Tasting Virginia’s Best Wines, 2023 Releases

Tasting Virginia’s Best Wines, 2023 Releases

Periodically we visit the wines of Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley, and up and coming region that celebrates its finest bottlings each year in the form of the Shenandoah Valley Cup. The six wines below took top honors in 2023’s competition, and we’re happy to share our opinions as well.

2020 Briede Sparkling Winchester – The primary varietal here is Cayuga White, and the sparkler has spent 2 years on the lees, Champenoise style. A bit blunt with its notes of apple and (especially) pear up top, the ultra-foamy wine quickly develops some unusual flavors that are hard to place. Best I can muster: green papaya and grapefruit peel, tempered by yeasty toast elements. Gummy and acidic on the finish. I’m still trying to process things. B / $57

2021 Jump Mountain Vineyard Livia Italian-Style Red Blend – This Shenandoah Valley winery explicitly makes wines in an Italian style, with this appropriately-named blend a mix of 60% refosco, 20% cabernet franc, 15% lagrein, and 5% sagrantino. I also had to look up refosco. The results are, intriguingly, evocative of Italy — at least northern Italy, with the lagrein in the blend providing a beefy, chewy backbone against which notes of black cherries, currants, and a healthy amount of licorice offer a panoply of flavors that come and go. Slight eucalyptus on the finish. Moderately tannic, but wholly manageable, particularly at mealtime. A- / $27

2019 Jump Mountain Vineyard Borderland Red Blend – A much different blend of 50% tannat, 25% cabernet sauvignon, and 25% cabernet franc. Quite soft at first, the wine takes its time to build, slowly showing off notes of cherries and blackberry, with a slight brambly quality emerging in time. There’s a beefy edge to the wine, with a bit of pepper dusted atop, while the finish evokes hearty notes of wet red clay. It ultimately and gradually evolves into a bigger and more rustic experience, touched with green herbs and green pepper around its edges, all lasting on the finish. B / $26

2021 Bluestone Vineyard Bridgewater Crimson Virginia Red Wine – A Bordeaux-style blend of petit verdot, merlot, and cabernet franc. For a $25 wine with no regional pedigree, this is surprisingly well-realized, a fruit-forward expression loaded with currants and blackberries, touched with a pinch of cloves, and showing off a late-game spring or two of mint. The tannins here have already broken down completely — just a hint of licorice lingering — with some earthy charcoal elements on the finish. It all works together perfectly well. I would never have expected this kind of depth and balance at this price level. A- / $25

2021 Bluestone Vineyard Merlot Shenandoah Valley – A touch dusty, this wine evokes a denser style of merlot that showcases dried herbs and lavender rather than fresh, vibrant violets. Turned earth and anise add gravity, the finish showing itself as slightly green and herbal — rosemary and thyme notes being the most prominent in the mix. A fairly quiet but approachable experience. B+ / $26

2019 Rockbridge V d’Or – A dessert wine made from vidal blanc, traminette, vignoles, and riesling, in roughly equal proportions. This is a much sharper dessert wine than you might expect — somewhat vinegary, with an herbal edge to it. Notes of apples and oranges take a bitter turn late in the game, moving into notes of orange peel and grapefruit peel. Something just feels a bit out of balance here. C+ / $32 (375ml)

2021 Jump Mountain Vineyard Livia Italian-Style Red Blend




Christopher Null is the founder and editor in chief of Drinkhacker. A veteran writer and journalist, he also operates Null Media, a bespoke content creation company.

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