Wine Reviews: Virginia Governor’s Cup Wines

Posted by | Posted in Wine Reviews | Posted on 06-02-2018

For the past few years, I’ve had the pleasure of tasting through the top wines from the Virginia Governor’s Cup Competition. Each year, a group of esteemed judges (led by MW Jay Youmans) taste through hundreds of different Virginia wines, poring through for the best.

To enter, the wine must be produced from 100% Virginia grapes, and this year, more than 440 wines were entered into the competition. The top 12 are gathered into a case as an example of what Virginia has to offer the wine world.

Among the 2018 winners, I was quite impressed by two Bordeaux-variety-based reds from The Barns at Hamilton Station. I hadn’t heard of this winery, but was wowed, and pleased to learn the wines were made by iconic Virginia winemaker Michael Shaps. Like last year, Petit Verdot again makes a serious impression, both as a varietal wine and a blending grape.

Two Viogniers (the 2015 and the 2016) from Virginia really stand out as pure, vibrant, exciting Virginia examples of this grape. And, as usual, some dessert wines wowed the judges and tempted my sweet tooth.

My notes on the top 12 wines are below. These wines were received as samples and tasted sighted.

2015 Jefferson Vineyards Viognier- Virginia
SRP: $35
Pale yellow color. Nose of white peaches, guava, lime, with floral perfume, dandelion, hints of chalky mineral notes. Medium-bodied with crisp acidity, plush texture yet lively throughout.  Lemon curd, apricot, white peach, lime, the fruit is mixed in with lemon verbena, peach blossom, floral tea. Complex yet so fresh it goes down easily. Impressive stuff.  Includes a combined 9% of Chardonnay, Petit Manseng and Riesling. (89 points)

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SRP: $30
Pale yellow color. Aromas of white peaches, lime, pineapple, there’s a bright mix of white and yellow flowers with notes of honeycomb and raw almond. Complex textural depth, plush texture but the acidity is crisp, and the balance is lovely. Tart lemon and lime, drizzled on papaya and white peaches, the fruit is laced with notes of chalk dust, white flowers, crushed shells, spiced floral tea. Delicious, just a bit more for me than the 2015, but they’re both excellent. Includes 8% Petit Manseng and 2% Chardonnay. (90 points)

2016 Potomac Point Vineyard & Winery Cabernet Franc- Virginia, Central Virginia
SRP: $43
Light purple color. Lots of tobacco, soy, roasted herbs and tobacco on the nose, with tart red and black cherries. Full-bodied (14.5%) with fleshy tannins, fresh acid, and a core of tart black cherries and plums. Rich, velvety fruit, topped in tobacco leaf, cedar, pencil lead, coffee. Accessible now or hold for a few years. Includes 10% Merlot, the wine is aged 15 months in a mix of new and second-fill French oak. (89 points)

2016 Keswick Vineyards Cabernet Franc Estate Reserve- Virginia, Central Virginia, Monticello
SRP: $55
Light purple color. Rich aromas, mixing black and red currants and cherries, with roasted coffee, sage, tobacco, grilled herbs – lots of complexity in here. Structured tannins on the palate with crisp, lip-smacking acidity, balanced so well with tart red and black currants and plums. Notes of smoky charcoal, anise, black pepper, some olive and leather. Such an impressive Virginia Cab Franc from an excellent producer, this could be cellared for at least a few years, but accessible now. Includes 7% Cabernet and 2% Petit Verdot. (91 points)

2014 The Barns at Hamilton Station Meritage- Virginia
SRP: $42
Light purple color. Tart red and black currants on the nose, with sage, bell pepper, violets and tobacco. Plush tannins on the palate, but structured, with refreshing acidity. Ripe but tart fruit (red and black currants and cherries). Notes of violets, black pepper, cocoa, mushroom, spicy cedar. A tart, earthy, complex mix of Petit Verdot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, and Malbec, aged 18 months in 50% new French oak. (89 points)

