Virginia Wine Governor’s Cup 2020

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This year’s Virginia Governor’s Cup Gala was celebrated at the newly renovated Richmond Main Street Train Station which gave the feel of elegance and history! The last time I was at a train station, I was running through to catch my train before it left without me! But this was an evening of excitement and camaraderie and was to be taken at a delightfully slower pace. So besides a bit of fast walking to get into the wine event, everything else was relaxed, casual, and social. The excitement was having all of this year’s Virginia gold medal wines, wineries, and winemakers here in one place to taste each others “nectar of the gods” and discuss some of their tips and secrets to making an excellent gold medal Virginia wine! Over 530 wines were entered in the competition in which 64 received gold medals. Twelve of these wines will be in the Governor’s Cup Case and only one of those will be named as Virginia’s Governor’s Cup winner for 2020. These wines must ALL be certified to be 100% Virginia grown grapes to enter the competition along with vineyard locations, grower names, and all the wine making particulars. Around 20 experienced wine judges tasted and evaluated each wine to decide which wines were of gold medal caliber. Wine experts like Steven Spurrier (British wine expert from the Paris Wine Tasting of 1976), Richard Leahy (author of the Virginia wine book “Beyond Jefferson’s Vines), Dave McIntyre (wine columnist from the Washington Post), and many other professionals experienced in the wine world judged the wines using their best deduction skills. With “wine tasting athletes” like these, you know they will find the great wines so you can enjoy the fruits of their labor straight away! Out of the 64 gold medal winners, 49 were red wines and 15 were white wines. Some wineries received more than one gold medal for their wines. Viognier is Virginia’s State Grape but only two Viognier wines walked away with a gold medal this year.

And great wines are always paired with wonderful foods and Mosaic Catering from Richmond, Virginia made that happen in many delectable ways! Truffle Mac & Cheese, Pecorino Meatballs, an elaborate veggie and dip tray, and a plethora of exquisite desserts were just some of the amazing foods there. 

It would have been quite the challenge for me to taste all 64 amazing gold medal wines and written about them all! I was able to taste about 1/4 of the gold medalists that night and the rest I will have to taste when I visit those wineries through the next few months. The wines and wineries I did enjoy are listed below:

Pollak Vineyards from Crozet, Virginia won five gold medals for 2020 which is an amazing feat! All five wines were red wines which were rich, bold, and elegant but I really was enticed by the 2017 Cabernet Franc Reserve and the 2017 Smuggler red blend. The Cabernet Franc Reserve was bursting with dark berry fruit, tobacco, and spice! The Smuggler is a red blend of Merlot, Cabernet Franc, and Cabernet Sauvignon, full bodied with seductive flavors of black raspberry, ripe dark berry, graphite and a long, lush, velvety finish.

Narmada Winery from Amissville, Virginia is in the middle of the “greenbelt” north of Culpeper and south of Front Royal. Winemaker Dr. Sudha Patil has a fantastic palate and with her degree in chemistry, Sudha is producing some wonderful, elegant gold medal wines! Their gold medal 2017 Chardonel Reserve is a a medium bodied wine that is bright and vibrant with an abundance of citrus, apricot, and tropical fruit flavors. Stock up and be ready to sip this Chardonel with your feet in the sand!

Cunningham Creek Winery is at the southeastern end of the Monticello AVA and is a farm/vineyard that is child and dog friendly. They have a wonderful selection of drier style red and white wines to spoil your taste buds with and a sweeter style white wine or port for dessert! The Deal family bought “the farm” in 2011 and have been growing glorious grapes ever since! The gold medal 2017 Herd Dog Red is 100% Cabernet Franc that boasts flavors of ripe plum, dark forest berry, herbs, white pepper spice, and a long, flirtatious finish.

Zephaniah Farm Vineyard is located just outside of historic Leesburg in northern Virginia and the vineyard was named after the winemaker’s great grandfather Zephaniah Jefferson Hatch. It is still family owned and operated and tastings are held in the original home built in 1819 and the new timber framed barn. The gold medal winner here is the 2017 Friendship red blend which is 50/50 Merlot and Petit Verdot. Flavors of ripe plum, black cherry, bakers spices, and an attractive, juicy finish.

