Sept. 29 wine column photo

If you plan trips to wineries to mark Virginia Wine Month in October, you could check out some wines that were in the Governor’s Cup Case, which features the 12 top-scoring wines from the 2019 contest.

Virginia Wine Month is just around the corner, and what better way to celebrate than to visit one of the state’s 319 wineries during October.

But where to start? We turned to a pro for advice.

Todd Evan and wife Mandy have visited 209 state wineries, always with a plan, especially in the beginning.

Todd’s first pointer: “I would recommend www.virginiawine.org,” he said.

That website, run by the Virginia Wine Board marketing office, is chock-full of information.

“Once there,” Todd said, “pick an area in the state you would like to visit. The wineries in that area are listed. We would route our day logically on completing an area of the map — usually multiple days or visits.

“Most wineries will have the current Virginia wine map; it’s free. This is also a wonderful tool to help plan.” We highlight the ones visited as well track progress, he said.

The map is in the Virginia Winery Guide, which is available at most wine shops. It lists all wineries by areas, and those areas are color-coded to the map. The wineries list includes contact information, address, hours and tasting fees. However, check with the winery before visiting to be sure the hours haven’t changed.

Oct. 19 has been identified as the day for the state’s Harvest Party, when many wineries will celebrate the harvest with wine and food specials.

“Visiting during wine month is great because of the time of the year,” Todd said. “Fall in Virginia has wonderful weather and beautiful scenery. The wineries are prepared for the extra visitors, and most offer specials on tastings and bottle purchases.”

All areas are standout destinations for a day or overnight trip. One suggestion is to catch up with wines that were in the Governor’s Cup Case, which is made up of the 12 top-scoring wines from the 2019 competition. Below are those still available for purchase in winery tasting rooms with those on tasting menus noted. Descriptions are from the wineries.

Horton Vineyards 2016 Petit Manseng Serve this Governor’s Cup winner chilled, not cold. Aromas of pineapple that open more as the wine gets to room temperature. Bright grapefruit abounds without being overly citrusy. It is a well-structured wine with a distinct beginning, mid palate and finish. 13.4% alcohol by volume ($25); available for tasting.

Barboursville Vermentino Reserve 2017 – Vivid citrusy aromatics with a deep, dry palate of sustained structure, excellent body and lingering minerality and finesse of finish. 13.5% ABV ($22.99); available for tasting.

Early Mountain Vineyards 2016 Eluvium – 56% merlot, 44% petit verdot; plum and blackberry aromas and flavors in this well-layered wine. 13.85% ABV; limited online sales through winery or in Richmond at Barrel Thief, Ellwood Thompson’s, Richmond Wine Station (SRP: $38).

Glen Manor Vineyards 2015 Cabernet Franc – 100% cabernet franc; ripe, rich and full-bodied with multilayered flavors. 14.2% ($35); available for tasting.

Hamlet Vineyards 2016 Eltham – 50% merlot, 50% petit verdot; the cherry overtones of the merlot are balanced perfectly by the peppery finish of the petit verdot. 13.2% ABV ($27).

King Family Vineyards 2016 Mountain Plains – Blend of 36% merlot, 35% cabernet franc, 29% petit verdot; full-bodied with concentrated aromas and flavors of red and black fruits with a touch of spice; richly textured. 14.3% ABV ($69.95).

Michael Shaps 2016 Petit Manseng – Very aromatic with bright, tropical and pleasant acid on the finish that balances the upfront weight. 14.4% ABV ($30); available for tasting.

Michael Shaps 2016 Raisin D’etre – Late-harvest-style wine with 7% residual sugar; 73% petit manseng, 27% roussanne grapes; candied-fruit notes, nice weight, lengthy finish; 12.5% ABV ($25).

Paradise Springs 2015 Meritage – Blend of 34% petit verdot, 24% cabernet sauvignon, 22% merlot and 20% cabernet franc; full-bodied and complex with a balanced tannin structure allowing it to be age-worthy; well-integrated aromas of brioche, raspberry and vanilla with a touch of cigar box. 13.8% ABV ($49); available for tasting.

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Jack Berninger’s column on wine appears monthly in the Culture section. Contact him at jberninger@timesdispatch.com.

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