Find Us


By Jordan Wright
March 2009

A quick jaunt to Richmond this past weekend to meet our Virginia vintners and witness the Governor’s gold medal awards ceremony, delivered more than expected…so much more! New wineries medaled along with those who have been winning and garnering attention for years.

The three-day event featured a blind wine tasting with importer and famed wine critic and Bartholomew Broadbent who chose a Virginia wine to be compared with an import. Broadbent, named by Decanter Magazine as one of the “fifty most influential people in the wine world…the faces to watch in the new millennium”, was a most erudite host who guided the guests at this Sit-Down Reserve Tasting as they were asked to distinguish between the pair of wines and name their preference. After 12 wines were tasted the votes were equally split, proving that Virginia wines can and do stand up to the best from around the world, including those he selected from Germany, New Zealand, France and Portugal.

Later that evening at The SunTrust Governor’s Cup Grand Tasting and industry awards ceremony, a ticketed group enjoyed their special reserve wine tastings with heavy hors d’oeuvres from area restaurants, including a delicious offering of Braised Brisket with Three-Cheese Anson Mills Grits and Wine-braised Red Cabbage from the posh Jefferson Hotel’s TJ’s Restaurant nearby. More on the hotel later.

The highly rated Williamsburg Winery featured a sumptuous Lobster Bisque, chock-a-block with lobster, from Chef Abby Stanfield who reigns over the kitchen at Wedmore Place, the winery’s tony country hotel, situated on the grounds of Wessex Hundred, a 300 acre estate bordering the James River.

Walk-around tastings of countless varietals continued throughout the three days with leading area chefs creating their dishes on The Virginia Lottery-sponsored Chef Demo Stage. Participants brought their crystal tasting glasses from booth to booth and the sampling was in earnest. A special checkout area was available to put aside cases of wine purchased at the show to be conveniently picked up curbside before departing for home.

Newcomers John and Shelby Higgs of Barren Ridge Vineyards of Fishersville captured a silver for their 2007 Christof, an ice wine, and a bronze for their 2007 Touriga, a grape Bartholomew Broadbent touted as an excellent grape for Virginia’s soil and climate. Venerated winery Rappahannock Cellars of Huntly, captured gold for their 2008 Chardonnay, while North Mountain Vineyard and Winery, growing their own grapes in the Shenandoah Valley since 1982, will take home silver for their 2006 Cabernet Franc and 2005 Chambourcin and a bronze for their Riesling-styled Oktoberfest.

From The Heart of Virginia Wine Trail, Cooper Vineyards won gold for their 2008 Noche, a chocolate flavored dessert wine, that was a huge hit with showgoers. Their 2007 Norton, an heirloom Virginia grape that is getting more and more attention from growers, won silver, as did their 2006 Coopertage Blanc, which is similar to a white burgundy.

The well-known Rockbridge Vineyard was cleaning up with bronzes for its 2006 Riesling Reserve, its 2007 Vd’Or, a luxurious and intense ice wine, and its 2006 Meritage, and a gold medal for their 2005 Syrah.

Pollak Vineyards in Greenwood, just off the Blue Ridge Parkway, hopes to emulate traditional French varietals and why not when all six of their submissions were in the medals. A gold for their 2006 Meritage, bronze for a 2007 Viognier, Rose and 2005 Meritage, and silver for their Durant Red and 2006 Merlot.

In Crozet the King Family Vineyards will have to build another display case for all their successes. Gold for the 2007 Loreley Viognier, three bronzes for the 2007 Viognier, the Chardonnay and the Cabernet Franc, and a silver for their 2006 Meritage. Also in Crozet (must be the terroir) Whitehall Vineyards celebrated with a silver for their2007 Viognier and a bronze for their 2006 Monticello Cuvee de Champs.

After a mere four years in business, Sweeley Estate Winery, a magnificent property in Madison, won a gold for their 2006 “1867” Meritage, silver for the 2007 Sweely Estate Viognier and bronze for their 2006 Acorn Hill Merlot. Keep your eye on this winery!

For those of you planning your next vineyard adventure, other gold medal winners were:

Autumn Hill Vineyards – 2008 Petit Verdot
Barboursville Winery – 2005 Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve
Barrel oak Winery – 2007 Cabernet Franc
Cardinal Point Vineyard – 2006 Reserve Cabernet Franc
Fabbioli Cellars – 2007 Cabernet Franc
Flying Fox Vineyards – 2006 Petit Verdot
Fox Meadow Winery – 2006 Le Renard Rouge Meritage
James River Cellars – 2007 Gewurztraminer
Jefferson Vineyards – 2007 Petite Verdot
Keswick Vineyards – 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon
Keswick Vineyards – 2006 Meritage Heritage
Mountainfair Vineyards – 2006Meritage Wooloomooloo
Valhalla Vineyards – 2001 Cabernet Sauvignon
Veritas Vineyard and Winery – 2008 Sauvignon Blanc Reserve
Virginia Wineworks – 2007 Michael Shaps Cabernet Franc

There were food purveyors too. Some standouts were Belmont Plantation Peanuts who grow, harvest and process their own peanuts on their 1789 farm in Capron. I loved their chocolate-covered peanut brittle but they have a whole host of fabulous peanut products and gift baskets featuring locally sourced Southampton ham and sweet potato biscuits, honey-peppered turkey treats and Huckleberry’s Hot BBQ sauce and much more. You can order from

My favorite wine or cocktail accompaniments are the Cheese Straws and the Pecan Biscuits by Carriage House. They are the gold standard for this traditional Southern delicacy. It just doesn’t get any better. They are available at fine stores that carry Virginia’s Finest products or go to

I also discovered River City Bean Co., who along with their twenty signature gourmet-roasted coffees they make a collection of chocolates, called Café Crunch Chocolates that are enhanced by their own coffee blends. Molded into charming Fleur-de-Lis shapes, they are outstanding. All five signature flavors can be ordered in personalized tins with your own logo (I saw them Sunday in the gift shop at The Jefferson Hotel!). To order go to

If you had bought your ticket weeks in advance you were among the lucky few who enjoyed The Jefferson Hotel’s Virginia-designed seasonal menu, specially created for the Expo. Served on the Rotunda level beneath soaring 70-foot ceilings with white linen service, Executive Banquet Chef, Patrick Ehemann, has tweaked and lightened up the classics and offered a spectacular selection of Southern dishes with locally sourced ingredients.

My favorites were Surry County Sausage Stuffing, Jamerson Farms Brunswick Stew, made with chicken and rabbit, Jefferson Spoonbread, absolutely ethereal, and Suffolk Peanut Crusted Sweet Potatoes, made with local white sweet potatoes, that were unlike any sweet potatoes in the world. Herb Roasted Rockfish, its sweet flesh bathed in Vermouth Oyster Bisque, should be lauded as well. Perfectly briny oysters hailed from the Eastern Shore and the exceptional country ham was from Smithfield…naturally. Guests at this swank event got to pair their brunch with Kluge SP Blanc de Blancs 2004. How divine is that!

Be sure to plan for next year’s expo when promoter, Alex Papajohn promises to make this “a marquee event…the largest wine festival in the state” for his fourth year. Can it get any better?

Leave a Reply

You can use these HTML tags

<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>




This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.