Keswick Vineyards in the Monticello AVA has been here before and was the Governor’s Cup winner in 2016 with their 2014 Cabernet Franc Estate Reserve. And with Stephen Barnard at the wine making helm, there is bound to be more medals to come! Keswick Vineyards was awarded two gold medals this year for their Cabernet Sauvignon Estate Reserve 2016 and the Les Vents d’Anges 2018 Viognier. The Cabernet Sauvignon is full bodied and wonderfully balanced with complex layers of dark fruits, blackberries, dark chocolate, exotic spices, and a long, elegant finish. The LVA Viognier was very rich and lush with intoxicating flavors of citrus, dried apricot, honey, and bakers spices.

Rosemont Of Virginia Winery is only 1.5 miles from Lake Gaston which is near the North Carolina border and is considered Virginia’s most southern winery. A beautiful area to enjoy some beautiful wines! The Cabernet Franc 2017 won a gold medal this year and the wonderful flavors exhibit why. This Cabernet Franc exudes flavors of ripe plum, black raspberry, leather, with hints of espresso on the long finish. Rosemont Winery is owned by the Rose family who were a delight to talk to and their winemaker son Justin Rose won the 2020 Virginia Wine Person of the Year!

Jefferson Vineyards is located near Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello house and is also the site to one of Virginia’s original vineyards. Thomas Jefferson and Philip Mazzei chose this exact same vineyard site almost 250 years ago and it is where the current vineyard is today. Gold medals were awarded to two of Jefferson Vineyards wines this year and were the 2017 Meritage and to Jefferson’s Own Estate Reserve Red Wine 2017. The Meritage is a Bordeaux blend primarily of Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon. Vibrant flavors of ripe cherry, red currant, and hints of white pepper on the finish. Jefferson’s Own Estate Reserve Red indulges you with rich black raspberry, tobacco, savory herbs, and tea leading to a lovely, refined oak finish.

Breaux Vineyards in Loudon County is a 404 acre estate with 104 acres under vine with heavenly, picturesque views of the Blue Ridge Mountains. With beautiful wedding and event spaces, Breaux Vineyards could be one of your new favorite wineries in Virginia! The Nebbiolo 2015 and the Merlot 2016 were this year’s gold medal winners for Breaux and both are elegant and charismatic. The Nebbiolo grape is an Italian grape that dates back to the 7th century but you may be more familiar with it as the grape that makes Barolo wine. This Nebbiolo is rustic in style with sophisticated red fruit flavors and hints of leather, cherry pit, earth, and savvy baking spices. The Merlot 2016 is medium bodied with eloquent flavors of cherry, figs, tobacco, spices, leading to a grippy, toasty oak finish.

Barboursville Vineyards has the wonderful convenience of being in the middle of the Monticello Wine Trail and can be easily accessible no matter how you plan your wine day near Charlottesville. This is another winery that has bragging rights to several gold medals over the years thanks to the incredibly experienced winemaker Luca Paschina. The Octagon red blend is almost an assured medal winner each year and this year is no different. The Barboursville Octagon won two gold medals for its Octagon 2014 and the Octagon 2017. The Octagon is always a prestigious Bordeaux blend produced from estate grapes with a wonderful balance of dark fruit, herb, and spice flavors. A third gold medal was presented to the winery for their Vermentino Reserve 2018. Indigenous to southern Italy and Sardinia, this Virginia grown Vermentino is dry in style and has bright flavors of citrus, starfruit, hints of pineapple and refreshing minerality on the finish.

CrossKeys Vineyards is smack-dab in the heart of Shenandoah Valley with a pristine view of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Just as pristine as the view is the Tuscan influenced winery, onsite gourmet bistro, rolling vineyards, and award winning wine! Family owned since 1999, CrossKeys has won 107 awards for their wines since 2008. They received a gold medal this year for their sweet dessert wine Ali d’Oro 2016. Ali d’Oro is a blend of Vidal Blanc and Traminette with luscious flavors of orange marmalade, sweet mango, and hints of rich honey.

Michael Shaps Wineworks is a winemakers dream with all the facilities you would need to produce great wines! Michael Shaps has a winery/tasting room about 10 miles south of Charlottesville and a 2nd tasting room in Charlottesville called Wineworks Extended. Mr Shaps has several vineyards around the state that he uses to make his Virginia wines and also a winery in Burgundy, France to produce wines under his French label of Maison Shaps. This year, his Virginia wines received seven gold medals which was the most awarded to any one winery in 2020. The two wines we sampled were the Petit Verdot 2017 and the L. Scott 2017. The Petit Verdot is a rich and concentrated red wine layered with dark berry, leather, earth, and herb flavors with a tight, oak finish. L. Scott red blend is in dedication to his oldest brother Scott who lost his 10 year battle with ALS. 10% of each bottle sold is donated to Project ALS. The L. Scott is a full bodied red wine that is predominately Tannat and Malbec which displays robust flavors of blackberry, currant, dark chocolate, and oak leading to a complex, tannic finish.

