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Central Virginia wineries once again dominate Governor's Cup contest, but take home fewer gold medals

Central Virginia wineries, specifically those in the Monticello wine country surrounding Charlottesville, are taking home fewer gold medals from this year’s Governor’s Cup Competition, the commonwealth’s top contest for winemakers. The region still reigned supreme though, taking home nearly half of the total gold medals, more than any other region.

Plenty has changed in the Virginia wine industry since last year, some of which may explain this year’s slimmer winnings. While the Charlottesville area was named the best wine region in the world by Wine Enthusiast magazine last year, the Governor’s Cup Competition, under new leadership, changed the judging procedures, welcomed more entries and awarded prizes to more producers this year.

Out of 752 entries from across the commonwealth, 138 more than last year, and 79 medal winners, 13 more than last year, Central Virginia winemakers secured 48% of the 2024 awards announced Thursday. The Monticello region in particular took home 49 gold medals this year, six fewer than last year.

Trump Winery just south of Charlottesville was awarded the most gold medals of any Monticello estate this year with five, the same number it received last year. Trump won for its 2017 blanc de noir, 2021 chardonnay reserve, 2022 chardonnay, 2022 sauvignon blanc and 2022 viognier.

Michael Shaps Wineworks in nearby Keene and Barboursville Vineyards in Orange County both secured four gold medals. Michael Shaps won for its 2020 and 2021 L. Scott red blend as well as its 2021 chardonnay and 2021 petit manseng. Barboursville won for its 2019 Nascent white blend, 2019 Paxxito dessert wine, 2020 Octagon red blend and 2022 vermentino.

“A lot of great wines were entered in the competition, and for us, it’s very exciting because we were also able to win with a different style of wine,” Barboursville Vineyards winemaker Luca Paschina told The Daily Progress. “I only enter the wines I think are the most beautiful and the most elegant.”

The Governor’s Cup Competition also awarded two Central Virginia cideries with gold medals: Albemarle CiderWorks and Potter’s Craft Cider.

Much like last year, red wines dominated the competition, winning more than 55% of the total gold medals awarded. Within the red wine category, red blends rose to the top, securing 19% of the total gold medals, making it the most awarded category, followed by petit verdot at 13%. White wines secured roughly 31% of the total gold medals, with chardonnay alone taking home 14 gold medals.

“Varieties with growing popularity in Virginia like Petit Manseng, Albariño and Sauvignon Blanc were also awarded golds by the judges,” the Virginia Wineries Association, which puts on the competition, said in a statement.

The number of winners wasn’t the only significant change this year.

The 2024 competition marked the first year Frank Morgan, who writes a wine column for the Virginian-Pilot, has directed the judging, replacing Jay Youmans who served in the role for the past seven years. Youmans is an advanced-level sommelier and a master of wine, one of only 413 worldwide who hold that certification. He owns Capitol Wine School in Washington, D.C.

“As someone who has covered the Virginia wine industry for 15 years and judged this competition for many years, it’s an honor to now serve as the Director of Judging for the Virginia Governor’s Cup Wine Competition,” said Morgan in a statement. “This year’s record number of entries and top scoring wines showcase the continued growth in wine quality and diversity of grape varieties thriving in vineyards across the Commonwealth.”

The change in leadership also brought a change in the way preliminary judging was handled this year, according to those close to the judges.

Unlike past years, every judge was not asked to taste each wine due to the increase in entries. To handle the substantial quantity, Morgan brought on more judges that he assigned to different groups to sample certain selections of wines.

The judges then scored each wine based on a 100-point scale, focusing on characteristics such as appearance, aroma, flavor, overall quality and commercial suitability. Wines that fell between 90 and 100 points earned gold, between 85 and 89 silver and between 80 and 84 bronze.

