If you don’t yet take Virginia wines seriously, step up to the tasting table and get to work. Well-established and up-and-coming wineries are producing all sorts of exciting stuff.
The gold medal award winners of the 2015 Virginia Governor’s Cup are a good place to start. Since 1982, the Governor’s Cup wine competition has been highlighting the best selections from the commonwealth’s diverse array of wines. And as the top 12 wines of the 2015 competition show, Virginia has so much to offer.
One of the common threads in this year’s batch of winners is the preeminence of Merlot in the Meritage blends. When I first started tasting Virginia wines eight years ago or so, it seemed like Cabernet Franc had designs on becoming the red grape of the commonwealth. While Virginia Cabernet Franc can be very good (it certainly adds a lot of spice and savory qualities to many Meritage blends), I’ve been more impressed by how well Merlot performs in Virginia. I was recently chatting with Virginia Wine buff Frank Morgan about what grape variety is the most underrated performer in Virginia, and we agreed: Merlot.
Petit Verdot is also gaining respect, as demonstrated by two of the varietal wines in this batch. And I was excited to taste a delicious Tannat from renowned Virginia winery Michael Shaps and a Touriga from Cross Keys. Virginia is home to some stunning Chardonnay and other white wines, but this year’s winners were dominated by dry reds. A couple dessert wines were included for sweet measure.
If there’s one thing that gives me hesitation about a lot of Virginia wines, it’s an overreliance on new oak. Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate the effect of some new oak on a wine, especially a bold Bordeaux-style blend. But some the nuanced flavor profiles in these wines can be obscured a bit by the toasted oak elements.
That said, many of these Governor’s Cup winners display a uniquely Virginian appeal. And with more and more options from all across the state, there has never been a better time to explore Virginia wine.
These wines were received as trade samples and tasted sighted. Read the rest of this entry »