Virginia Governor’s Cup Wrap Up

A compilation of all Gold Medal and Governors Case winners in the Virginia Governor’s Cup, 2012-2021.

Blends are listed when the composition is known.

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The Virginia Winery Roster

In 2015-ish I decided I wanted to visit every winery in the state. Since this effort required a lot of note-taking, I made an excel spreadsheet of every winery, cidery, and meadery in the state.

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As of late February 2021, I count 252 wineries, 28 cideries, and 11 meaderies, plus 16 wine producers that lack tasting rooms. I rename the spreadsheet according to the current date every time I update it. Because of this, check back periodically as I make new edits all the time.

Also, deciding what qualifies as a ‘Virginia winery’ is harder than it seems. Some wineries don’t have tasting rooms; others are so rarely open that it makes visiting them nearly impossible. Some ‘wineries’ are really just tasting rooms for wine made elsewhere in the state. Others are companies that only sell retail. A few businesses make wine but don’t use Virginia grapes, leading to me to wonder if they even qualify as a ‘Virginia winery’.

For the sake of maximum accuracy, I listed every winery, cidery, and meadery I could find in Virginia, even those which lack tasting rooms or are more of a wine distribution company.

  1. If a location had wine using Virginia fruit under their own label, I listed them as a winery.
  2. If a location had cider and/or mead as well as wine using Virginia fruit under their own label, I annotated that they have cider/mead but for tracking purposes I still list them primarily as a winery.
  3. If a location had mead and cider (but not wine), I listed them as a cidery.
  4. There is also a row for wine distribution companies or wineries or wine labels that lack tasting room, such as True Heritage or Jake Busching’s wines.

Virginia Bottle Art: Crazy Labels and Great Stories

There are a lot of really creative wine labels out there, but what makes me especially proud of these wines is most of them donate to charity.

Here’s the link to the article in the Old Town Crier:

Virginia Bottle Art: Crazy Labels and Great Stories – Old Town Crier

I especially want to call out the following:

1. Blenheim Vineyards‘ ‘On The Line”, donating to Frontline Foods and the World Kitchen.

2. Forever Farm’s ‘Boykin Blend’ for donating to the Boykin Spaniel Rescue foundation

3. Iron Heart Winery’s ‘Jackpot’ for contributing to the New River Community College Access to Community College Education (ACCE)

4. Pearmund Cellar‘s ‘Black Ops’ for donating to the Code of Support foundation.

5. Walsh Family Wine’s ‘What Will The Women Drink’? for donating to the Loudoun Abused Women’s Shelter.

Understanding Virginia’s “Natural Wine”

I’m really happy how this article came out. The best articles are one where I learn something in my research.

I still think Ben Jordan of Early Mountain Vineyards explained it best, “It seems to me that the market accepts something as natural when a wine checks most of those boxes, and when the character of the wine fits the overall ethos, but since there is no certification, there are no hard and fast rules.

Special thanks to Arterra Wines, Rock Roadhouse, and Briedé Family Vineyard.

See the link below for the full article –
Understanding Virginia’s “Natural Wine” – Old Town Crier

Consumer trends that impacted the Virginia Wine Industry in 2020

2020 was a chaotic year in Virginia wine, with records good and bad. On the positive side Virginia saw a near-unprecedented number of winery/cidery/meaderies opening all across the state. Many locations – especially those further away from Coronavirus hotspots or were able to provide ample outdoor seating – saw record breaking summer sales, largely driven by new customers fleeing to the countryside. As 2020 draws to a close, it currently has a total of 264 wineries, 26 cideries, and 11 meaderies of various sizes and business models, with more on the way.

The downside is this came at a huge emotional and financial cost, especially in the early days when the industry was reduced to curb-side sales and online events. For large parts of Virginia, these woes were compounded by an unprecedented Mother’s Day frost which wiped out their vineyards. Unruly customers who refused to conform to social distancing regulations didn’t help.

“Pivot” was the key theme for dealing with these challenges. Outdoor seating, virtual events, shipping deals and self-guided wine flights (often in disposable cups) became the norm. A number of locations shifted to a reservation-only policy. As the weather became cooler, fire pits and outdoor plastic ‘bubbles’ also became customary.

While the dust from 2020’s tectonic shift hasn’t settled, many of these trends are here to stay. For several years there has been growing demand in the U.S. for lower-alcohol, more diverse, ‘healthier’ beverages; this movement is now easily visible in the Virginia wine scene. Online events are also now the norm; some wineries openly wondered why they didn’t think of doing them sooner.

