February 28, 2023

The 2023 Virginia Governor’s Cup goes to…

Governor's Cup

Since 1982, the Virginia Governor’s Cup® has highlighted the growth and innovation of the Virginia Wine industry. The competition, hosted by the Virginia Wineries Association, is one of the nation’s most stringent and recognizes the top entries with medals and special awards. Read along to discover more about the competition and the grand celebration that follows. 

The competition

Each year, farm wineries across the state submit their most promising craft beverages to the Virginia Governor’s Cup competition. Now in its 41st year, the competition has taken many shapes— coming a long way since the early days of sipping wines in an open field during the heat of summer. 

In 1989, the sponsoring industry organizations sought to elevate the competition with official judges. That same year also began the tradition of inviting the Governor of Virginia to present the top award: the Governor’s Cup, inspiring the name of the competition. 

Fast forward to 2011 and the competition was again entering a new and impressive phase with the help of Jay Youmans, Master of Wine and director of the Capital Wine School in D.C. Youmans and industry leaders helped recruit an esteemed group of judges— including MWs, wine educators, wine scholars, food and wine writers, sommeliers, distributors, and retailers— to evaluate the wine. A new competition structure was introduced and all wines entered were required to be made of 100% Virginia-grown fruit

The judges meet in the new year and taste hundreds of samples over the course of a few weeks. Throughout the process, they rate the wines using the widely-recognized 100-point scale based on appearance, aroma, flavor, overall quality and commercial suitability. For the wines that make it into the final round, gold, silver and bronze medals are awarded. The top twelve wines round out the Virginia Governor’s Cup Case, with the highest score earning the coveted Cup. As the industry grows, the reputation of cider and mead continues to build, earning gold, silver and bronze medals in their own right. In 2021, the Best in Show Cider award began recognizing the top cider of the competition. 

The 2023 reveal

After receiving 614 entries, judges awarded 142 gold medals to 66 wineries, cideries and meaderies located across the Commonwealth. Leading the way this year, Meritage blends, Petit Verdot and Cabernet Franc made up nearly 50% of all gold medals, though 28 different types or varietals of wine, cider and mead were represented. All regions received at least one gold medal, with Central Virginia, Northern Virginia and Shenandoah Valley topping the list. 

Just a few weeks after the gold medal announcement, #vawine lovers from all over gather at the Virginia Governor’s Cup Gala to celebrate and taste the top award winners. Out of all the gold medalists in attendance, twelve will go on to make the Governor’s Cup Case, one will earn Best in Show Cider and the highest-awarded wine will take home the Cup. The big reveal comes courtesy of special guests and the Governor of Virginia. 

This year, Governor Glenn Youngkin took the stage and recognized the best of Virginia: 

Governor Glenn Youngkin with the 2023 Virginia Governor’s Cup Case Winners

Deputy Secretary of Agriculture Parker Slaybaugh also revealed the 2023 Best in Show Cider:

In other exciting news, the First Lady of Virginia Suzanne Youngkin announced that the 2022 Virginia Governor’s Cup winner Cana Vineyards and Winery of Middleburg will be producing the second edition of Cornus Virginicus, a special wine project that pays tribute to Virginia agriculture. 

To round out an evening full of big reveals and endless samples of gold medal-winning wines, guests also enjoyed specially prepared small bites and snacks made for pairing. VIPs got the full treatment with their own private chef, hand-crafted desserts and a locally inspired grazing board. See the full menu below: 

VIP guests also enjoyed: 

If that weren’t enough, gala attendees were able to support a good cause throughout the evening. For the second year, The V Foundation held an auction with money raised going toward cancer research. Exclusive items like… were available. And new this year, each donation made to the “Bubble Bar” offered a glass of Virginia Sparkling and a chance to win a diamond bracelet from Richmond jeweler Lustre. 

From countless sips of Virginia wine and culinary delights, to special announcements and an opportunity to celebrate Virginia with other special guests, the 2023 Virginia Governor’s Cup Gala was truly an evening to remember. In case you missed it, go ahead and register to receive 2024 competition updates.

Governor's Cup

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