Wine Reviews: Virginia Wine Powers On

Posted by | Posted in Wine Reviews | Posted on 11-11-2017

MoEp9TM27rRAguPkWrkyuts36SPI-Wp2mUPq5WCYQngpX92IBThere are so many high-quality, delicious, diverse wines coming out of Virginia, more so year after year. If you don’t already know this, are you sure you like wine?

I have a complex relationship with Virginia wine, having tasted it for about a decade (and reviewed hundreds of Virginia wines, more than from any other state spare California). I’ve tasted a lot of mediocre but overpriced wines from Virginia, and if you want to talk about crappy Virginia wines, oh man, I’ve tasted so many of them. I also planted my own Chardonnay vineyard on a hillside of my parent’s property in Virginia’s Blue Ridge foothills, south of Charlottesville. Of course, it ended in disaster, and not a vine survived. This is not an easy place to grow grapes, but Virginia terroir is a thing, and winemakers are harnessing it.

If you stick with some tried-and-true producers (Barboursville, Linden, Michael Shaps, Glen Manor, King Family, Veritas, etc., etc.) and keep an open mind to exciting newer producers, you will discover serious and delicious wines, and a thriving wine scene with a lot of excitement and diversity.

With hundreds of wineries, it can be a bit daunting if you’re new to Virginia wines. Luckily, each year, the Commonwealth throws the Virginia Governor’s Cup. It’s a huge wine competition, judged by an experienced and highly-respected panel, and they release a Governor’s Case each year, the top 12 wines from the blind-tastings. I’ve been tasting these wines for five or six years now, and it’s always a fun and enlightening experience, a refresher on what’s going on in Virginia wine country. Some of my favorite Virginia producers don’t submit wines to the competition, but the case that is released each year still represents some of the best Virginia has to offer.

These 12 wines are also a good way to dissect some of the “trends” in Virginia wine. Like the emergence of varietal Petit Verdot wines as serious contenders for best reds in the state (at least that’s what I’ve been thinking lately). The honing and perfecting of Bordeaux red blends, with Merlot and Cabernet Franc continuing to perform with high quality wines. And then there are dry and sweet versions of Petit Manseng (perhaps my favorite grape in Virginia). There is some awesome wine country in the hills and valleys here in Virginia, go check it out.

For more information on the Virginia Governor’s Cup Competition and the case, here’s their site.

I received these wines as trade samples and tasted them all sighted.

2016 Horton Vineyards Viognier - Virginia, Central Virginia, Orange County
SRP: $20
Rich yellow color. Aromas of mango, bruised apple, some spiced tea, honey butter and flowers. Creamy texture with medium-low acidity and a waxy texture, balanced quite well though. Honey, butter and nougat on top of bruised apples and pear, mixed in with some cinnamon, vanilla and floral potpourri. Tasted blind, I’m convinced I would’ve guessed Chardonnay, but this is quite tasty. Includes 6% Petit Manseng. (87 points)

2014 Valley Roads Vineyards Petit Verdot - Virginia, Central Virginia, Monticello
SRP: $37
Deep purple color. Nose shows tart black currants, smoky black cherries, along with pepper, tar, campfire, anise and espresso. Medium+ bodied, the tannic grip is there but fresh acidity makes it silky. Tangy black cherries and currants, delicious, ripe but crunchy, and the fruit is laced with smoky charcoal, anise, coffee, wet soil and asphalt notes. There’s some deep mineral tones underneath, and while the flavors are bold, there’s such a pretty, smooth mouthfeel. I wager this will improve for five to eight years. (89 points)

2014 Ingleside Petit Verdot - Virginia, Chesapeake Bay, Northern Neck
SRP: $38
Rich purple color. Beautiful aromatics of black cherries, roasted plums, currant compote, along with waves of violets, potting soil, leather, spicy clove and coffee – Serious grip to the tannins but the wine is moderated by vibrant acidity, which keeps it balanced with the crunchy blackberry and boysenberry fruit. Lots of leaves, leather, clove and charcoal elements, some violets and pencil shavings as well. Long time ahead for this wine, but very impressive and it really opens up with air. Aged 18 months in French and American oak. (89 points)

2014 Veritas Vineyard Petit Verdot Paul Shaffer 6th Edition – Virginia, Central Virginia, Monticello
SRP: $40
Very dark ruby color. Aromas of spicy pepper, bay leaf, oregano, on top of tart black currants and black cherries. Medium-bodied on the palate with some sturdy grip to the tannins and medium acidity. Tart black currants and black cherries mix well with graphite, charcoal, anise, black pepper, sweet vanilla. Tangy but rich, sturdy but fresh, I like the combination of earthy spice and floral tones on the finish. This has years of improvement but shows well in its youth. Aged 15 months in 45% new oak. (88 points)

2014 King Family Vineyards Petit Verdot - Virginia, Central Virginia, Monticello
SRP: $36
Very deep ruby color. Smells like tart but sweet black currants, laced with cocoa, anise, violets, magic marker, dark chocolate and vanilla. Nice grip on the tannins, vibrant acidity frames the wine, and it’s packed with tangy black cherries, blueberry skins and tart plums. Mix in some smoky charcoal, coffee, graphite, loam, mineral tones, and this is a bright but deep PV with solid aging potential. Aged 21 months in 50% new French oak. (89 points)

2014 Jefferson Vineyards Petit Verdot - Virginia, Central Virginia, Monticello
SRP: $25
Dark ruby color. Smells like crunchy red and black currants, mixed with cola, black pepper, anise and deep earthy tones. Medium+ body with solid tannic bite and refreshing acidity. The black currant and lingonberry jam fruit blends nicely with spiced coffee, charcoal, black licorice, roasted herbs. Great structure for at least five years of improvement, this is tart but deep wine that would both be great with a steak, while the acidity would help this cut through lots of lighter foods. (88 points)

