The 2022 Virginia Governor’s Cup Case recognizes the best of the best wines in Virginia, choosing a select few to represent the over 300 wineries found throughout the Commonwealth. Although you can sometimes find wines from these vineyards at the local grocery store or gourmet shop, visiting the wineries allows you to see where, and sometimes how (when tours are available), these award-winning vintages are produced, tasting exceptional wines against the stunning backdrop of Virginia’s wine country. Use this 2022 Governor’s Cup Case guide to help you decide which Virginia wineries to visit this spring.
Cana Vineyards & Winery of Middleburg—Middleburg
Governor’s Cup Winner: 2019 Unitè Reserve
Governor’s Case Winner: 2019 LeMariage
Cana Vineyards came away with the big win in the 2022 Governor’s Cup competition for their 2019 Unitè Reserve, a signature estate red blend of Merlot, Cabernet Franc, and Petit Verdot. They were also featured among the twelve top wines in the Case for their 2019 LeMariage, a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Malbec, Petit Verdot, and Cabernet Franc that has a complex and inviting nose of blackberry, blueberry, and plum, followed by notes of cocoa powder, vanilla, and a hint of tarragon. The red blend goes well with lean meats like duck and venison. As the first female winemaker to win the Cup, Melanie Natoli made history at the event, leading Cana Vineyards to victory against more than 600 Virginia wines entered in the competition.
Photo Credit: Lisa Petty
Cana Vineyards & Winery in Middleburg is a 43-acre farm in the pristine countryside of Loudoun County. Only an hour outside of Washington, D.C., the winery is an inviting retreat for travelers searching for a rural vineyard experience. In addition to family- and pet-friendly areas, the second floor of the winery’s tasting room, deck, and gazebo are reserved for 21+ guests, providing plenty of space for every type of wine-loving traveler.
Governor’s Case Winner: 2020 Vermentino Reserve
Barboursville Vineyards 2020 Vermentino Reserve, a dry white wine made from Vermentino grapes, was chosen for the 2022 Virginia Governor’s Case. With a luscious minerality, this flavorful white wine pairs perfectly with fish and other seafood dishes.
PHOTO Courtesy of BARBOURSVILLE VINEYARDS
Plan a trip to Barboursville Vineyards, located about 30 minutes northeast of Charlottesville in the rolling hills of Central Virginia. The winery’s 18th century estate includes two tasting rooms, an outdoor patio space for sunny days, and an on-site restaurant and inn that offers the perfect spot for a wine lover’s weekend getaway. While visiting the vineyards, don’t miss the historic Barboursville Ruins, one of Thomas Jefferson’s famed architectural endeavors, just steps away from the winery.
Wisdom Oak Winery—North Garden
Governor’s Case Winner: 2019 NINETEEN
Wisdom Oak Winery joined the other ten wineries in the Case with their 2019 NINETEEN, a Bordeaux blend crafted with Petit Verdot, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Cabernet Franc. This bold, full-bodied red is designed to age, so decant before drinking, if possible.
A family-owned and operated vineyard, Wisdom Oak Winery is a few minutes south of Charlottesville and is part of the celebrated Monticello Wine Trail. Pair your wine tasting with farm-fresh, seasonal dishes like artisan cheese board, charcuterie, and sandwiches created by nearby Rill Cross Farm, offered in the tasting room on the weekends. The winery allows guests to bring well-behaved dogs, but their vineyard dogs roam the property, as well, so they suggest leaving pets at home that do not play well with others.
50 West Vineyards—Middleburg
Governor’s Case Winner: 2019 Ashby Gap
A complex red blend from 50 West Vineyards, the 2019 Ashby Gap is part of the 2022 Governor’s Cup Case. The wine melds flavors like blackberry and plum with spicy notes of pepper.
Photo Credit: Rikki Cushwa
One of Middleburg’s magnificent wine gems, 50 West Vineyards is named for the historic Route 50 which spans across the entire country, from Maryland to California. The tasting room is a converted horse stable sitting high atop a bluff and offering panoramic views of the Bull Run Mountain range. Visitors can enjoy wine flights and glasses of their favorite vintages while sitting on the vineyard patio, or in the case of rainy weather, the covered patio area. Reservations are required for groups of four or more people, and while pets are welcomed outdoors, they are not allowed in the tasting room.
Maggie Malick Wine Caves—Purcellville
Governor’s Case Winner: 2020 Albariño
One of four 2022 Case winners produced by a woman winemaker, Maggie Malick Wine Caves 2020 Albariño is fermented and aged in stainless steel, resulting in a crisp wine that has notes of apricot, peach, and papaya on the nose and orange zest, grapefruit, and lime on the palate. Pair with oysters or grilled seafood for an unforgettable summer meal.
If visiting Maggie Malick Wine Caves, arrive hungry, as they have an extensive charcuterie menu that goes well with the vineyard’s varied wine list (they typically have about 20 wines on the tasting menu at a time). As the name suggests, the wines produced at this Northern Virginia vineyard are aged in underground caves to carefully control the temperatures of the wines year-round, a practice that has proved quite successful in their winemaking efforts.
