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Keswick Vineyards takes best in show at 2016 Virginia Governor’s Cup

Judges George Davis, center, and Bill Curtis, at right, taste a flight of red wine during final round of the 2016 Virginia Governor’s Cup wine competition in Richmond on Feb. 1 at the Jefferson Hotel. (Dayna Smith)

Keswick Vineyards took best of show and the Virginia Governor’s Cup in the Old Dominion’s premier statewide wine competition. The results were announced Monday in Richmond.

Keswick’s winning wine was the 2014 Cabernet Franc Estate Reserve. It achieved the highest score out of 432 wines submitted by 99 of Virginia’s 252 wineries. The wines were evaluated by several panels of judges, and the 130 top-scoring wines from preliminary rounds were re-tasted and ranked earlier this month by a panel of 15 sommeliers, writers, retailers and chefs — in other words, people who taste and evaluate wines for a living.

This one annual contest is a high-stakes event for Virginia wineries

This was Keswick’s second win in the Governor’s Cup competition, first held in 1992. The competition is sponsored by the Virginia Wineries Association, the Virginia Vineyards Association and the Virginia Wine Board.

The ceremony in Richmond also unveiled the “Governor’s Case,” the 12 top wines from the competition meant to showcase the breadth of Virginia’s wine industry. The case, including the Cup winner, has been an effective marketing tool for Virginia wine since the current competition format was inaugurated in 2011.

The Governor’s Case wines for 2016, in alphabetical order, are:

Barboursville Vineyards 2014 Vermentino (Barboursville)

Bluestone Vineyard 2014 Chardonnay (Bridgewater)

Cardinal Point 2014 Clay Hill Cabernet Franc (Afton)

Fabbioli Cellars 2012 Cabernet Franc (Leesburg)

Glen Manor Vineyards 2013 Hodder Hill (Front Royal)

Granite Heights Winery 2010 Evening Serenade (Warrenton)

Horton Vineyards 2014 Petit Manseng (Gordonsville)

Keswick Vineyards 2014 Cabernet Franc Estate Reserve (Keswick), Cup winner

Michael Shaps Wineworks 2014 Petit Manseng (Charlottesville)

Naked Mountain Winery 2012 Petit Verdot (Markham)

North Gate Vineyard 2013 Meritage (Purcellville)

Stone Tower Winery 2013 Hogback Mountain (Leesburg)

The results hint at some interesting developments in Virginia’s wine world.

In previous years, white wines were underrepresented in the Governor’s Case. This year, the rules were changed to reserve three spots for whites. That four made it into the case demonstrates the strength of white wines this year. Two of them are petit manseng, which is making a strong bid to eclipse viognier as Virginia’s most distinctive white wine. And it’s notable that both the Horton and Michael Shaps are dry expressions of this wine, which is more often made in a fruity or even sweet style. The inclusion of Barboursville’s vermentino is another hint that Virginia has the potential to excite with “alternative” white wines.

We also see consistency: North Gate’s Meritage (a Bordeaux-style red blend) makes the Governor’s Case for the third consecutive vintage. Glen Manor’s Hodder Hill (another Bordeaux blend) won the Cup in 2011 for its 2009 and reappears here. And Michael Shaps is a familiar name among Virginia’s elite winemakers. Shaps garnered five gold medals, more than any other producer, including one for his stunningly delicious petit manseng, which is in the Governor’s Case.

And we see new wineries emerging. Granite Heights, in Opal, won three gold medals for its red blends, including the 2010 Evening Serenade, which made the top 12. This is a tiny winery worth a detour off U.S. Route 29 as you drive to Charlottesville. And Loudoun County’s Stone Tower Winery, already a popular site for weekend wine tourists, earns a spot in the Governor’s Case with one of its first releases, the Hogback Mountain red blend.

As always, there is much to explore in Virginia wine.

McIntyre writes the weekly Wine column for The Post. He also blogs at

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