Here’s my take of the key consumer trends that impacted Virginia wineries in 2020:

1. Virginia’s Sparkling Wine Market Continues to Grow: Veritas Winery / The Virginia Sparkling Company deserves a lot of credit for this trend, as their opening of a major sparkling wine facility in Charlottesville has enabled other wineries to make sparkling using their own fruit without the high start-up cost of bottling on site. In northern Virginia alone, roughly a dozen wineries have bubbly on the menu, usually in partnership with Veritas or Michael Shaps.

But it’s not just Veritas. There has been a growing number of wineries doing pétnats or other casual sparkling wines, and Casanel, Rappahannock Cellars and others are killing it with sparklings that range from ‘fun to drink’ to downright ‘serious’ Champagne-like bubbly.

2. Cideries & Meaderies Gaining Steam: Cider and mead consumption has likewise grown, in line with consumer demand for lighter, fresher beverages. Out of the 23 new ‘wineries’ to open in 2020, 1/3rd of them were cideries or meaderies. In addition to these, many wineries are offering ‘guest’ ciders, or a house cider to complement their wine.

3. Growing number of ‘Multi-Beverage’ Wineries: The number of wineries that serve beer has grown by leaps and bounds, sparked by a 2015 change in what ABC qualifies as a ‘farm enterprise’. Quattro Goomba and Barrel Oak helped pioneer this concept, but now there are at least 18 x wineries that have taprooms as well.

Likewise, the number of wineries that serve spirits is about to double. Davis Valley, Old House, Rappahannock, and Vincent’s Vineyard will soon be joined by distilleries at Abingdon, Iron Heart, and Triple V. Add cider, mead, and sparkling to the equation, and Virginia’s wineries have never had such a diverse lineup.

4. Virtual Events & Online Sales: This is one of the better things to come out of COVID; being able to enjoy a winery event from the comforts of your own home. Walsh Family Wine and Keswick still host weekly or bi-weekly virtual tasting events; other wineries hold similar events periodically. Barboursville and Chateau O’Brien also conduct weekly customer outreach events where the owner or manager takes 10 minutes or so to do a ‘behind the scenes’ look at their winery or taste some wines.

These events usually feature wine deals that range from new releases, library wines, to ‘guest wines’ from Virginia or abroad. It’s a fun way of doing comparative tastings of the same varietals from different locations or vintages, or expose consumers to new wines they may not have otherwise tried.

Wineries that closed in 2020

That a number of wineries closed in 2020 is hardly surprising; the entire food & entertainment industry took a huge hit. While it would be easy to blame COVID for these closings, many closings were either planned prior to the pandemic, were due to the retirements/deaths/illnesses of their owners. Fortunately, Winery 32 looks like it will reopen in March, so it’s not on this list.

  1. 612 Vineyard
  2. Desert Rose Winery
  3. Giles Mountain
  4. Hartwood Winery
  5. Hunters Run Winery (rebranded to Firefly Cellars)
  6. Mountain View Vineyard
  7. San Soucey Vineyards
  8. Tomahawk Mill Winery
  9. Vault Fields Vineyard
  10. Weston Farm Vineyard
  11. Winding Road Cellars

Wineries that opened in 2020

Fortunately the roster of wineries that opened far exceeded the number that closed. Several more planned to open, but deferred to 2021 due to the pandemic. Even so, 23 new openings in a year is likely close to a record, especially considering the years of growth that preceded it.

  1. Altheling Meadworks (Roanoke)
  2. Backporch Vineyard (Northern Neck)
  3. Bleu Frog Vineyards (Leesburg)
  4. The Capital Hive Meadery (Leesburg)
  5. Carriage House Wineworks (Waterford)
  6. Chapelle Charlemagne Vineyard (soft opening; Front Royal)
  7. The Cider Lab (Sumerduck)
  8. Eastwood Farm & Winery (Charlottesville)
  9. Great Valley Farm Brewery and Winery (Natural Bridge)
  10. Honey & Hops Brew Works (Front Royal)
  11. Iron Will Winery & Vineyard (no tasting room but selling their first vintage, Waterford)
  12. Jolene Family Winery (Richmond)
  13. Mount Alto (no tasting room but selling their first vintage, south of Charlottesville)
  14. Nicewonder Farm & Vineyard (opened tasting room early 2020, Bristol)
  15. Reserve (tasting room for VinoWine) (Lynchburg)
  16. Rivah Vineyard at the Grove (Northern Neck)
  17. Rock Roadhouse Winery (Hot Springs)
  18. Saga Meadery (Front Royal)
  19. Sugar Hill Cidery (Norton)
  20. The Estate at White Hall Vineyard (Northern Neck)
  21. Three Creeks Winery (Hamilton)
  22. Triple V Farm (Northern Neck)
  23. Tumbling Creek Cidery (Abingdon)
  24. Woodbine Vineyards (Buffalo Junction)

Upcoming wineries

Some of these wineries have firm opening dates; other are in various stages of being built.