While the Monticello area won fewer gold medals this year, the region has a chance to once again bring home one of the top three prizes in the competition, which have yet to be announced. The winners of the coveted Governor’s Cup Case, comprising of the 12 highest scoring red and white wines; the best-in-show cider; and the Governor’s Cup itself will be announced at a Richmond gala on March 7.

Last year’s Governor Cup winner was a Monticello brand: Delfosse Vineyards & Winery just outside of Faber. Soon after winning the award, the owners changed its name to Mountain & Vine Vineyards and Winery. Mountain & Vine won two gold medals this year for its 2021 petit verdot Reserve and 2022 chardonnay.

Tickets for this year’s gala held at Richmond’s Main Street Station are now available. General admission costs $225. VIP admission, which includes early entrance, exclusive seating and a wine tasting, is $375.

This year’s gold medal winners in the Monticello American Viticultural Area are:

■ Afton Mountain Vineyards, 2017 Tradition.

■ Afton Mountain Vineyards, 2019 T.

■ Afton Mountain Vineyards, 2022 albariño.

■ Barboursville Vineyards, 2019 Nascent.

■ Barboursville Vineyards, 2019 Paxxito.

■ Barboursville Vineyards, 2020 Octagon.

■ Barboursville Vineyards, 2022 vermentino.

■ Barn at 678, 2021 reserve red.

■ Chestnut Oak Vineyard, 2019 petit verdot.

■ Chestnut Oak Vineyard, 2021 Chestnut One.

■ Chisholm Vineyards, 2019 petit verdot.

■ Cunningham Creek Winery, 2022 viognier.

■ Eastwood Farm and Winery, merlot.

■ Eastwood Farm and Winery, 2022 rosé.

■ Flying Fox Vineyard, 2017 cabernet franc.

■ Flying Fox Vineyard, 2019 Trio.

■ Grace Estate Winery, 2021 petit verdot.

■ Hark Vineyards, 2019 merlot.

■ Hark Vineyards, 2019 Spark.

■ Jefferson Vineyards, 2021 cabernet franc reserve.

■ Jefferson Vineyards, 2021 viognier.

■ Jefferson Vineyards, 2022 chardonnay reserve.

■ Keswick Vineyards, 2019 cabernet sauvignon.

■ King Family Vineyards, 2019 Meritage.

■ King Family Vineyards, 2021 Mountain Plains White.

■ Merrie Mill Farm & Vineyard, 2021 Calaboose cabernet sauvignon.

■ Michael Shaps Wineworks, 2020 L.Scott.

■ Michael Shaps Wineworks, 2021 chardonnay.

■ Michael Shaps Wineworks, 2021 L. Scott.

■ Michael Shaps Wineworks, 2021 petit manseng.

■ Mountain & Vine Vineyards and Winery, 2021 petit verdot reserve.

■ Mountain & Vine Vineyards and Winery, 2022 chardonnay.

■ Pippin Hill Farm & Vineyards, 2019 petit verdot.

■ Pippin Hill Farm & Vineyards, 2021 chardonnay reserve.

■ Pollack Vineyards, 2021 cabernet franc reserve.

■ Pollack Vineyards, chardonnay reserve.

■ Reynard Florence Vineyard, 2021 Recherché.

■ Southwest Mountains Vineyards, 2021 cabernet franc.

■ Southwest Mountains Vineyards, 2021 petit manseng.

■ Mount Ida, 2021 High Ridge 1810 reserve red.

■ Mount Ida, 2022 Moonlight Red.

■ Trump Winery, 2017 blanc de noir.

■ Trump Winery, 2021 chardonnay reserve.

■ Trump Winery, 2022 chardonnay.

■ Trump Winery, 2022 sauvignon blanc.

■ Trump Winery, 2022 viognier.

■ Veritas Vineyard and Winery, 2021 Momentarius collection white blend.

■ Veritas Vineyard and Winery, 2021 reserve.

■ Veritas Vineyard and Winery, 2022 sauvignon blanc.

■ Woodbrook Farm Vineyard, 2020 petit verdot.


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