February 24, 2022

10 Facts About the Virginia Governor’s Cup Competition

1. It has a long-lasting history of recognizing the top Virginia wines. 

2022 is the 40th anniversary of the first Virginia Governor’s Cup® competition. Since then, hundreds of winemakers have been honored for their craft. Take a look back at all previous winners here

The competition has come a long way since the early days when it consisted of sipping wines in an open field in the heat of summer. Since then, the structure and strength of the competition has improved alongside the quality of wines being produced. With new rules and structure from the 2011 revamp, every wine is required to be made of 100% Virginia grown fruit. Learn more about the competition’s history and evolution here

2. The judges are hand-selected and world-class. 

Each year, some of the region’s most esteemed sommeliers, wine writers and educators, distributors, retailers and Masters of Wine (MW) gather to sample some of the best Virginia Wine has to offer. In previous years, the prestigious lineup of judges included the late Steven Spurrier

This year, 24 judges were involved in tasting the record-breaking number of wines entered. They are divided between the preliminary, final and cider tasting rounds. View the full list of judges here.

Jay Youmans, MW, is the competition director and has guided the process over the past decade to ensure the highest caliber of standards are met during every aspect of the competition. His dedication has been evident during the pandemic as he has helped pivot the judging process to be safe and effective, including hand bottling each wine into personal sample bottles.

3. The process is meticulous and stringent. 

In the preliminary round, each wine is tasted by 7 judges. This is a single-blind tasting, meaning that judges only know the grape or category of a wine, but the vintage, winery and name are hidden behind coded-glasses.

Finally, individual judges’ scores of a wine are averaged into one score after the lowest score is dropped. Then, in the final 3 days, 12 judges assess the highest ranking wines from the preliminary round. Unlike the preliminary round, each judge samples all of the Final Round wines.

Each wine in the Final Round receives a final average score after the lowest is dropped. The 12 wines with the highest average score are identified as the Governor’s Cup® Case. The wine with the highest overall score is the Governor’s Cup® Winner. Throughout the process, judges use the 100 point scale, as used by Wine Spectator, Wine Advocate, Wine Enthusiast, Wine & Spirits, and many others. 

4. Last year, the inaugural Best in Show Cider was awarded. 

As Virginia Cider continues to grow in prominence and cider entries become increasingly exceptional and nuanced, the Governor’s Cup® Competition committee members and director recognized a need for special recognition. 

Along with a new set of expert cider judges in 2021, the first-ever Best in Show Cider Award went to Lost Boy Cider in Alexandria for the Comeback Kid. With even more gold medals awarded to cideries this year, the second Best in Show Cider Award will bring added recognition and excitement to one of Virginia’s top cideries.

5. 28 different wineries have earned the coveted Cup. 

Over the last 40 years, 28 different wineries have been honored with the Governor’s Cup®. Among these winners, only three have managed to win it in back to back years: Ingleside Vineyards (1983-1984; three total), White Hall Vineyards (1997-1998) and Amrhein Wine Cellars (2002-2003). 

Other wineries who have earned multiple Cups include Barboursville Vineyards (5), King Family Vineyards (3), The Williamsburg Winery (2), Rockbridge Vineyard (2), Meredyth Vineyards (2) and Keswick Vineyards (2). 

6. With each Governor, there’s a chance to unveil Virginia’s finest. 

While wine experts judge the wines, the current Virginia Governor is the one to reveal the winner and present the Cup. With only a few exceptions, each Governor has presented the top award at the celebration. Each year is a reminder how important it is to support and celebrate our local farmers and business leaders, as well as their contribution to Virginia’s agricultural growth and economy. 

7. The Cup has been evenly bestowed upon red and white wines. 

Much like the wines of Virginia as a whole, the Governor’s Cup® competition is not defined by one varietal or style of wine. In fact, 52% of winning wines have been white and 48% red. However, red wines are catching up. Seven of the last ten Governor’s Cup® winners have been red wines.

8. The Gold Medal Wine Trail connects you with all the gold medalists each year. 

Last year, the Gold Medal Wine Trail launched— a mobile pass that includes discounts and prize redemptions for checking-in at some of the best wineries, cideries and meaderies across the state. 

Once gold medalists are announced the second week of March, this year’s trail will begin. You can expect something extra special this year, with four different prize levels and new offerings available from the state’s top scoring wineries. 

Start tasting and try the gold-medal-winning wines in anticipation for the big reveal of the 2022 Governor’s Cup® Case on March 24. Stay tuned for this year’s launch. 

9. The annual Governor’s Cup® Celebration is the can’t-be-missed event of the year.

The best place to sample all of this year’s winning wines in one night is at the Virginia Governor’s Cup® Celebration. For the first time ever, the event is public— which means you have access to 100+ wines and 50+ winemakers leading their craft across the Commonwealth. Watch as the Governor’s Cup® Case and Cup winners are unveiled. 

Join us on March 24 at Richmond’s premiere event space, Main Street Station, for an evening to remember. From grand tastings to special bites prepared by local chefs and VIP experiences, you won’t want to miss this. 

Tickets are limited, reserve your spot today. 

10. Each year, it becomes bigger and better. 

Year after year, the competition sees more entrants, and consequently more winners. After a record-setting year in 2021, the quality and number of award-winning wines continues to grow. And there’s no indication of stopping.

This year, judges sampled 615 entries from 111 different wineries, cideries and meaderies. With more diversity among both entrants and wines, the results prove to be exciting. That’s worth raising a glass to. 

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