2014 King Family Vineyards Meritage- Virginia, Central Virginia, Monticello
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SRP: $70
Deep purple color. Boastful fruit on the nose but fresh and tart (black cherry, plums, red currants), with cocoa, eucalyptus, spiced black tea, vanilla, lots of complexity. Crisp acid frames the palate, structured tannins provide support, and I get lots of tart black cherries and plums. Complex notes of pencil shavings, black pepper, smoky charcoal, grilled herbs. Pure, vibrant, long way to go, but this is beautiful. Merlot with 23% Petit Verdot, 12% Cabernet Franc, 6% Malbec, aged 18 months in 50% new French oak. (91 points)

2015 The Barns at Hamilton Station Petit Verdot- Virginia
SPR: $38
Deep purple color. Dark and rich aromas of roasted blackberries, dark plums, charcoal, violets, roasted coffee, violets, black pepper. Bright acidity draws you in on the palate while strong tannins provide grip. Dark and tangy currants and plums, violets, coffee, charcoal, with notes of roasted herbs and iron, black pepper. Some cedar and anise lingers on the finish. This is a serious Petit Verdot that has real aging potential. Aged 20 months in French oak. (90 points)

2015 North Gate Vineyard Petit Verdot- Virginia, Northern Virginia, Loudoun County
SRP: $32
Medium purple color. Nose of black cherries, plum cake, tart black currant, with anise, iron, black tea, graphite. On the palate, this shows fresh acidity, the tannic backbone frames the wine well, and there is a lot of tart black currant, smoky blackberries, the balance between the different elements is impressive. Notes of anise, spiced black tea, clove, black pepper, smoky-charcoal. This will age quite nicely for a while, but it’s also accessible in youth. Includes 5% Merlot. (89 points)

2015 Veritas Vineyard Petit Verdot Paul Shaffer 7th Edition - Virginia, Central Virginia, Monticello
SRP: $40
Rich purple color. Deep, big aromas of concentrated blackberries, tart cassis, with eucalyptus, mint, magic marker and some woody-cedar notes. Concentrated and young on the palate with stiff tannins (serious grip) and medium acidity. Blackberry fruit, plum skin, tart cassis, with complex notes of incense sticks, eucalyptus, graphite, anise. This needs a long time in the cellar but the quality is obvious. Includes 10% Merlot, aged 16 months in 20% new French oak. (90 points)

2015 Early Mountain Vineyards Eluvium- Virginia, Central Virginia, Madison County
SRP: $38
Light purple color. Oh wow, on the nose this is something: rich black cherry, cassis, red currant, some charcoal, pencil lead, tobacco smoke, eucalyptus, cedar. On the palate, medium acidity, firm but not harsh tannins, the fruit is juicy and ripe but equally tart (blackberry, tart currant), and mixed with pencil led, pine forest, mint, cedar and coffee grounds. This is downright gorgeous, it’ll be so long-lived but not too brutish in youth. 82% Merlot and 17% Petit Verdot. (91 points)

2014 Barboursville Vineyards Paxxito- Virginia
SRP: $32/375ml
Rich orange color. Gorgeous aromatics of apricot jam, orange marmalade, spiced tea, yellow raisins. The palate is rich and plush and honeyed, but acidity keeps it fresh. Orange marmalade, spiced tea, honeycomb, almond, graham cracker, a hint of floral olive oil. So luscious and sweet yet fresh and spicy. 50% Moscato Ottonel and 50% Vidal. 13.8% alcohol, 14% residual sugar. (90 points)

2015 CrossKeys Ali d’Oro- Virginia, Shenandoah Valley
SRP: $30/375ml
Bold golden color. Aromas of orange marmalade, candied apple, apricot jam, with notes of honeyed white tea, candied ginger, almond. Juicy and ripe and plenty sweet but the acidity is moderating in a sense. Apricot and orange jams with glazed peaches, honey and sweet guava nectar. Pure, fruity and fun. A blend of 50% Tranimette and 50% Vidal Blanc, residual sugar about 24%, alcohol 10%. (87 points)

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