Last week’s blog, I (Kathy Wiedemann) Was a Judge for the Virginia Governor’s Cup 2022 - Part I, covered up to my pickup of the precious cargo which was the first 60-plus wines to be judged on day one of the final judging for the “best wines in Virginia.” I purposely put that in quote marks because not all wineries submit their wines to the cup competition. Their reasons for not submitting wines vary. Some wineries are not into competitions and medals. Others don’t have the required quantity of cases to hold back and make available after the competition is completed. I am sure there are many other reasons.
I brought the big box of wines home, and each flight of wines was in a separate box number, with a flight number. I set up a bowl with water and a few ice cubes, in order to give a small bit of a chill to the white wines without overchilling them, which can mute their aromas and not give them a fair chance to show their true selves. I looked at the judging sheets which had the flight number, a list of wine IDs, the category the wine falls into, residual sugar amount and a space for score. Notes on aromas, flavors, and the score would be entered into a Google Doc app, by wine ID, in a dropdown list.
Each flight of wine usually represented a category of wine like “Traditional Method – Vinifera/Vinifera Blend,” which was flight one. These are sparkling wines made in the champagne style, with secondary fermentation in bottle. That started the day’s judging. Alas, one wine was corked and as instructed I sent a note to the organizers and got a repour of that wine from a different bottle the next day and I entered scores based on that pour. Wineries submit multiple bottles of each entered wine, to have them available for the two rounds of judging, but also in case one bottle isn’t showing well or seems faulted,, so that it can get its fair chance.
I tasted through the four sparkling wines in Flight One. I tried to give each wine about five minutes or so of my time, as I thought about all the hard work and heart that went into each and every wine that sat before me in little vials. I took multiple sips of each wine, swirled it around my mouth, pulled some air over it and then spit it out into my flowered stainless Pioneer Woman tumbler. One has to spit the wine out when trying so many wines and drink plenty of water to maintain hydration.
I moved onto Flight Two, which was six wines made from Cabernet Franc. The sheets did not contain the producer’s name, the wine name, nor the vintage. I tasted my way through these wines over the next 30 minutes or so. I didn’t so much judge each wine against the others in the flight, but each for its own merits. Does the wine show a nice balance between acidity, alcohol, and tannins? Does any one of these factors overshadow the others? Does the wine have pleasant aromas and flavors that seem typical for the variety? How is its finish? Does the flavor last for a while after you’ve finished your sip, or does it drop off steeply like going off a cliff?
After two flights, which took about an hour, my 12 wine glasses needed to be washed and readied for the next two flights. This was my chance to rest my palate, stretch my legs, get a light chill on any whites that might be coming up, and take a break to unwind and hydrate or eat. I had five more sets of two flights to go for the day, which seemed a bit daunting.
I repeated the same process for the whole day, and again on day two, after picking up the next 60 plus wines and a couple of repours from day one. It was two long days of focused tasting and I feel like I found a good pace, rhythm, and flow.
At the conclusion of day two, the insecurities I felt before, and on day one, had faded. I had done my best and judged the wines. As for knowing what the wines were, 99.9 percent no, I did not. The .1 percent is because there was a Vermentino to be tasted and the only one I know of in the state is Barboursville and it has always been a beautiful wine. This year was no different. As for knowing any of the other wines and producers, there were a handful of wines made from Nebbiolo, and I know that there are not many wineries producing a wine from that grape, so if I had to guess who made the wines, I’d have a good chance of it.
Observations from my experience include the fact that the quality of Virginia wines has changed dramatically over the past decade when I really jumped into wine tasting and education. Of the 120+ wines I tried over the two days, I would gladly drink a glass of any of them. Keep in mind they had all made it past the first-round judges before they reached me.
The winners were announced at an event on March 24, 2022, which the staff of City Vino and I attended. The top 12 wines in the 2022 Virginia Governor’s Case are:
- 50 West Vineyards 2019 Ashby Gap
- Barboursville Vineyards 2020 Vermentino Reserve
- Cana Vineyards and Winery of Middleburg 2019 LeMariage
- Cana Vineyards and Winery of Middleburg 2019 Unitè Reserve
- Maggie Malick Wine Caves 2020 Albariño
- Michael Shaps Wineworks 2019 Chardonnay
- Pollak Vineyards 2017 Meritage
- Rockbridge Vineyard 2018 V d'Or
- Shenandoah Vineyards 2019 Reserve Red
- Stinson Vineyards 2017 Meritage
- Trump Winery 2015 Brut Reserve
- Wisdom Oak Winery 2019 NINETEEN
The top prize, the Governor’s Cup winner, is Cana Vineyards and Winery of Middleburg 2019 Unitè Reserve. Cana Vineyards and Winery is located in Middleburg, Virginia, and their winemaker is Melanie Natoli. We send big congratulations to Melanie, who not only had the winning wine, but also another wine in the case. She is the first female winemaker in Virginia to take home the cup.
In conclusion, my dream or goal of being a judge in the Virginia Governor’s Cup has been reach and I will gladly do it again, if invited. Follow your wine dreams, friends.