Fifty-Third Winery and Vineyards is conveniently located between Richmond and Charlottesville, Virginia and is part of the Heart of Virginia Wine Trail. The winery estate has 103 acres with 22 acres under vine with varietals like Albarino, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot, and Viognier planted among the rolling hills. The tasting room is very modern with wonderful indoor and outdoor space for you to enjoy their great wines! A gold medal was received here for the Viognier 2018 which has intoxicating flavors of tangerine, bright pear, honeysuckle, and a long, vibrant finish.

Lake Anna Winery won three gold medals and it’s the only winery to win a gold medal for their Chardonnay. Being so close to Lake Anna State Park and the lake’s boating, beach, and recreational facilities keeps Lake Anna Winery busy most of the year. Of course, wine lovers make their way to the winery too to enjoy some great wine and hospitality! We did not sample the gold medal winning Petit Verdot 2017, but we did taste the Chardonnay 2018 and the Tannat 2017. The Chardonnay was perfectly balanced between lush tropical fruit flavors and its light oak finish. Bright acidity with pineapple, citrus, mango, and just hints of oak. The Tannat 2017 was full bodied, smooth, with flavors of rich dark berry, blueberry pie, spice, and a long, velvety finish.

After getting acquainted with some of Virginia’s gold medal wines, everyone commenced to the banquet hall for the Awards Presentation. These awards are for individuals who went above and beyond for their service to the Virginia wine industry:

George Hodson, VWA President, announced the Wine Person of the Year as Justin Rose from Rosemont of Virginia Winery for his service to the wine industry. Justin was also celebrated for his achievements as the past president now directed by George Hodson.

The George Murchie Lifetime Achievement Award is presented to the individual for their long time service to the Virginia wine industry and this award was graciously accepted by Randy Phillips of Cave Ridge Vineyard.

The David King Advocate of the Year Award is presented to the person who is an ardent and constant advocate for the Virginia Wine Industry. This new award is in honor of David King of the King Family Winery for his meticulous hard work and love for the growth of the Virginia Wine Industry. David King’s sons Carrington, James, and Stuart took the stage to present this award to George Hodson, VWA President, for his meritorious service to the Virginia Wine Industry.

The pinnacle of the evening is when Honorable Governor Ralph Northam took the stage with the winemakers of each wine in the Governor’s Case for the much anticipated announcement of the Governor’s Cup winning wine! Governor Northam was very hopeful to become a Wine Tasting Judge for next years cup in 2021 and made sure we all gave him consideration of his dream. The 12 winning wines in the Governor’s Case for 2020 are:

868 Estate Vineyards 2017 Vidal Blanc Passit: Afton Mountain Vineyards 2017 Tradition: Barboursville Vineyards 2014 Octagon:      Barboursville Vineyards 2018 Vermentino Reserve: Delaplane Cellars 2017 Williams Gap: Lake Anna Winery 2017 Tannat: Michael Shaps 2016 Meritage: Pollak Vineyards 2017 Cabernet Franc Reserve: Pollak Vineyards 2017 Smuggler: Rockbridge Vineyard 2017 Vd’Or:              Shenandoah Vineyards 2017 Shenandoah Reserve Red: Pippin Hill Farm and Vineyards  2017 Petit Verdot

Honorable Governor Ralph Northam finally pulled out the sealed envelope, opened it, and announced that the winning wine of the Governor’s Cup of 2020 is the 2017 Vidal Blanc Passito from 868 Estate Vineyards! This is a beautifully woven white dessert wine with heavenly flavors of ripe Mandarin oranges, lush apricot, and hints of honey leading to a rich, luxuriant finish. Fruit sweetness and finesse! This is the first dessert style wine to win the Virginia Governor’s Cup in 15 years. And also the first time that the Governor’s Cup Winner was 100% grown and produced in Loudon County, Virginia. Winemaker Carl DiManno accepted the award on behalf of 868 Estate Vineyards and was truly ecstatic!

