Grapevine & Vintner Profile, Wining & Dining

Shenandoah Valley Wine Trail Celebrates Its 3rd Shenandoah Cup

By Matt Fitzsimmons

Shenandoah Valley Wine Trail Celebrates Its 3rd Shenandoah Cup

On November 12th Bluestone Vineyard hosted the Shenandoah Valley Wine Trail’s 3rd Shenandoah Cup Gala, celebrating wine made in Shenandoah Valley American Viticultural Area (AVA). Wines from this year’s competition earned a total of eleven gold, 37 silver, and 14 bronze medals. The location was fortuitous, since Bluestone earned the Cup with their 2017 Houndstooth Bordeaux-style blend.

Not only is the Shenandoah Valley Virginia’s oldest AVA, it’s also a place of untapped potential. In discussing Virginia’s best vineyard sites, Virginia wine expert Jay Youmans of the Capital Wine School recently stated, “Honestly, where I think a lot of fantastic vineyards are is out in the Shenandoah Valley.”

This potential is based on the Shenandoah Valley’s unique terroir. High ridgelines protect the valley from heavy rainfall, making it one of the driest areas in the state. Limestone soils give wines grown here a rich minerality. Cooler temperatures allow grapes to retain their acidity. It’s a trifecta practically designed for making award-winning wine.

The list of awards earned by wines in the wine trail backs this up. While the trail’s 21 wineries comprise less than 10% of the wineries in the state, they are well represented in the state’s major wine competitions. In the past decade, 11 wines from the trail were selected for the annual Virginia Governor’s Case, with the 2009 Clio from Muse winning the Virginia Governor’s Cup in 2015.

Wine writer Frank Morgan assembled a panel of experts to judge this year’s competition, including wine consultant and author Richard Leahy. In discussing the wines he sampled, Richard enthused, “I was really enjoying the very lively acidity and fresh vibrant fruit that appeared the flights today in the Shenandoah Cup and I think it’s a really good indication of the region’s terroir.”

Wine judges Matthew Brown and Jeff Latchum had high praise as well, especially of the sparkling and riesling. Frank explained how he felt the Shenandoah Valley is “really dialed in on riesling”, while also complimenting the cabernet francs and red blends.

The gala included representatives from the seven wineries that won Gold, who poured for an assortment of guests and industry professionals. It was also a time to dress up and socialize, as many in attendance hadn’t seen one another since early last year.

Normally, Emma Randel – “Grand Dame” of the Virginia wine industry, founder of Shenandoah Vineyards, and creator of the Shenandoah Valley AVA – would have given away the Cup, but due to health concerns she was not in attendance (understandably so – she’s in her 90s). But attendees were fortunate to have special guest Richard Leahy, who spoke about not just the quality of Shenandoah wine but its diversity.

Richard’s observation was dead on. Not only are ubiquitous Bordeaux and hybrid grapes found all over the valley but it’s also home to tannat, riesling, grüner veltliner, as well an assortment of red Burgundy, Rhône, and Portuguese varieties.

This year’s competition also included two new categories; sparkling wine and cider. Both categories have taken off in recent years, with a number of new cideries opening in the Shenandoah Valley and wineries offering a new sparkling option. Sage Bird Ciderworks’ “Last Call” won Best Cider.

Gold medals were awarded to:

  • Bluestone Vineyard 2017 Houndstooth (Shenandoah Cup winner)
  • Bluestone Vineyard 2019 Chardonnay Stainless
  • Briedé Family Vineyards 2019 Tannat
  • Cave Ridge Vineyard NV Blanc de Blanc Sparkling
  • Cave Ridge Vineyard 2019 Fossil Hill
  • CrossKeys Vineyards 2019 Meritage
  • CrossKeys Vineyards 2019 Petit Verdot
  • Muse Vineyards 2017 Clio
  • Rockbridge Vineyard 2017 DeChiel White Riesling
  • Rockbridge Vineyard 2017 V d’or
  • Wolf Gap Vineyard and Winery 2017 Chambourcin

Shenandoah Sparklers

The holidays are fast approaching, and holiday parties = sparkling.

Not only is it a traditional celebratory drink, it’s also one of the most versatile wines to pair with food. The Shenandoah Valley has its own sparkling lineup, with Bluestone, Briedé Family, Cave Ridge, Shenandoah Vineyards and others offering their own sparkling options.

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