also got a hint of yams. This was buttery which threw me off, I love clean, crisp whites. This was aged for a year in French Oak.

Horton Vineyards 2016 Petit Manseng – 90% Petit Manseng, 5% Early Pick Viognier, 5% Rkatsiteli. This won the Governor Cup Case! Typically, reds rain supreme at the Governors Cup. It was very surprising that a white wine won. This had an amazing aroma, it was smooth and finished like a red. I preferred this Petit Manseng over the Michael Shaps Petit Manseng. It was a bit more crisp and acidic.

Virginia Wine Works 2016 Michael Shaps Raisin d’Etre White – 73% Petit Manseng, 27% Roussanne. This is a dessert style wine. I LOVED it… I typically do not like sweet wines but this was lovely. This wine is comprised of Petit Manseng that had been dried out in tobacco barns. While the grapes were drying out, the sugar increased ~ this essentially turned the grapes to raisins, which gave the wine its name. It tasted like candied fruit with a nice finish.

Again, I am so grateful for this amazing experience. Moments like these made me want to become involved in the wine industry and I love and cherish those moments so much. It is more than the wine, it is all about the work and love that goes into each bottle.

Cheers, Paige


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