Governor’s Case Winner: 2019 Reserve Red
Beginning in 2018, Michael Shaps took over the winemaking process at Shenandoah Vineyards, and this Virginia wine legend has already left his viticultural mark with his 2019 Reserve Red. Additionally, the winery took home two gold medals and five silver medals in the 2022 competition, which can be purchased as a Governor’s Cup bundle from the winery website.
Housed in a Civil War-era barn, the tasting room and winery are just two miles off of Interstate 81 in Edinburg, but the bucolic surroundings create a relaxing farm atmosphere well suited to sipping incredible wines. Pack a picnic and bring the pups if the weather is nice, as the winery is pet-friendly for outdoor seating on the vineyard grounds.
Michael Shaps Wineworks—Charlottesville
Governor’s Case Winner: 2019 Chardonnay
Michael Shaps Wineworks took home seven gold medals and eleven silver medals, but the winery’s real triumph came in the form of the 2019 Chardonnay, which garnered a coveted place in the 2022 Governor’s Cup Case.
With two tasting rooms in the Charlottesville area (the original Wineworks and the Wineworks Extended warehouse), you can either enjoy Michael Shaps wines on the winery grounds or within a more urban environment at the warehouse, just minutes from many of Charlottesville’s biggest attractions, such as the University of Virginia campus and the Downtown Mall. The Wineworks Extended site carries all of the local Wineworks label wines, while you’ll get the chance to try the Maison Shaps Burgundy label at the original Wineworks tasting room, made at the Michael Shaps winery location in Meursault, France.
Governor’s Case Winner: 2015 Brut Reserve
Trump Winery’s 2015 Brut Reserve is a bubbly wine in the champagne style that is made from Chardonnay grapes, with notes of green apple, pear, and citrus. This sparkling wine is aged for over 5 years, resulting in a full-bodied Brut that pairs especially well with oysters, poultry, or caviar.
The winery’s stunning 1,300-acre estate sits in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains in Charlottesville, only a few miles from historic Virginia landmarks like Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello and James Monroe’s Highland. The tasting room offers sweeping vineyard views and breathtaking pastoral landscapes, and while any time of day is great for a wine tasting visit, sunset provides some prime opportunities to capture that perfect Instagram shot.
Governor’s Case Winner: 2017 Meritage
Stinson Vineyards specializes in French-style wines, and their 2017 Meritage, part of the Governor’s Case, is a prime example of their impressive vintages. This velvety blend is made from Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Petit Verdot, then aged in French oak barrels for 21 months.
Photo Credit: Brantley Ussery
A family-owned winery in Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains, Stinson Vineyards is located near the city of Charlottesville. The winery offers both indoor and outdoor seating, but if the weather allows, opt for the outdoors, as the views are almost as good as the wine. If you’d like to make a weekend out of your trip, the winery grounds include a luxurious on-site inn that can be rented by individual rooms or as a whole if you’re traveling with a larger group. In the evenings, the inn has several dining options, from the casual Chef’s Supper to the more formal Wine Cellar Dinners. Wake up in the morning to a farm-to-table breakfast, made with ingredients sourced from local farms.
Governor’s Case Winner: 2017 Meritage
The 2022 Case includes the 2017 Meritage from Pollak Vineyards, a bold and structured Bordeaux-style blend of Merlot, Cabernet Franc, and Petit Verdot. The resulting vintage has a nose of blackcurrant, black cherry, and raspberry, with cedar, spice, and earth notes rounding out the blend for a complex and elegant red.
Pollak Vineyards is yet another winery on the Monticello Wine Trail, which now features over 40 wineries, so if you’re looking for a Gold Medal Wine Trail adventure, this region should definitely be considered. Enjoy a picnic on the winery patio or veranda, or spread a blanket by the pond and sip on excellent wines while taking in the backdrop of the Blue Ridge Mountains. If visiting during inclement weather, head into the tasting room and snag a seat on the cozy couches, set around a cavernous fireplace that warms up wine tasters on the chillier days.
Governor’s Case Winner: 2018 V d’Or
Rockbridge Vineyard earned a spot in the Governor’s Case for their 2018 V d’Or, a dessert wine made from Riesling, Traminette, Vidal Blanc, and Vignoles. Made in the style of an ice wine, this sweet Virginia sipper has aromas of honey and orange.
Rockbridge Vineyard is the ideal location for visitors that enjoy both wine and craft beer, as the winery also features an on-site brewery. Less than two miles off Interstate 81 between Lexington and Staunton, the winery/brewery destination showcases the spectacular beauty of the Shenandoah Valley.
These wineries were recognized in the 2022 Governor’s Cup Case, but there are dozens of wineries that earned bronze, silver, and gold medals for their wines; check the complete list and visit these remarkable vineyards to experience the absolute best of Virginia vino.