  1. Above Ground (Middlebrook)
  2. Crimson Lane (Linden)
  3. Firefly Cellars (Hamilton)
  4. Hillcrest Vineyard and Winery (Charlottesville)
  5. Kalero Vineyard (Purcellville)
  6. Lakefront Winery (Buffalo Junction)
  7. Smithfield Winery (Smithfield)
  8. Stag and Thistle Meadery (Fork Union)
  9. Skjald Meadworks (Charlottesville)
  10. Williams Gap (Round Hill)

Virginia Wineries Breaking The Mold On Sparkling Winemaking

Have I mentioned how much I love ‘researching’ new articles? This was another back-breaking article that required loads and loads of sampling.

When people think of sparkling wine they usually think of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. But Virginia’s terroir requires a different route, so many local wineries opt for hybrids instead. It’s actually a great fit – hybrids are popular here, and their naturally high acidity makes a great match for sparkling wine.

Click this link for my December article on sparkling wine: Virginia Wineries Breaking the Mold On Sparkling Winemaking – Old Town Crier

Getting The Most From Virginia Wine Month

My latest article for the Old Town Crier.

I wish this had captions for the photos, although that’s Casanel Vineyards and Winery on the cover, and the fall foliage picture is from Stone Mountain Vineyards.

Shout outs to Walsh Family WineField & Main RestaurantAfton Mountain Vineyards, and Keswick Vineyards.


https://oldtowncrier.com/2020/10/01/getting-the-most-from-virginia-wine-month/?fbclid=IwAR1OrrD31x4YCDNyT_rM9g5KQNq6wbjtohbBRr7AJX-Pvtj3Qfbo76Hym2c

Finishing My VA Wine Journey

Virginia is said to have around 300 wineries. Actually I count 253…but if you include cideries and meaderies, we’re at 288. There are also several upcoming wineries that have licenses. So…pretty close to 300!

But as of October 14, 2020, I’ve visited ALL OF THEM. That’s right; I’ve visited EVERY ONE of the 253 WINERIES IN VIRGINIA that are open to the public. In addition to those, I’ve also visited 25 cideries and 8 meaderies. If we include wineries that are now closed or rebranded…I’ve visited 281 wineries.

I only count wineries that have tasting rooms which are open to the public. Unfortunately this leaves out several wineries that I love – such as October One Vineyard – but I’m not certain how to include them since they lack a designated tasting room. Neither do I count private wine labels by individual winemakers such as Ben Jordan’s Lightwell Survey, or temporary soft openings in tents such as Chapelle Charlemagne.

Like a crazed OCD gamer who must perform every quest, pick up every piece of loot, search every room, and interact with every character…I need to visit…ALL OF THEM.

Some commonly asked questions:

1) My favorite winery is a toss up; either Linden Vineyards or Arterra Wines. A lot depends on who I visited most recently.

2) My first Virginia winery was Casanel Vineyards and Winery, sometime in I think mid-2013. I credit Katie and Nelson for setting me on the right path from there.

3) My favorite grapes are Tannat, Petit Verdot, and Sauvignon Blanc.

4) I’m a member of Linden, Arterra, and Hiddencroft. I tend to do case-clubs, not full on wine clubs (where they usually pick your wines).

Ironically, I’ve also found myself struggling to define what constitutes a ‘visit’. If a winery is renamed, does visiting that same space constitute a ‘new’ visit? What about producers that lack tasting rooms; how does one ‘cross them off’ in a quest to visit every winery? What about wineries that are seasonal or special-event focused; do those get placed in the same visitation bucket list as the rest?

To narrow the question down of “How many wineries are in the state”, I use the following definition:

For the purpose of defining what constitutes a ‘visit’, a ‘visit’ must include the following criteria; 1) The location visited must produce a fermented beverage described as wine, cider, or mead, 2) it must have a physical tasting location under their control (no farmers markets), 3) it must have defined visiting hours or be available via appointment to the general public, and 4) it must use Virginia ingredients (grapes, apples, honey, or whatever other ingredients the beverage is primarily composed of).

I still track visits to wineries that lack a tasting room or non-Virginia fruit separately. But to qualify for this challenge, I’m using the above criteria.

I’m also tracking cideries and meaderies as sub-categories, as well as wineries that I’ve visited that have since closed.