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2019 Virginia Governor’s Cup Wine Seminar

2019 Virginia Governor’s Cup Case Seminar

Last week we traveled to southwestern Virginia to attend the 2019 Governor’s Cup Wine seminar. The featured event included the top 12 winning wines chosen from some of the larger Virginia wine producers. 

Our travel plans included visiting four boutique wineries in the region. This included Whitebarrel Winery which was also the location of the satellite wine seminar. We also visited Spinning Jenny Vineyard which recently opened in the spring of 2019. Next we stopped at The New River Vineyard and Winery, another small winery that offers a large deck for enjoying a glass of wine. On Monday we enjoyed a personalized wine tasting at JBR Vineyards. The last winery to visit was Whitebarrel Winery where we arrived early to interview the owners before the seminar was to start. Next month we will post online articles about each of these boutique Virginia wineries.

The Virginia Governor’s Cup Competition

The process includes 18 judges. The event takes place for 10 days. Seven judges taste each wine. While judging the wines, the judges knew the grape or wine category. However, they did not have knowledge of the winery producing the wine or the vintage of the wine. 

According to the Virginian Wines website regarding the final round, “Over the course of 3 days, 12 judges assess the highest ranking wines from the preliminary round. Unlike the preliminary round, each judge samples all of the Final Round wines.

Each wine in the Final Round receives a final average score after lowest is dropped. The 12 wines with the highest average score are identified as the “Governor’s Cup Case.”

The wine with the highest overall score is the Governor’s Cup Winner.”

Rating Scale

The scale for the wine judging:

Gold – Outstanding/Classic 90 -100 points
Silver – Very Good 85 – 89 points
Bronze – Good 80 – 84 points


For the 2019 Competition there were 510 entries with 133 entries making it to the final round. Gold medals were awarded to 68 entries; silver medals to 327 entries; bronze medals to 108 entries.

It is interesting to note that Gold medals were awarded to different Virginia wine regions as follows.

Blue Ridge: 1 Gold
Central Va: 40 Gold
Eastern Va: 4 Gold
Northern Va: 19 Gold
Shenandoah Valley: 3 Gold
Southern Va: 1 Gold

It is interesting to contemplate the reasons that might apply to the disparity between the regions. Is it due to the number of wineries in the region, the size of the wineries, the terroir of the regions or the age of the vineyards???

The twelve wines tasted in order of the tasting.

The 12 best Virginia wines in the competition were chosen as the 2019 Virginia Governor’s cup Case Winners. Below is the list of the Case winners and our wine notes about each one we tasted during the seminar.


  • Barboursville 2017 Vermentino Reserve
    Light yellow color
    Aroma of citrus and flowers
    Smooth mouthfeel with notes of citrus, honeysuckle
    Medium/full bodied
    Finish was crisp with some mineral on the after taste
    Price: $22.99
  • 2016 Hamlet Vineyards Eltham
    Blend of Merlot and Petit Verdot
    Color:  Translucent ruby with a very light ruby rim
    Aroma: Black fruits
    Taste: Black berries, black cherries and leather
    Medium-full body, medium tannins
    Finish: Fruity with a bit of oak
    Price: $26
  • 2014 Upper Shirley Zachariah
    Color: Opaque dark ruby with a ruby rim
    Aroma: Black fruits
    Taste: Blackberries, blueberries, some leather and licorice
    Full-bodied, bold tannins
    Finish: Fruity with minimum oak
    Price: $50
  • Glen Manor Vineyards 2015 Cabernet Franc
    Color: Opaque dark ruby with sienna hue
    Aroma Black fruits
    Taste: Blackberries. Leather
    Mouthfeel: silky
    Full bodied, Medium/bold tannins
    Finish: fruity with slight oak
    Price: $35
  • Early Mountain Vineyards 2016 Eluvium
    Blend of Merlot and Petit Verdot
    Color: Translucent dark ruby color with a dark pink hue
    Aroma: Black fruits
    Taste: Blackberries, black plums, black cherries, leather
    Full bodied, Bold tannins
    Finish: fruity with a hint of oak
    Price: $38
  • Paradise Springs Winery 2015 Meritage
    Blend of Petit Verdot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Cabernet Franc
    Color: Translucent ruby
    Aroma: Black fruits
    Taste: Black berry, blueberry, black cherry, leather
    Mouthfeel: Velvety
    Full bodied, bold to medium tannins
    Finish: fruity
    Price: $49
  • King Family Vineyards 2016 Meritage
    Blend of Merlot, Petit Verdot, Cabernet Franc and Malbec
    Color: Translucent dark ruby with a pink rim
    Aroma: Light aroma of black fruits
    Taste: Leather, blackberries, perceived sweetness, plum, black cherry
    Full bodied, bold tannins
    Finish Fruit forward with mild oak influence
    Price: $39.95
  • Michael Shaps 2015 Tannat
    Color: Opaque dark purple to black color with a ruby rim
    Aroma: Black fruits
    Taste: Black berries, black cherries, leather, blueberries
    Full bodied, very bold tannins
    Mouthfeel: Silky
    Finish: Fruit forward
  • King Family Vineyards 2016 Mountain Plains
    Blend of Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot
    Color: Translucent dark ruby
    Aroma: Black fruits
    Taste: Jammy blackberries, blueberries, black cherries, perceived sweetness
    Full bodied, medium to bold tannins
    Mouthfeel: Silky
    Finish: Fruit forward with minimum oak
    Price: $69.95
  • 2016 Michael Shaps Petit Manseng
    Color: Dark yellow
    Aroma: tropical fruits and some oak
    Taste: Pineapple, mango, some citrus
    Full bodied
    Mouthfeel: Velvety
    Finish: fruity
    Price: $32
  • Horton Vineyards 2016 Petit Manseng      Winner of the Governor’s Cup 2019
    Blend: Petit Manseng, Early Pick Viognier, Rkatsiteli
    Color:  Yellow
    Aroma: Tropical fruits and flowers
    Taste: Pineapple, melon, citrus, mineral
    Full bodied
    Mouthfeel: Silky
    Finish: Fruity with different layers at different times. Fruit yields to mineral on the long aftertaste
    Price: $25
  • 2016 Michael Shaps 2016 Raisin d’Etre White
    Blend of Petit Manseng and Roussanne
    Color: Gold
    Aroma: Sweet jammy fruits
    Taste: Sugar, pineapple, jammy apricot jam
    Mouthfeel: Very velvety
    Finish Very fruity, jammy – Delicious
    Price: $25

According to one winemaker and winery owner we met, one of the qualifications for entry into the 2019 Virginia Governor’s Cup Wine Competition was to have 50 cases of the wine with 10 cases submitted to the competition and another 40 cases available for sale. For many boutique wineries that make delicious but small quantities of wine this requirement automatically excludes them from entering wines. Should the Virginia wine industry also offer a wine competition for small wine producing wineries? Maybe so.

Kathy and Terry

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