2014 The Barns at Hamilton Station Cabernet Sauvignon - Virginia, Northern Virginia, Loudoun County
SRP: $28
Light purple color. I get aromas of currant jam, raspberries, sweet cola, anise cookies. Surprising tannic grip on the palate with medium acidity. Tart plum and currant fruit mixes with tobacco, earth, charred wood. A bit austere, could use some time to unwind, but a tasty Cabernet. Aged 15 months in French and American oak. (85 points)

2012 Breaux Vineyards Meritage - Virginia, Northern Virginia, Loudoun County
SRP: $48
Medium purple color. Aromas of crushed blackberries, spicy currants, along with tobacco leaf, sage, dusty earth, incense. Grippy tannins mix with vibrant acidity on a medium-bodied frame, accessible but structured well. Black cherries and red/black currants are juicy but showing a little bit of age (in a good way), with more subtlety. The fruit is emblazoned with chewing tobacco, mint, eucalyptus, coffee, some (but not too much) charred wood. I also get some earthy, mineral tones. The fruit will fade before the tannins do but this has time ahead of it for sure. (40% Merlot, 40% Malbec, with Petit Verdot, Cabernet Franc, and Cabernet Sauvignon. (90 points) ilVaOi_5divadmVETd_Tm9WbzHjPZL4871b0EkPAgzIpX92IB

2014 Michael Shaps Meritage - Virginia, Central Virginia, Monticello
SRP: $50
Medium purple color. Aromas show waves of currants and plums, clove and menthol, and a great mix of charcoal, clay soil, violets and anise – wow, these aromas evolve and shift wonderfully with air. Gorgeous balance on the palate with sturdy tannins and crisp acidity, along with fresh but deep black currant, plums and cherry fruit. I love the complex anise, menthol, charcoal, earth and spice rub elements. I also get some cedar/coffee, deep violets. Complex, gorgeous mouthfeel, I love this now but it’ll be stellar in five to eight years. Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot, Malbec and Cabernet Sauvignon, aged 22 months in 50% new French oak. (92 points)

2012 Barboursville Vineyards Paxxito - Virginia, Central Virginia, Orange County
SRP: $32
Golden colored. Rich aromas of glazed apricot, orange marmalade, sweet yellow flowers, honey, some lamp oil – great stuff. Plump texture, richly sweet with a bit of acidity to help keep it together. Orange and apricot jams, glazed yellow apples, juicy and delicious with notes of honey, mint, sweet tea, hints of caramel and floral perfume. Really well-rounded stuff, quite complex, a seriously good Virginia dessert wine. Made from a blend of Moscato Ottonel and Vidal grapes. (88 points)

2014 King Family Vineyards Petit Manseng Loreley - Virginia, Northern Virginia, Blue Ridge Foothills
SRP: $26
Golden orange color. Aromas of peach nectar, honeycomb, floral shampoo and olive oil. Plump and sweet on the palate but some moderating acidity (always nice from this grape), balances it out quite nicely. Creamy pear, apple pie, orange marmalade flavors, backed up by candied ginger, lemon meringue, almond bars and brown sugar. Lovely example of the quality of Petit Manseng dessert wines coming out of Virginia. 10% residual sugar, 13.5% alcohol. (88 points)

2014 Veritas Vineyard Petit Manseng - Virginia, Central Virginia, Monticello
SRP: $27
Deep gold color. Aromas of honey, nougat, sweet yellow raisins, daisies, baked apple tart – really lovely-smelling stuff. Plump texture on the palate with flavors of yellow raisins, yellow plums, honey, sweet tea, graham cracker and cinnamon. The flavors all work so well together, as does the rich texture and sweetness with the bright acidity that is key with this grape in Virginia. A lovely example of a style of dessert wines that I hope more people begin to recognize. 14.2% alcohol. (89 points)

Comments (4)

  1. Isaac: I spent 45 years of my young life in Virginia so I wish them well. Many days picking apples and tasting wine at Linden. But looking at your ratings and prices I see they are not ready to compete with Oregon, Washington, California and probably not New York. Who wants to pay $30-40 for a wine rated 88?

  2. You must try a small Virginia winery from Amherst, VA ( 45 miles south of Charlottesville) up a steep mountain road with spectacular views. Ankida Ridge®. Pinot Noir and Chardonnay and they are to behold.

  3. Dan, I agree – Ankida Ridge is a special place with stunning Pinot and Chardonnay. I don’t believe they submit wines to the Governor’s Cup Awards (not certain), but their wines are some of the most exciting in Virginia, for sure. Cheers!

  4. Bruce,

    I am the owner of a small winery in Humboldt County, CA, about 200 miles north from the SF Bay.

    With all due respect, there are several issues with your post.

    1. There is not a lot of Petit Verdot for less than $30-40 regardless of scores.

    2. While scores are a useful way to understand how well a reviewer liked a wine on a certain day, the points are not part of the wine.

    3. Newer regions and the people who write about them are still, to some degree, searching for a flavor profile. Wines are not judged on a simple scale of taste. Part of what makes a good wine good is that is displays the traits that are “supposed” to be there for a given variety and place.

    4. Part of what makes wine from less established regions worthy is the fact that it is different from the established profile for that grape in other more established regions. It is difficult to award point on these traits,

    As the overall quality of wine available has improved, it is apparent that it is no longer enough for wine to be palatable. Wines which are worthy of our attention are both tasty, and perhaps more important, INTERESTING. It is very difficult to award points for interest, but the text of a review can tell that story. Some of my best/favorite/best selling wines are not my highest score Ing wines. They are my most interesting wines. I’d like to get a sampler of some of these 88-90 pointers and taste them against the same grape from Napa.