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Delfosse Vineyards takes home Governor's Cup

Delfosse Vineyards’ 2021 Screaming Hawk Meritage won the state’s highest award for wine in Richmond on Thursday night.

“It feels great,” Andrew Bilenkij, winemaker at the Faber-based business, told The Daily Progress at a gala in Richmond’s Main Street Station where he was awarded the Virginia Governor’s Cup. “It’s a really special one, because we all picked it together, we all sorted it out together.”

Other Central Virginia wineries, including Barboursville Vineyards, Jefferson Vineyards, Pollak Vineyards and Trump Winery, also won awards in the Governor’s Cup Case, which comprises the 12 highest-scoring red and white wines in the competition.

Gov. Glenn Youngkin called the gala a chance “to celebrate one of God’s great gifts to mankind: wine.”

It’s been a gift to mankind and Virginia’s economy.

Virginia is the 10th-largest producer of wine in the entire United States and the second largest on the East Coast after New York, according to 2022 data from the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau. Those same figures show the commonwealth produced 2.2 million gallons of wine last year.

The Virginia wine industry supports more than 10,000 jobs and contribute almost $200 million dollars in taxes to the commonwealth, according to 2022 figures from the Virginia Wine Board, which hosted Thursday’s gala.

“Virginia wine is some of the best in the world,” Kirk Wiles, CEO and founder of Paradise Springs Winery in Fairfax County, said Thursday. “It takes passion, dedication and perseverance from all of our industry.”

The Charlottesville region, known as the Monticello American Viticultural Area, is one of the largest producers of wine in the commonwealth. The Monticello AVA makes up more than half of Virginia’s 2,000 vineyard acres and is home to roughly 30 wineries, according to the Virginia Tourism Corporation.

Central Virginia wines, specifically those from the Monticello region, carried home the most medals of any region from the Governor’s Cup Competition this year.

Out of 614 entries – a record number, according to Wiles – from across the state and 66 medal winners, the Central Virginia winemakers secured 72 medals in this year’s competition, more than double last year’s 29 and the largest share of this year’s 142 gold medal winners. The Monticello area secured 58 of those gold medals.

Albemarle Ciderworks of North Garden received the Best in Show cider award for its 2021 Orchard Blush cider. The Best in Show award is the state’s highest honor for cider.

“I want to thank everyone,” said Chuck Shelton, the cidermaker at Albemarle Ciderworks. “To Gov. Youngkin, his administration has done so much to support agriculture.”

Michael Shaps Wineworks near Keene secured the most gold medals of any winery in this year’s competition with eight. In a close second, King Family Vineyards of Crozet won seven. Pippin Hill Farm & Vineyards of North Garden won six. All three are members of the Monticello viticultural area.

Red wines were the big winner this year, according to the Virginia Wineries Association, which puts on the competition.

“The overall quality of the wines was the highest we have seen,” competition director Jay Youmans said in a statement. “Leading the way are the red blends, many of which are produced in a Meritage style, Petit Verdot, Petit Manseng and Cabernet Franc.”

Red wines won more than half of this year’s medals. There were 28 red blends, 24 Petit Verdots, 16 Cabernet Francs and 11 Petit Mansengs that took home gold.

“The Virginia Wineries Association is thrilled to announce this incredible number of gold medal winning-wines,” association President George Hodson said in a statement. “The gold medals span eight regions and are crafted with over 20 grape varieties all grown in Virginia, producing quality wines expressive of their farms and the Commonwealth of Virginia.”

Hodson is also the general manager of Veritas Vineyard and Winery in Afton, which won three gold medals.

The Governor’s Cup Competition also awarded nine ciders with gold medals in a standalone category first introduced in 2021. Four Central Virginia ciders were recognized: the 2021 Orchard Blush and 2021 Wickson from Albemarle CiderWorks of North Garden and the 2020 Orchard Select and 2021 Serendipity from Castle Hill Cider of Keswick.

Last year’s Governor’s Cup winner was Cana Vineyards of Middleburg. Winemaker Melanie Natoli accepted the prize, becoming the first woman in the competition’s 40-year history to receive the award.

Starting March 1, Virginia wine enthusiasts looking to taste the winning wines can sign up for the Gold Medal Wine Trail, a mobile passport that features the 66 gold medalists. Users can check in at participating venues and unlock access to exclusive prizes and offers. For more information or to preregister for the Gold Medal Wine Trail, visit:


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