Everyone headed back to the tasting room for their last chance to sip a few remaining gold medal wines and celebrate a fun and successful Governor’s Cup Gala event. We would like to sincerely congratulate 868 Estate Vineyards for winning the Virginia Governor’s Cup for 2020 and for all the gold medal wineries and talented winemakers who make Virginia such a fantastic wine producing state! This amazing evening was all blended together in partnership with the Virginia Wineries Association (VWA), Virginia Wine (, and the Virginia Vineyards Association (VVA) and we thank you for your hard work in putting together such a fantastic event! We will see you next year for the Virginia Governor’s Cup Competition in 2021.

Below is the list of all of the Virginia Governor’s Cup Gold Medal winners for 2020. The wineries and wines in BOLD were part of the 12 wines in the Governor’s Cup Case:

2020 Governor’s Cup Gold Medalists

  • 868 Estate Vineyards – Vidal Blanc 2017
  • Afton Mountain Vineyards – Tradition 2017
  • Barboursville Vineyards – Octagon 2014
  • Barboursville Vineyards – Vermentino Reserve 2018
  • Barboursville Vineyards – Octagon 2017
  • Bluestone Vineyard – Blue Ice 2015
  • Breaux Vineyards – Nebbiolo 2015
  • Breaux Vineyards – Merlot 2016
  • Cardinal Point Winery – Clay Hill Cabernet Franc 2017
  • Chester Gap Cellars – Cabernet Franc 2017
  • Chisholm Vineyards – Cabernet Sauvignon 2016
  • Chestnut Oak Vineyard – Chestnut One 2017
  • CrossKeys Vineyards – Ali d’Oro 2016
  • Cunningham Creek Winery – Herd Dog Red 2017
  • Delaplane Cellars – Williams Gap 2017
  • Delaplane Cellars – Rusticity 2017
  • DuCard Vineyards – Petit Verdot 2017
  • DuCard Vineyards – C’est Trop 2017
  • Early Mountain – Petit Manseng 2018
  • Early Mountain – Shenandoah Springs Cabernet Franc 2017
  • Fifty-Third Winery and Vineyard – Viognier, Monticello AVA 2018
  • Glen Manor Vineyards – Hodder Hill 2015
  • Greenhill Vineyards – Mythology 2016
  • Hamlet Vineyards – Eltham 2017
  • Hark Vineyards – Merlot 2017
  • Honah Lee Vineyard – Petit Manseng 2017
  • Jefferson Vineyards – Meritage 2017
  • Jefferson Vineyards – Jefferson’s Own Estate Reserve Red 2017
  • Keswick Vineyards – Les Vents d’Anges 2018
  • Keswick Vineyards – Cabernet Sauvignon Estate Reserve 2016
  • King Family Vineyards – Loreley 2017
  • King Family Vineyards – Mountain Plains Red 2017
  • Lake Anna Winery – Tannat 2017
  • Lake Anna Winery – Chardonnay 2018
  • Lake Anna Winery – Petit Verdot 2017
  • Lost Creek Winery – Cabernet Franc 2017
  • Michael Shaps – Meritage 2016
  • Michael Shaps – L. Scott 2017
  • Michael Shaps – Petit Verdot 2017
  • Michael Shaps – Cabernet Franc 2017
  • Michael Shaps – Raisin d’Etre Blanc 2016
  • Michael Shaps – Meritage 2017
  • Michael Shaps – Petit Manseng 2018
  • Muse Vineyards – Cabernet Franc 2015
  • Narmada Winery – Chardonel Reserve 2017
  • Paradise Springs Winery – The Moment 2016
  • Pippin Hill Farm & Vineyards – Petit Verdot 2017
  • Pippin Hill Farm & Vineyards – Wild Common Reserve 2017
  • Pippin Hill Farm & Vineyards – Easton Blue 2016
  • Pollak Vineyards – Cabernet Franc Reserve 2017
  • Pollak Vineyards – Smuggler 2017
  • Pollak Vineyards – Cabernet Franc 2017
  • Pollak Vineyards – Cabernet Sauvignon 2017
  • Pollak Vineyards – Meritage 2017
  • Potomac Point winery – Petit Verdot 2017
  • Rockbridge Vineyard – V d’Or 2017
  • Rosemont Vineyards – Cabernet Franc 2017
  • Shenandoah Vineyards – Shenandoah Reserve Red 2017
  • Sunset Hills Vineyard – Mosaic 2017
  • The Barns at Hamilton Station Vineyards – Meritage 2017
  • Trump Winery – Blanc de Blanc 2014
  • Trump Winery – Cabernet Sauvignon 2017
  • Winery 32 – Thoroughbred Blend 2016
  • Zephaniah Farm Vineyard – Friendship 2017






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